2020 NBA Mock Draft Live Updates: LaMelo Ball down to no. 3 – The Athletic
Editor’s Note:This NBA Mock Draft was originally published on the morning of Nov. 16. It will be continually updated as NBA Draft insider Sam Vecenie has more intel to share. Check back often for updates ahead of the NBA Draft on Wednesday. (Latest update: 7:55 p.m. ET)
Well, it’s finally here. The interminable 2020 NBA Draft process will finally come to a close this week when, on Wednesday, players will find out where their new homes will be.
And yet, despite all of that time to figure things out — this draft being held five months later than normal — there is very little consensus from sources around the NBA on how things will play out. Why? The two teams at the top of the draft are certainly open to trade offers involving their picks. Particularly, the Wolves at No. 1 are thought to be really interested in hearing out what is available. This isn’t news, because it’s been like this for months. But as we all know, these negotiations often take time because there is no greater dealmaker than when time starts to run out. That’s when the final offers start to come in.
Indeed, this is not a draft where there is a no-brainer, consensus No. 1 overall pick. Each team has different goals it would fill at No. 1. And there obviously will be a cascading, butterfly effect on the rest of the board depending on what the team at No. 1 does. Another reason there is very little certainty? Teams around the league have not been able to trade until Monday, following a trade moratorium. The NBA has something of an itchy trigger finger right now in regard to teams exploring all avenues to make their rosters better. Free agency also starts two days following the draft, meaning some of the backchannel negotiations that aren’t supposed to happen but most certainly always occur in the build up are in full swing. There are arguably more moving parts right now across the NBA than at any time that I can remember. In just the last few hours, Jrue Holiday, Robert Covington, and Chris Paul have been moved, and James Harden has reportedly requested a trade. The NBA is off its rails right now to the point that we don’t know who will have what picks when it’s all said and done.
Oh, and on top of that, this class has a very flat curve from a talent perspective. As explained in my 2020 NBA Draft Guide, there are no Tier One guys, I only have three Tier Two guys, and then there are only eight Tier Three Guys. And then Tier Four and Tier Five are very close in value as it is, and there are an awful lot of Tier Five guys who profile as potentially awesome rotation players, meaning it’s very easy for teams to have drastically different opinions on players. One guy might be a mid-first rounder on one team’s board, then a mid-second rounder on another team’s board. And that’s not even in regard to the polarizing players who exist in every class for one reason or another. For instance, I’ve talked to teams who have Grant Riller as a clear first rounder in the 20 range, and then others who have him late into Round 2. The sheer difference of opinion across the board in this draft has the potential to lead to some very unexpected outcomes.
So all of this is going to lead to a very fun draft night with the potential for a lot of wheeling and dealing. Here’s my best guess on what we could see, but as you’ll note within the descriptions, there is a relatively low level of confidence here, even within just hours of the event. Because the draft order is moving, on some level this is like throwing darts at a moving board.
So in that vein, I’ve also added a draft range section to the board here as well. What range is each player expected to be picked within, given the current board? That feels like a better way to peg this draft board, where trades have a chance to fly fast and alter the makeup of the board.
Anthony Edwards | 6-5 guard | 19 years old, freshman | Georgia
The player: Edwards has utterly elite physical tools for the shooting guard position. He’s 6-foot-5, with a 6-foot-10 wingspan. At 225 pounds, he’s a powerful, physical player who opponents just bounce off of. Beyond that, he’s also an elite athlete. His first step is superb and his body control and fluidity is ridiculous for his size. He can maneuver around guys with ease. And on top of it, he’s an explosive leaper with elite pop. That translates best as a shot creator. Any time that he wanted to at the college level, Edwards could get to his step-back. Simply put, he moves like elite NBA players move. His ability to change directions fluidly with quick hips, stop on a dime, then accelerate quickly make him just about an impossible cover, especially when mixed with his powerful frame. The big questions here come on defense — he was an extremely poor collegiate defender — and as a shooter. Teams also have some real concerns that his play style is not particularly conducive to wins, given that Edwards’ teams have never really won at a high level.
The fit: Sources have told The Athletic that the Wolves have not made a decision yet on what they’re going to do at No. 1 in regard to a trade. The players in the mix here are LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards if they keep the pick. They expect the real offers to start coming within about 48 hours of the draft, and will make a decision after fielding them. A move down the board is seen as more likely than a move out of the draft. The team that opposing executives point to as the one who makes the most sense? Charlotte. The Hornets are thought to be a fan of Wiseman. Golden State is also seen as a fan of Wiseman. They could spring ahead of the Warriors to get their man at No. 1. This pick will likely go down to the wire. It’s far from set in stone, and it exemplifies the sheer tonnage of trade possibilities currently out on the market. This is more speculative on my part, but I would venture that the Brooklyn Nets will try to get on the phone with the Wolves as well in order to try to initiate some sort of three-team trade involving James Harden to try to get Houston the No. 1 overall pick in a move that then pushes Harden to Brooklyn — given that I don’t think Brooklyn currently has the assets on its own to get a Harden deal done.
Edwards’ Draft Range: Edwards is seen as likely to go somewhere in the top-three picks.
2. Golden State Warriors
James Wiseman | 7-1 center | 19 years old, freshman | Memphis (sort of)
The player: At 7-foot-1 with a plus-five wingspan, Wiseman has physical tools that are off the charts for the center position. He has the potential to be among the best centers in the NBA defensively because of his rim protection. He does a great job of staying vertical and putting a lid over the basket as a primary rim protector. He has enough short-area quickness to slide in front of drivers and contest. Offensively, Wiseman should become one of the best finishers in the league on offense. He has touch around the rim and particularly stands out in pick-and-roll. He’s an elite-level roller to the rim because he covers so much ground so quickly and has an enormous catch radius and soft hands. If you throw it up, he’ll get it. There is also some real shooting potential here.
The fit: The Warriors have had a lot of names thrown around in regard to this pick throughout the draft process. But it’s typically come back around to Wiseman. I’ve had him pegged here in two of the three mock drafts filed since the lottery order was finalized, and his name continues to be the one most associated with the Warriors as we move into draft week. Simply put, NBA evaluators consider Wiseman to be among the safest players in the draft while also possessing some true high-level defensive upside.
The Warriors have a legitimate need at the center position, and have tried quite a few times to fill it over the years in the draft (say hello to Festus Ezeli and Damian Jones). Now, is it possible that the Warriors are floating Wiseman’s name in the hopes of inducing Charlotte to move from No. 3 to No. 1 to try to get Wiseman? That seems possible as the Warriors have thrown as much smoke as anyone this year. They’ve played the draft process really well. But if they stay at No. 2, Wiseman continues to be the name I hear most.
Wiseman’s Draft Range: Wiseman is seen as likely to end up in the top-three. It would be a significant surprise if he got past Charlotte.
3. Charlotte Hornets
LaMelo Ball | 6-6 guard | 18 years old | Illawarra Hawks
The player: Ball is my No. 1 overall player on the board. He sees and understands the game in a way that few teenagers do. That displays itself most in his passing ability. Ball is tremendous at reading the second and third levels of the defense and making anticipatory passing reads based off of how those defenders play in help. He sees nearly every pass that is available, and on top of it has the talent to execute said passes from a wide variety of angles. He’s an elite-level live-dribble passer, and an elite ballhandler who can create separation with ease. Plus, at 6-foot-6, he has elite size for the point guard position. Questions will persist about his shooting ability (he has clear touch, but needs to improve his consistency) and about his defense (he needs to make a much, much better effort here, but makes excellent rotations when engaged), but Ball has the most talent in this class, and in a draft bereft of star upside, he has it in a big way.
The fit: The Hornets have been interested in Wiseman all season, and he’ll be the pick if he falls to No. 3 . It’s not impossible that the team also moves up to try to acquire him. Again, the most obvious move on the draft board would seem to be Charlotte giving up assets to move to No. 1 if it’s really, genuinely enamored with Wiseman. I don’t think I’d be totally stunned if the Hornets take Onyeka Okongwu of USC at No. 3 because they really want to fill their need at center. But this is a team that needs star power above all else. It has a lot of really solid pieces who should become high-level starters (if they’re not already there) in PJ Washington, Devonte Graham, and Miles Bridges. Ball could really unlock that core in a big way by becoming the starting lead creator with this group.
Ball’s Draft Range: Honestly, just as I wrote in January when Ball shut it down, his draft range remains wider than expected. I think No. 1 is still in the mix for the right trade. Also, I would say he could drop as far as No. 7 and it wouldn’t be totally stunning. I don’t think that’ll happen, as I find it likely a team would trade up to get him before then. I also think Chicago would take a good, hard look at No. 4.
4. Chicago Bulls
Patrick Williams| 6-8 forward/wing | 18 years old, freshman | Florida State
The player: Williams’ frame is absolutely elite. Williams looks like he’s been chiseled out of granite, with enormous shoulders. As he gets into his mid-20s – remember, he already looks like this at 19 years old — Williams looks like he’s going to be able to gain another 15 pounds of muscle with ease. He already uses that strength across the court really well, as it’s tough to go through him. His defensive feel, reactivity and IQ is off the charts good for a teenage wing. He’s a monster in help defense, both on the perimeter and as an interior rotator. As a rim protector, he’s an absolute force rotating over from the weak side for blocks and contests. Offensively, he’s raw but shows a lot of tools based off of his feel. Williams is a smart, instinctive cutter who times his moves toward the basket well. Knows how to relocate into dangerous spots. He also shows some very real passing upside. Grew up playing as something of a point-forward on the AAU scene, and has maintained some of that dexterity with the ball. Can knock down the occasional pull-up jumper from the midrange when attacking a closeout. The big key here will be tracking how the raw nature of his skill set develops over the next few years, particularly as a shooter.
The fit: This is Arturas Karnisovas’ first pick in charge of the Bulls. Karnisovas’ background when he got his first NBA job with the Rockets was in international scouting. He also was the director of adidas Eurocamp for years. There are few guys better connected across the NBA in Europe than Karnisovas. He’ll have a great feel for Deni Avdija. The thought from teams picking behind Chicago is that Avdija is the pick if the Bulls stick at No. 4. How much of that is speculation based upon Karnisovas past as I laid out above? We’ll find out this week, as Karnisovas has been very good about keeping his thought process in-house.
However, Patrick Williams’ smoke has been rising out of Chicago over the last few days, as well. Is that a smokescreen to try to convince Detroit that they have to jump Chicago to get him? Or would they really take him over Avdija? With just minutes before the draft, the theory rising out of Chicago is that there is a real chance it’s Williams. That’s enough for me to make the shift late.
Williams’ Draft Range: Given how prevalent the Pistons’ rumor is for Williams, it wouldn’t be totally stunning to see someone try to jump the Pistons to get him if they’re really enamored. At this point, I think I’d be surprised if he got beyond No. 11.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
Deni Avdija | 6-9 forward | 19 years old | Maccabi Tel-Aviv
The player: The intersection of Avdija’s size and skill level is extremely impressive. At 6-foot-9, Avdija can legit handle the ball and make plays. He’s a very real playmaker with ball in hand. The idea here is a point forward who can initiate sets, grab and go on the break, and create plays. His vision and playmaking isn’t quite at the level of guys like Luka Doncic and LeBron James as big passers, but he’ll be an extremely high-level passer as a secondary playmaker in an offense in time. He really sees the floor exceptionally well. Defensively, he’s probably not a difference maker in the NBA, but he shouldn’t be a negative. The big question here is the jumper. He’s a consistently terrible free throw shooter who continues to be a very inconsistent 3-point shooter. Having said that, he’s considered a very high character kid who is mature and a hard worker, so there may be upside beyond what is readily apparent on the page, here.
The fit: The Cavaliers are thought to be big fans of Avdija, the Israeli forward. They recently hired Liron Fanan as the director of player development for their G League team. Fanan’s family ties to Maccabi Tel Aviv stretch back for decades, as her father was the long-time vice chairman of the club for years and her brother is the strength and conditioning coach. Fanan herself was an assistant general manager at the club in the late 2000s. To say that the Cavaliers have a better feel for Avdija than any other team is probably an understatement. But if Avdija is off the board, Toppin remains the name I’ve heard the most here.
Avdija’s Draft Range: It would be a surprise if Avdija got below No. 5, as I’ll outline below.
6. Atlanta Hawks
Tyrese Haliburton | 6-5 guard | 20 years old, sophomore | Iowa State
The player: Haliburton’s feel for the game is just absolutely off the charts. He has a case for having the highest basketball IQ in this draft class. He makes the right decision all the time. That starts as a ballhandler. Haliburton is an extremely high-level passer out of all situations. He’ll make the head-man pass in transition Sees everything and plays unselfishly. The game is not about his numbers despite the fact that he put up great numbers this year. Despite not exactly being a high-level pick-and-roll scorer, he can make every pass in the book as a pick-and-roll passer. He also shoots it really well off the catch despite funky mechanics, and he’s a smart team defender. The weakness here is that he’s not much of a pull-up threat, and is far from the crazy level of athlete that NBA lead guards tend to be. But in the right role, Haliburton can affect winning at a really, really high level.
The fit: The Hawks are certainly entertaining trade offers as well, and will see what comes across their desk as the week continues. It wouldn’t be stunning to see them move out of the No. 6 pick. General manager Travis Schlenk has moved around quite a bit in his recent draft history, orchestrating the deal for Trae Young on draft night in 2018, as well as the deal to move up to acquire De’Andre Hunter. So he’ll always be active. The name I hear most associated with the Hawks if they keep the pick is Haliburton. It’s easy to see why. He’s 6-5 and can play both on or off the ball next to Young and Kevin Huerter. He’s skinny, but he’s the kind of highly skilled backcourt piece who could allow them to unlock a lot of lineup iterations and a lot of offensive sets. You can push Trae off the ball next to Haliburton, you can play Haliburton as a secondary ballhandler, you can go super small and play Young, Haliburton, Huerter and Cam Reddish if you want. Haliburton would be a really strong lineup connector piece for them in lineups with Young, and he’d have the added benefit of taking care of the team’s disastrous backup point guard situation.
Haliburton’s Draft Range: Another guy where I think it would be surprising if he got beyond pick No. 8 or so.
7. Detroit Pistons
Killian Hayes | 6-5 guard | 18 years old, freshman | Ulm
The player: Hayes’ best skill is his ability to make plays with ball in hand. He plays with tremendous pace and poise. His best skill is his passing ability. He whips passes around the court with his left hand off of a live dribble or a stand-still with ease. He sees the entire court at a very high level and is a monster out of ball-screens. He also flashes the ability to be a three-level scorer if the jumper keeps improving, although he is much more comfortable as a pull-up shooter than a catch-and-shoot player. The big concerns here are two-fold. First, he’s extremely left-hand dominant to the point that it’s actually a problem in his ability to make plays. Second, he’s not a super athlete. There is some concern that he won’t be able to get separation from NBA-level defenders despite his skill level and polish.
The fit: It’s been over a month now since I first reported that the Pistons have interest in Williams. It remains true that the Pistons are fans. I’m a bit skeptical that it’s a promise, but Williams does fit everything that new general manager Troy Weaver and company tended to look for in Oklahoma City during his time there. Williams has a monster frame mixed with some real feel for the game. He’s a good kid who you should be able to trust to work to get better. And this is a team that really should be taking whatever player it feels has the most star potential. With Blake Griffin on the downside of 30, and Derrick Rose only having one year left on his deal, the Pistons should be taking home run swings to try to find the guy who can be their next star. I would venture this thought process is why the team also attended a workout of Ball’s late last week. In that vein, I wouldn’t ignore the lead guards like Killian Hayes or Tyrese Haliburton if they were to get here. Hayes is the one that lasts to Detroit in this scenario, so he’s the pick.
Hayes’ Draft Range: Starts somewhere in the mid-lottery, and extends just below the end of the lottery. I also wouldn’t be stunned to see a team move up the board for Hayes to get him off the board if he starts to fall below pick No. 8.
The player: The best pick-and-roll big in the draft. An absolute monster athlete in terms of explosiveness. Great speed for his size, and it’s really tough for defenders to stay attached to him in exchanges. Can beat taggers to the spot on the back side. A powerful leaper who is an elite dunker and finisher at the rim, having made 76.7 percent of all shots at the rim in non-post-ups, according to Synergy. Also, Toppin is terrific out in transition, creating numerous opportunities every game with his speed and finishing. He’s not just a pick-and-dive guy, though. He’s very fluid and can really shoot it off the catch, particularly out of pick-and-pops. Made his catch-and-shoot attempts at a 58.1 effective field goal percentage, and he has touch and a clean release on the ball that should translate into continued improvement. The questions come on defense, where Toppin is particularly bad in space right now and might be a bit stuck between the 4 and the 5 positions at the NBA level.
The fit: The Knicks are the one team in the top 10 that I have the least feel for. They could go any number of directions and it wouldn’t be a stunner. There is a thought that new team president Leon Rose likes Tyrese Haliburton and Obi Toppin, each of whom is represented by CAA, where Rose worked prior to taking the Knicks’ job. There is also a thought that they like Okoro, Devin Vassell of Florida State and even Kira Lewis of Alabama and Killian Hayes. I think this pick is pretty wide open, which is undoubtedly how the Knicks would like to keep it heading into draft night. I’ve gone with Okoro here because he’s the best player left on the board and he fits a strong positional need. He’d be the absolutely perfect player to put on the wing next to R.J. Barrett. But you could convince me this goes a number of ways. I’ve finished here with Toppin.
Toppin’s Draft Range: I think it would be relatively surprising if he got beyond No. 8 or so.
9. Washington Wizards
Onyeka Okongwu | 6-9 center | 19 years old, freshman | USC
The player: Okongwu’s motor runs non-stop. There is an intense professionalism with the way he goes about his game. Has terrific intersection of power and athleticism that allows him to make an impact on both ends, especially when combined with his propensity to work. Plus, has absolutely elite bounce, especially off of two feet. He plays like he has a trampoline under his feet at all times. He’s a tone setter on defense, where he’s extremely versatile and can do almost anything that is asked of him. USC played a variety of coverages this year, from zones to different ball-screen coverages. Okongwu executed all of them and excelled. Plus, he’s an excellent rim protector despite only being 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. Uses his size, length and strength to hold his ground and is really good at staying vertical to avoid foul calls while still contesting. Offensively, he’s a bit more limited. He’s not really a passer, and USC largely used him as a post-up guy this year. But he should become a very high-level rolling option. Still, there isn’t much shooting here either, so there is some concern he might be more limited than you’d like to see in a pick this high.
The fit: Look, this would be almost certainly my favorite pick of the draft if Okongwu were to fall to No. 9. And there is a real chance it happens in this current order if there are no trades. Minnesota has Towns, the Knicks have Mitchell Robinson, Atlanta just traded a first rounder for Clint Capela, the Cavaliers have two-thirds of their cap space tied up in bigs, and the Bulls just used a pick on Wendell Carter. That’s five out of eight gone. The Warriors are in position to get Wiseman, which would be six. Seven and eight would be the Pistons at No. 7 and Hornets at No. 3, both of whom make some real sense. I have Okongwu at No. 4 overall, so for him to fall this far is wild. But there are few landmines where teams can really make a high-level case for taking a center, as good as Okongwu is. If I were with a team beneath the Wizards, I’d really be willing to make a case to move up to get him. The Spurs and Celtics stand out as teams that would really utilize him well.
Okongwu’s Draft Range: It starts at No. 3, and I can’t imagine him getting outside of the lottery, even with the concerns on bigs and their positional value.
10. Phoenix Suns
Isaac Okoro | 6-6 wing | 19 years old, freshman | Auburn
The player: Okoro just makes teams better through his sheer presence on the court. He’s the consummate team player who does everything, and he does so while being an elite athlete at 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan. He also is a fluid athlete despite a well-built 225-pound frame that allows him to play physically. More than anything though, it starts with his basketball IQ. His feel for the game is off the charts, most noticeably on defense. Okoro is terrific in all capacities. On offense, he shows flashes as an on-ball creator. He’s not quite consistent because he doesn’t have the threat of the shot to play off of, but he’s better than he gets credit for as a slasher. Does a great job of getting downhill and being tough to get in front of. An elite finisher for a wing. Made 64.2 percent of his shots at the rim this season in half court settings, second-best among all top 100 wings in the 2020 NBA Draft class. More than that though, Okoro is also an absolutely terrific passer out of these situations. The big question here is his jumper, as Okoro does not have that weapon in his tool bag yet.
The fit: The Suns have acquired Chris Paul. Throughout the pre-draft cycle, the players I’ve heard most associated with the Suns have been lead guards. But that has changed over the last 10 or so days, and especially so over the last week since news broke of the team’s interest in Paul. I don’t think the team is necessarily out on taking a point guard, but it could also use one more guy on the wing to complement the Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges core, regardless of whether Paul gets acquired. The Suns did well to not have to give up this pick nor fellow shooter Cam Johnson in its Paul deal. Okoro is a tremendous fit for the Suns, as he’s more physical as an on-ball defender than off-ball dynamo Bridges.
Okoro’s Draft Range: From No. 5 to No. 10. I don’t think he gets past Phoenix.
The player: Real shooter with great positional size. Bey is about 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot wingspan. Can play across the frontcourt and wing. He’s physical and uses that size well. Elite shooter from a standstill. Hit over 45 percent of his attempts from 3 at a reasonable volume. Hit his shots directly off the catch at an obscene 72.4 effective field goal percentage. Among the 425 players in college hoops who took at least 100 catch-and-shoot jumpers in the halfcourt, Bey was third-best overall and tops among high-major players. On top of it, he plays professionally. Like most Villanova prospects, he doesn’t play like a goofball out there. He’s smart with movement, and a good defender who is switchable within scheme.
The fit: It won’t come as news that the Spurs are big fans of smart players who can do a lot of different things on the court. Bey is an elite shooter off the catch, and just plays with a real level of intelligence. He doesn’t do things that he can’t do out there. That would fit exceedingly well in San Antonio, and the team also has a real need for bigger wings and forwards who can play skilled ball. He’d be a perfect fit there, although there is a chance that the Spurs hunt for more upside with this pick than Bey.
Bey’s Draft Range: Bey should hear his name called as early as No. 10, and will be in the mix for a lot of picks such as 11, 12, and 13. The floor would likely be No. 19 with Brooklyn.
12. Sacramento Kings
Devin Vassell | 6-5 wing | 19 years old, sophomore | Florida State
The player: Vassell is the epitome of a 3-and-D prospect. He plays hard all the time and has great energy. At 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, he has solid size and length for the position. And while he shot over 41 percent from 3 in each of his two prior seasons, the defensive side of the floor is where Vassell is ahead of the curve. He’s an elite team defender for someone who just turned 20. His anticipation and preparation are elite. He seems to understand exactly what the offense wants to do at all times. He’s consistently in optimal position rotationally to be able to get deflections and steals off of mistakes. He’s not much of a creator, though, and there is some question about the jumper. Teams aren’t as worried about the workout video that showed Vassell shooting with funky mechanics, but they’re rather concerned on tape about his slightly elongated release, which can lead to him being a less voluminous shooter than one would hope.
The fit: The Kings are another wild card on draft night, as new general manager Monte McNair is putting together a draft room that hasn’t yet made a pick for Sacramento. It’s unclear what direction they’ll turn. The team needs a two-way wing, and Vassell is a strong fit here.
Vassell’s Draft Range: As early as the mid-lottery, and as late as the post-lottery teens. Teams do have some concerns about Vassell’s offensive game that could push him down further than expected.
13. New Orleans Pelicans
Kira Lewis Jr. | 6-3 guard | 19 years old, sophomore | Alabama
The player: Has a case as being the fastest player in the draft. Incredible speed, both in the open court and with his first step in the halfcourt. Will have very few issues blowing by most players. Has also really improved this year as a halfcourt player, though. Has built in some real diversity off the bounce. Better set up moves, better footwork in pick-and-roll. Very few bigs will be able to stay in front of him at the NBA level because he will blow by them. In that vein, he just scores at a high level. Gets buckets at all three levels. Generates shots at the rim, as mentioned above. Has a nice in-between game. Can also hit the pull-up 3. He’s also a very willing defender. The big question here is strength, as Lewis is only 175 pounds or so and could struggle to deal with the physicality of the NBA.
The fit: The Pelicans have a ton of options in this draft. They have a crazy amount of draft capital now with two first rounders and three seconds following the Jrue Holiday deal. They also have a ton of future asset capital following the Holiday and Anthony Davis deals. They could very easily try to consolidate that capital by moving up the board. Don’t be surprised to see that happen, because few teams have as big of an asset war chest as the Pelicans. Here I’ve gone with Lewis because the one place they don’t really have any great long-term answers is at the lead guard spot now that Holiday has departed. Lewis is a high-upside guy who could really fit the Pelicans if they want to keep playing high tempo hoops with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. His speed and quickness would also be a strong fit with Lonzo Ball.
Lewis’ Draft Range: Starts in the mid-lottery and stretches down to about here.
14. Boston Celtics (via MEM)
R.J. Hampton | 6-5 guard | 19 years old | New Zealand Breakers
The player: Hampton is a great athlete laterally and in terms of quickness. His first step is elite. Gets downhill very quickly and becomes difficult to get in front of. Few defenders will be able to do so, especially when combined with his long strides. Will live in the paint. An extremely aggressive driver. Above all, Hampton is a scorer. He’s a good finisher at the rim, and has great instincts for how to create separation. Ultimately, everything will come down to his jumper. He’s worked extensively with Mike Miller this offseason to fix it, and it looks pretty good. Ultimately results will be the key, though. Because Hampton is not a particularly reactive defender, nor is he a particularly good passer and playmaker for others. This is a scorer, through and through.
The fit: The Celtics need an offensive creator off the bench. Hampton would be a strong fit in that regard if he was still on the board. He also fits their tendency to look for undervalued assets that were elite high school players but struggled a bit at the next level. Also don’t be surprised if Boston tries to consolidate some of its draft capital to move up on draft night. The Celtics have four picks and limited roster spots.
Hampton’s Draft Range: Starts in the latter-third of the lottery with some teams who could look to take an upside swing, and extends down into the very early 20s.
The player: Maxey’s best skill right now is his scoring instinct. He has great feel for how to score the ball. Plays with tremendous tempo as a ballhandler with all sorts of inside-outs and hesitation moves. Honestly, the pull-up shot looks great. He has terrific rhythm and it’s incredibly smooth. It’s an easy shot. Really gets into his pull-up game at a high level. Great balance coming in and out of his moves makes him a threat to pull-up from almost any angle, and going to either his right or his left. Unsurprisingly, that makes him a pretty real threat, particularly in the midrange. Maxey hit a ton of pull-up midrange jumpers this season, and did so from all sorts of projectable situations given the way that teams play that area now. Also has a tremendous floater game, and he’s a high-level on-ball defender.
The fit: The Magic are said to be interested in Lewis, but he’s long gone by this stage. There is also a thought that they’re looking to move up on draft night into the lottery. A lot of the traditional Magic picks — long, athletic, high-upside guys — are gone in the backcourt by this stage. Here, I’ve gone with Maxey. He’s a strong scoring guard who can really get his shot in a variety of ways, something that might be a really solid fit with Fultz. The key though would be hoping Maxey could improve that shooting percentage, as mentioned above.
Maxey’s Draft Range: It starts somewhere in the early teens in the lottery, and I’d be surprised if he got past No. 20.
The player: Absolute lights-out shooter. Hit 52.5 percent of his 3s in his sophomore season before getting hurt. Most of these shots came off the catch, but a lot of them were high degree-of-difficulty shots. His mechanics are elite. Everything is so quiet in terms of movement. Great base, simple load into the shot and clean release with great rotation. Shot prep is elite with his footwork always in position. He’s always ready to fire. Only two players in all of college hoops scored more points coming off of screens than Nesmith per game, which goes to show how strong he is at shooting off of movement in large part because of that prep work. Beyond that, Nesmith is known to be a high-character kid who works to improve his game, and at 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, he has some defensive versatility that the typical shooter might not have. He’s not really a shot creator off the bounce, but creative teams would really be able to use him well.
The fit: Houston moved this pick for a future first rounder in order to get off of Trevor Ariza’s contract. The Pistons were more than happy to buy that deal into their cap space in order to get the pick. The team is said to like Nesmith, a 6-foot-6 wing who missed the back half of his sophomore season with a foot injury, but made 52 percent of his 3-pointers before doing so.
Nesmith’s Draft Range: Starts here, and he’ll be in the mix for nearly every team all the way down to No. 19. It would be a surprise to see him get beyond the Nets, given that they have a real need for low-usage movement shooters.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves
Jaden McDaniels | 6-10 forward | 19 years old, freshman | Washington
The player: Obviously has elite size for a wing creator at 6-foot-9. Very fluid with some explosiveness. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he moves like a guard, and because of that McDaniels has some of the most natural scoring talent in this draft. A pull-up, iso specialist who also creates a ton of shots out in transition. Has a high release point that makes him tougher to contest. There isn’t really an angle that he can’t get a jump shot off from. A very high-level separator in isolation who can create his own shot at any time. Loves the pull-up jumper and gets into them very fluidly. Just incredibly gifted at getting away from defenders and attacking. Could really turn into a mismatch guy in time. The big questions here revolve around McDaniels’ inconsistency. He ended up departing from the Washington starting lineup midseason because of it.
The fit: I’ve had McDaniels all over the map. Teams do, too. Some teams love his mix of shot-making potential and even some defensive upside. Others worry about his immaturity on the court, his decision-making, and his frame. Minnesota has a need for a secondary scoring creator next to D’Angelo Russell in the frontcourt, so McDaniels makes a lot of sense here.
McDaniels Draft Range: Pretty wide. I’d say this is about the start. So early teens all the way down through about No. 23. That means I see this as the low point right now. Having said that, teams will be surprised if he’s on the board past No. 20.
18. Dallas Mavericks
Aleksej Pokusevski | 7-0 center | 18 years old | Olympicacos B
The player: There isn’t really anyone who has presented this combination of skills at this level at this size and weight. That isn’t to say they’re the best, just different. At 7-foot tall with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and over a 9-foot standing reach, he has NBA center size measurements and length. That is particularly impressive because Pokusevski also moves around the court like a wing. His coordination, fluidity and speed is not that of a 7-footer. Pokusevski is a legit perimeter player at this size. That is his skillset. This a 7-footer who can legit run off of screens, set his feet and fire. Olympiacos used him basically as a wing coming off of baseline and pin-down screens. He hit just 32 percent from 3, but those attempts were fairly high-degree difficulty in the actions that he would run. Pokusevski is comfortable putting the ball on the floor with either his right or left hand, especially out in transition. Can execute somewhat advanced footwork and crossovers at reasonably high speed. Can eurostep and change angles at the basket to finish with finger rolls and touch. He’s also a very real passer for his size. The issue here is that he’s under 200 pounds and is going to take some real time to develop.
The fit: The two players I’ve heard most here are Pokusevski and Josh Green. Pokusevski would be the home run swing for a team that has evaluated Europe as well as anyone over the last few years. And Green would be the kind of high-energy defensive player on the wing that the Mavericks could use next to Luka Doncic.
Pokusevski’s Draft Range: I think it probably starts in the early teens, and goes down through Denver at No. 22 given how well they do scouting internationally and how much they like to take swings for the fences on prospects. A few teams like Sacramento, San Antonio and Dallas in-between also make sense.
19. Brooklyn Nets (via PHI)
Josh Green | 6-6 wing | 19 years old, freshman | Arizona
The player: Very good athlete who actually knows how to use it in the open court and on defense. Great size for the wing position at 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan. Works hard and doesn’t really take possessions off. Very good coordination, and plays with power. Contact doesn’t bother him at all. The best place you see Green work is on defense. He’s an awesome on-ball defender. His lateral quickness is really high level. Cuts off driving lanes with ease more with his quickness than his length. Then, he uses that length to contest shots and recover if necessary. Also has some potential to shoot it, although I have some concerns on that front. Has good touch, but needs to work through some mechanical tweaks.
The fit: The Nets would love it if one of Nesmith, Bey or Green are on the board with this pick. They’re useful as floor-spacers or defenders on the wing. Here, Green ends up being the guy, and he’s a perfect fit for a team that has some concerns when it comes to defensive play on the perimeter.
The player: The big-time translatable skill here is that Bane has a case as being the best shooter in this draft, particularly off the catch. Just utterly elite. Made 43.3 percent of his nearly 600 career 3-point attempts at TCU. Hit at a 56.6 effective field goal percentage of his shots off the catch, of which there were many and particularly a lot of difficult looks. According to Synergy, over 55 percent of those shots were actually guarded. But it’s more about how good he is off of movement. Terrific at flying off of screens, setting his feet, and firing. Also very effective as a relocation 3-point shooter off of one or two dribbles if a heavy closeout comes. The shot looks funky, as it comes from a bit out in front of his face and has a low follow through, but there is nothing wrong mechanically with it. Can occasionally create something for himself, but that won’t be his role in the NBA. Finally, there are some concerns, but he’s an overall positive defender.
The fit: Bane’s ability to shoot off of movement and defend with toughness would really fit with the Heat, who have been said to be fans of Bane for a little while. Fans enough to take him at 20? We’ll see. But he does fit a lot of what they look for in players, and would fit their scheme tremendously well as a tough, physical guy who can really shoot it.
Bane’s Draft Range: I would venture it’s somewhere between No. 18 and No. 30. It would be surprising at this stage to see him get out of the first round.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (via OKC)
Tyrell Terry | 6-1 guard | 19 years old, freshman | Stanford
The player: Has a case as the best shooter in this draft class, and would certainly be in my top-five. Just absolutely elite off the catch. Hit at an absurd 75.0 effective field goal percentage. That means he made 50 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s this year, which is a ridiculous number. He did so with NBA range, as well. Does so off of movement with ease. Can stop on a dime and run around off-ball screens to pop and make shots. Also can roll around ball-screens to fire. Off the dribble, good at firing off of one or two-dribble pull-ups. Great at the relocation pull-up 3 after a heavy closeout. Everything Terry does with his jumper is so smooth and easy. Terry’s 3.2 assists per game also underrate his passing ability a touch. He’s a really, really smart player who sees all of the open passes and plays in an extremely unselfish manner. He’s more than willing to throw passes that don’t necessarily lead to assists around the perimeter just to keep the offense fine-tuned and moving. Always hits the open man when that guy is available.
The fit: The 76ers need shooters, and Terry is among the best in the class. They need super competitors, and Terry is a very, very competitve kid who wants to win. The 76ers need ball movers and passers who can share point guard duties with Ben Simmons, and Terry does that well, too. This is a very strong fit if you think Terry can play sooner rather than later. His range is seen as somewhere in the immediate post-lottery range down to No. 35 or so. I do think he hears his name called in Round 1, though.
Terry’s Draft Range: A touch wider, but I think I’m at the point where I’d be surprised if he got out of the first round. Somewhere from No. 15 to No. 28 let’s call it, as that second Thunder pick seems like a great trade opportunity as well as a great chance for them to take an upside swing.
22. Denver Nuggets
Jalen Smith | 6-10 forward/center | 20 years old, sophomore | Maryland
The player: The idea behind Smith is pretty simple. He’s a 3-and-D big at 6-foot-10. And despite that size, he’s a very bouncy athlete who can really rise up to rim height and throw down when he gets a chance to leap off of two feet. He also runs the floor really well. Defensively, he’s a good rim protector from the weak side, and he grabs rebounds at a high level. The concerns here are in regard to flexibility and stiffness, as Smith really struggles to move in space right now. A team that feels like it can fix that could get a bit of a steal.
The fit: The Nuggets could use a backup big man, and are said to be looking at them in this class. Smith is the kind of big that could not only play behind Jokic, but could also play with him as a spacing 4 who protects the weak side of the rim. If they trust his movement skills at all, it’s an interesting idea. One other note: the Phoenix Suns deciding to consummate their deal for Paul now versus after the deadline likely takes them out of the Grant sweepstakes, giving the Nuggets one less suitor to battle against. That could make it even easier for the Nuggets to take a big.
Smith Draft Range: Somewhere between the post-lottery teens and the end of the first round. I think Smith is one big that I’d be surprised if he escaped Round One (even though I don’t have that kind of grade on him). I also got floated a singular note from an opposing team that the Pistons could take a look at him at No. 7 if Patrick Williams is off the board by the time they pick.
23. New York Knicks (via UTA)
Isaiah Stewart | 6-9 center | 19 years old, freshman | Washington
The player: Stewart is just a monster inside. He’s going to enter the NBA as one of the stronger centers in the league in his upper body at 250 pounds, and his 7-foot-5 wingspan allows him to be a monster rebounder. He finishes inside really well, and he also probably will shoot it from distance at some point because he has that kind of touch. At the end of the day, this is just the kind of guy I’m betting on to have a 10-year NBA career. He’s tough and physical, plus competitive and thought by everyone who knows him to be a very high-level character kid.
The fit: In general, NBA teams are fans of Stewart and think he’s going to play in the league for a while, in spite of some questions they have about his quickness. The Knicks are indeed thought to be fans of Stewart despite the presence of Mitchell Robinson. He’s just good value in this area of the draft even if Robinson is around, given that Robinson can enter restricted free agency in 2021.
Stewart’s Draft Range: A bit wider here. Could go as early as the late teens, or could be on the board into the early second round. Teams really like him and think he’ll play in the league for a long time, they just worry about whether or not he’ll do so at a difference-making level.
24. New Orleans Pelicans (via MIL)
Leandro Bolmaro | 6-8 forward | 19 years old, international | Barcelona B
The player: Bolmaro has great size for a secondary playmaker at 6-foot-8 or so. He can handle it, and he plays with real speed getting downhill. He has athleticism on the ball and knows how to play, plus also has a lot of the same tricks and tools of the trade that you see from a variety of international players. Bolmaro has strong ballhandling ability at this size. Really, he’s just kind of a funky ballhandler. Similarly to one of his inspirations, Manu Ginobili, he doesn’t really do anything in the typical way that a pro basketball player does, and it’s tough to defend. I’m a fan of his passing ability. He’s really patient at drawing defenders toward him, then finds where the open man is. I’ll finally mention that I think he has some defensive potential because he works hard.
The fit: The Pelicans have a ton of picks, and have done a good job of building out a European scouting staff under this administration with David Griffin. They did well with Didi Louzada last year, as he developed nicely for a season in the NBL. They could very easily look to go the stash route again, with Bolmaro being the best option for them.
Bolmaro’s Draft Range: Around 18 to 35
25. Oklahoma City (via DEN)
Cole Anthony | 6-3 guard | 20 years old, freshman | North Carolina
The player: A good athlete at 6-foot-3. Has some real pop with his first step. Was considered in the same class of athlete as Russell Westbrook in the EYBL, but he’s clearly not that. However, he’s a very creative guard with ball in hand and finds ways to separate from the defense. Right now he’s best doing so as a jump shooter. And he plays with the eternal green light to fire with confidence. This polished step-back game paired with good touch also makes him one of the better isolation guards in the class. Can really break down guys and get them off balance, then explode by or explode backward for a reasonable shot. Definitely most comfortable in ball-screens, though. The big questions here are in regard to efficiency and passing. Is he good enough with shot selection for his team to win games, and is he a smart enough playmaker for his teammates?
The fit: Look, Anthony has one of the widest ranges heading into draft night. You could convince me he goes sometime in the late lottery. You could also convince me he falls out of the first round. There is no consensus here when I talk to teams, and it’s no surprise after his year at North Carolina. Here, I’ve got him falling to the Thunder, who would take advantage of his upside and potential ability to play next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the backcourt long-term after the team moved Chris Paul this offseason.
Anthony’s Draft Range: Early teens to early second round. This is the widest range in the class. Anthony is all over the board for teams in a really substantial way as maybe the most polarizing player in the draft.
The player: Plays hard all the time and forces his way into being productive on both ends. That is paired with elite physical tools. Achiuwa is 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. Has the 9-foot standing reach of a center. Plus, he’s a quick-twitch athlete for his size who can really move laterally. The combination of motor, athleticism size, and length tends to be a successful one on some level in the NBA, at least as a role player. Achiuwa derives most of his NBA potential in that regard on defense. One of the more switchable, athletic bigs in this class. Has the potential to be the kind of big that a lot of teams are looking for, someone who can close games and not be a mismatch magnet in ball-screens. Ultimately, the big question is what to- do with him on offense, as he doesn’t have a ton of skill and is still developing as a jump shooter.
The fit: This is a drop for Achiuwa. He has a real chance to go No. 9 or No. 10 if things break right in the top-10. I would absolutely not rule that out at all. Here he drops to No. 26, where Boston adds another multi-positional defender to its large group of other multi-positional defenders.
Achiuwa’s Draft Range: Fairly wide. I’ve heard him connected all the way up at No. 9 with the Wizards and the Suns at 10, so that would likely be the start of the range. There are some sources who think who could be on the board into the 20s, though. Such is life for a big man who NBA teams have skill questions about.
27. Utah Jazz (via NYK and LAC)
Udoka Azubuike | 7-0 center | 21 years old, senior | Kansas
The player: Elite measurables for the center position. At near 7-foot tall with a 7-foot-7 wingspan, Azubuike will immediately be one of the longest players in the league. Basically, Azubuike will be an elite finisher at the rim, and should be a high-level rim protector. He was, for my money, the best defensive player in college basketball last year because he improved his conditioning and was not a complete and total liability away from the basket. That still has potential to happen in the NBA, but he can really protect the rim at an elite level, and he’s the NCAA’s all-time leader in field goal percentage.
The fit: The Jazz need to keep working through their defensive issues that plagued them late in the 2020 season. Azubuike would allow the team to get the rim protection they’ve been desperately searching for over the last few years behind Rudy Gobert, and maintain high-level defense when Gobert is out.
The player: All about the motor. Nnaji never quits working or playing hard. Constantly battling and clawing for any inch of position on the court. Runs the floor like a wing with grace and fluidity, and does it hard every time to try to beat his opponent there. Rebounds at a high level and has great hands to be able to make an impact there. Having said that, he uses all this best on offense right now. Has good touch around the basket. Knows how to use his body to protect the ball and the rim to protect himself from defenders. Plays through contact with ease because he’s so strong. I also think Nnaji is going to shoot it at some point. The big concern here is on defense, though, as Nnaji was not particularly good on that end for Arizona this season. He’s also not a particularly adept passer.
The fit: The Thunder just went out and acquired Al Horford to get pick No. 34 (and a future first) for Danny Green, but I would venture they’re still looking at a best player available scenario with their rebuild. Nnaji fits a lot of the things Presti looks for in bigs.
Nnaji’s Draft Range: This is where we start getting pretty speculative with the bigs. I’d say Nnaji’s range starts around pick 20, and goes all the way down through pick No. 40. The range for all of the big men in this draft is quite wide.
29. Toronto Raptors
Theo Maledon | 6-4 guard | 19 years old | ASVEL
The player: Has really good size for the lead guard spot at 6-4 with something in the ballpark of a 6-8 wingspan. Has experience playing both on and off ball, but if he’s going to become an effective NBA player it’s going to be because of his ability to make plays out of ball-screens. Maledon is a very good pick-and-roll player for his age. The best word would probably be “slippery.” He doesn’t have an elite first step or anything, but he covers ground quickly and also has a pretty deceptive handle that allows him to get separation and make plays. More than anything, he’s a good passer out of pick-and-roll for his age. He clearly has studied and knows the reads he can make at a really high level. He needs to get stronger and keep improving as a jump shooter, though.
The fit: The Raptors worked out Maledon and have a potential need at the lead guard spot in the future if Fred VanVleet was to depart. Maledon has great upside if things really break right, and the Raptors always want multiple ballhandlers. Plus, their developmental team is well-regarded as top-notch league wide.
Maledon’s Draft Range: I don’t think I would 100 percent rule out San Antonio stunning everyone and taking him at No. 11 given the connection to ASVEL, the team Tony Parker owns. But more than likely, it’s somewhere between 18 and 35.
30. Boston Celtics (via MIL)
Robert Woodard | 6-7 wing/forward | 20 years old, sophomore | Mississippi State
The player: An absolutely elite NBA frame. At 6-foot-7, Woodard has a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a huge standing reach for a potential wing. He’s also absolutely enormous. Possesses a terrific 235-pound frame and will have absolutely no problem adjusting to the NBA physically. Those dimensions are what every team is looking for right now in a 3-and-D wing type of player. Indeed, that’s what Woodard looks like. He’s a terrific on-ball defender. Has all the tools you’re looking for. Offensively, things are a bit simpler, as Woodard is a good cutter who shoots it well from 3. Although, there are some sample size concerns on Woodard’s shooting improvement this year, and it might take him some time to really take that next step.
The fit: Woodard fits everything the Celtics look for. He’s a great character kid who has elite measurements, strong athleticism, and a great defensive mindset. This would be an awesome pick for the team, as I think Woodard will end up being one of the guys who really fits where the NBA is going. He can go out and replace what Semi Ojeleye brought them, except with much more offensive upside.
Woodard’s Draft Range: Let’s say somewhere from the 20s on through to No. 40. It would be a surprise if he got beyond that.
31. Dallas Mavericks (via GSW) Jordan Nwora | 6-7 wing/forward | 21 years old, junior | Louisville
32. Charlotte Hornets (via CLE) Daniel Oturu | 6-10 center | 20 years old, sophomore | Minnesota
33. Minnesota Timberwolves Malachi Flynn | 6-1 guard | 22 years old, junior | San Diego State
34. Oklahoma City Thunder (via PHI and ATL) Elijah Hughes | 6-7 wing | 22 years old | Syracuse
35. Sacramento Kings (via DET) Tre Jones | 6-3 guard | 20 years old | Duke
36. Philadelphia 76ers (via NYK) Devon Dotson | 6-2 guard | 20 years old, sophomore | Kansas
37. Washington Wizards (via CHI) Payton Pritchard | 6-2 guard | 22 years old, senior | Oregon
38. Utah Jazz (via NYK and CHA) Sam Merrill | 6-5 guard | 24 years old, senior | Utah State
39. New Orleans Pelicans (via WAS) Xavier Tillman | 6-9 center | 21 years old, junior | Michigan State
40. Memphis Grizzlies (via PHX) Tyler Bey | 6-7 wing | 22 years old | Colorado
41. San Antonio Spurs Nico Mannion | 6-3 guard | 19 years old, freshman | Arizona
42. New Orleans Pelicans Immanuel Quickley | 6-2 guard | 20 years old, sophomore | Kentucky
43. Sacramento Kings Grant Riller | 6-3 guard | 23 years old, senior | Charleston
44. Chicago Bulls (via MEM) Jahmi’us Ramsey | 6-4 guard | 19 years old, freshman | Texas Tech
45. Milwaukee Bucks (via ORL) Cassius Stanley | 6-6 wing | 20 years old, freshman | Duke
46. Portland Trail Blazers Jay Scrubb | 6-6 guard/wing | 20 years old, sophomore | John A. Logan College
47. Boston Celtics (via BKN) Skylar Mays | 6-4 guard | 22 years old, senior | LSU
48. Golden State Warriors (via BKN) Cassius Winston | 6-1 guard | 22 years old, senior | Michigan State
49. Philadelphia 76ers Isaiah Joe | 6-5 wing | 21 years old, sophomore | Arkansas
50. Atlanta Hawks (via MIA) Vernon Carey Jr. | 6-10 center | 18 years old, freshman | Duke
51. Golden State Warriors (via UTA) Abdoulaye N’doye | 6-7 wing | 22 years old | Monaco
52. Sacramento Kings (via HOU) Yam Madar | 6-3 guard | 19 years old | Hapoel Tel Aviv
53. Oklahoma City Thunder Nick Richards | 7-0 center | 22 years old, junior | Kentucky
54. Indiana Pacers Paul Reed | 6-9 forward | 21 years old, junior | DePaul