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.
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.
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1. Minnesota Timberwolves
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: Sources have told The Athletic that the Wolves have not made a decision yet on what they’re going to do. The players in the mix here are indeed Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman, but the trade avenue is real for Minnesota. Part of the reason it’s on the table? None of Ball, Wiseman or Edwards are exactly perfect fits with the established Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell core. Wiseman is seen as unlikely to be the pick if the Wolves keep it, too, because of concerns over positional overlap with Towns.
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. They could spring ahead of the Warriors to get their man at No. 1. The Warriors are seen as less likely to take Ball. That means the Wolves could move from No. 1 to No. 3, and potentially still acquire Ball (although they would then open up the possibility of the Warriors making a trade down to a team that does want Ball). But Charlotte is not the only possibility, either. This pick will likely go down to the wire. It’s far from set in stone.
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.
3. Charlotte Hornets
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: 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. If the team sticks at No. 3, Edwards makes sense as a shot-maker at the 2-guard spot with genuine size.
Charlotte’s developmental coaching staff has been absolutely terrific over the last couple of years, too, and could really be the kind of group that Edwards needs to find his potential in the NBA. 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. If Edwards hits, he’d be the perfect scoring guard they need with that core.
4. Chicago Bulls
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: 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 Avdija. The thought across the NBA is that if the Bulls stick at No. 4, Avdija is the most likely pick. 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.
Having said there, there is also a feel that the Bulls are open to making a move up the board for Ball under the right circumstances. Let’s throw a scenario out there in what is almost assuredly going to be a wild night. Let’s say the Hornets move up to No. 1 and pick Wiseman ahead of the Warriors. Will the Warriors be as inclined to stick at No. 2? Could Chicago look to get in the mix at No. 2 while the Warriors are on the clock? Would they be willing to move a future first in addition to No. 4 to get to No. 2, thus giving the Warriors another asset to put in their war chest as they continue to go star-hunting in trades? The options for trades aren’t just for teams in the top three. This really has the potential to be a draft with a crazy amount of movement. I would also be remiss if I didn’t note that Tyrese Haliburton of Iowa State has come up a couple times in conversations regarding the Bulls pick.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
Obi Toppin | 6-9 forward/center | 22 years old, sophomore | Dayton
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 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. This pick has not changed over the last month. I’m not an enormous fan of the fit, given that the Cavaliers have an awful lot of bigs on the roster already. I’d prefer someone like an Isaac Okoro. Toppin doesn’t help a Cavs’ defense that has been abominably bad over the last two years. But there is some star power with Toppin given his offensive skills.
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.
7. Detroit Pistons
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: 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.
8. New York Knicks
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 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.
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.
10. Phoenix Suns
Aaron Nesmith | 6-6 wing | 20 years old, sophomore | Vanderbilt
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: This one could very well change in the coming days for a number of reasons. Why? Well, the potential of the Suns acquiring Chris Paul via trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder has thrown this for a loop. 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. So when in doubt with the Suns, always go for the shooter. General manager James Jones loves shooters, and this team could use one more on the wing to complement the Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges core, regardless of whether Paul gets acquired. Of course, we also need to see what the Suns would give up to acquire Paul, as it seems a bit unclear what those negotiations would look like given Paul’s level of play, his injury history and his contract.
11. San Antonio Spurs
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: The Spurs are said to be hunting for upside in this class, and they’re said to be looking more at wings, forwards and bigs given their depth in the backcourt with guys like Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson. They are thought to really like Patrick Williams, and were hoping that he wouldn’t rise up boards in the way that he has. Having said that, don’t be surprised to learn of the Spurs trying to make a substantial move in the draft. A team that speculatively makes a lot of sense for them to look toward would be Atlanta. Could the Spurs add something to No. 11 to sweeten the pot to move up to No. 6 and get more of an impact guy? If they stay at No. 11, there is said to at least be some interest in McDaniels because his upside as a scorer is so vast. The team has been willing to venture up into the Washington area previously for Murray. As for McDaniels, his range is wide. There are teams late into the 20s wondering if he is going to get down to their pick. I think I’d be a bit surprised at this point if McDaniels got outside of the top-20, but it’s not impossible.
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. Having said that, there is a thought that the wing position is said to interest the Kings. Vassell is about as perfect a fit for this roster as you can imagine, given his defensive versatility and ability to cover multiple gaps. They need more wings for roster balance, and they need defenders. On top of it, they could use someone like Vassell who would be more comfortable with a limited offensive role. It’s kind of a perfect fit. I will also note that I wouldn’t be surprised if an analytics-conscious general manager like McNair found interest in Aleksej Pokusevski and decided to swing for the fences on upside.
13. New Orleans Pelicans
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: Hayes is all over the map for NBA teams, despite scouts on the internet being massive fans. I’d say his range starts from the mid lottery and extends down a little bit farther than the lottery. Teams are very concerned about his lack of athleticism at the lead guard spot. For the Pelicans, pairing him with Lonzo Ball and a terrific frontcourt in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram would be pretty fascinating due to how electric it would be in transition. The Pelicans are also in a bit of a weird spot because they’re fielding offers for leading guard Jrue Holiday. If they decide to move Holiday, filling the lead guard spot with another player who can create plays in the halfcourt next to Ball becomes essential. I wouldn’t be stunned to see Kira Lewis here, either, or one of the wings.
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 good news for Boston is that it needs a scorer off the bench. The Celtics have previously taken a lot of chances on guys who had great high school reputations but had less than stellar college seasons (Jaylen Brown and Romeo Langford come to mind). Hampton works here. 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.
15. Orlando Magic
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: This would be one of my favorite picks in the draft. The Magic are said to be interested in Lewis. There is also a thought that they’re looking to move up on draft night into the lottery, potentially even to target Lewis. Here, he falls to them at 15, where his speed and shooting ability would be a perfect blend with Markelle Fultz’s size and scoring in the backcourt. The two could play together pretty easily at some point. Honestly, I kind of hope this happens.
16. Portland Trail Blazers
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 name I’ve heard associated most with the Blazers from sources is John A. Logan wing Jay Scrubb. They’ve done a lot of work into him. Almost as much work as I’ve heard that a team has done for any other player in the class this year. He’s an athletic 6-foot-6 playmaker who fits the mold of what Portland looks for. The Blazers love young, upside-laden players who could really morph into something special. I would not be stunned if he ends up being the pick here. The Blazers really march to the beat of their own drum. I just can’t quite convince myself that it’s going to happen because most teams have Scrubb as a pretty clear second-round guy. So instead, I went with another very young, very upside-laden player who the Blazers could very easily decide is the swing that they want to take this season.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves
Precious Achiuwa | 6-9 forward/center | 21 years old, freshman | Memphis
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: Achiuwa just makes a lot of sense for them overall. He would really fit their defensive scheme next to Towns as an athletic, roving 4 man who can be a weak-side rim protector and mobile combo big. If he can work through the jumper concerns, he’ll be a definite role player in the NBA. But we’ll see if the jumper ever comes around.
18. Dallas Mavericks
Tyrese Maxey | 6-3 guard | 19 years old, freshman | Kentucky
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: This would be a tremendous fit for Maxey, getting to defend lead guards on defense while focusing on his game as a scorer on offense next to Luka Doncic. His scoring mentality and ability would be a pretty tremendous fit in Dallas. The key will be the jumper, obviously, but most evaluators believe Maxey will shoot at a strong enough clip to be taken seriously out there. The question is: will he shoot 36 percent, or will he shoot 39 percent from 3? If he shoots the latter, he’s a starter. If it’s the former, he’s probably more of a really good sixth man in this role.
19. Brooklyn Nets (via PHI)
Saddiq Bey | 6-8 wing | 20 years old, sophomore | Villanova
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: The Nets are thought to be hoping that one of the shooting wings like Bey or Nesmith falls here. This would probably be around the floor for Bey because of that. There is a good chance he goes much higher than this because every team could use a keen shooter who plays smart. For the Nets, he’d be a perfect fit for a team built around Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Bey could be a low-usage gunner who knocks down shots and does smart things on defense.
20. Miami Heat
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. I’ve gone with Miami because it could use another point guard, and the Heat tends to like guys who have confidence in themselves to produce and perform.
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.
22. Denver Nuggets
Zeke Nnaji | 6-10 forward/center | 19 years old, freshman | Arizona
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 Nuggets are looking at a variety of big men in this upcoming class as they’re set across the frontcourt forward spots (assuming Jerami Grant re-signs) and have a solid group of guards. The two spots could be 3-and-D wing or big. Nnaji is one guy the Nuggets have certainly kept an eye on, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them go down this pathway.
23. Utah Jazz
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 Jazz could really use a defensive wing, and Green fits that billing perfectly. Utah struggled to get stops late in the year, and I would expect that it focuses on that side of the floor with this pick. Green has worked out with the Jazz, so they’re interested. It wouldn’t be a stunner to see them go with a big here, either.
24. Milwaukee Bucks (via IND)
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: Maledon would work as an upside swing at the lead guard position for a team that could use a different option after Eric Bledsoe has struggled in the playoffs over the last two years. The problem is that Maledon doesn’t totally fit the timeline perspective unless Giannis Antetokounmpo re-signs, as Maledon is probably a year away from making an impact because of his lack of strength and ability to play through contact. I will also note that I’ve been told by a few sources to keep my eye on this pick in potential trade talks as the Bucks look for ways that they can get help for this team now.
25. Oklahoma City (via DEN)
Desmond Bane | 6-5 guard | 22 years old, senior | TCU
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: This wouldn’t totally fit with the Oklahoma City modus operandi, but with a second pick at No. 28 now, following the expected deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Thunder can use one of these for shooting and another to get a real upside swing. Bane would help space the floor for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and would give them the shooting aspect that they need next to him in the backcourt. Don’t be surprised to see Bane go earlier than this, though, as a few of the contending teams above the Thunder (including Milwaukee, Miami, and Denver) are thought to have varying levels of interest.
26. Boston Celtics
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 Celtics like guys with positional size who can make plays, and Bolmaro can definitely do that. They also need a stash pick if they end up keeping all three picks, and he’d be the perfect guy as someone set to continue playing for Barcelona for this season. Again though, do not be surprised if the Celtics move any of these picks given that they have a roster crunch already.
27. New York Knicks (via LAC)
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. I know the Knicks already have Mitchell Robinson, but the value here is really strong and the Knicks should be pretty familiar with Stewart as he grew up in the Rochester area and wears No. 33 because of Patrick Ewing. It isn’t the most seamless fit in the draft positionally, but the Knicks would get value out of this pick as a late first rounder.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder (reportedly via Lakers)
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 Thunder 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.
29. Toronto Raptors
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: There is a very real chance that Smith is off the board by the time this pick happens. He might have been off the board for an hour by the time this pick happens. Teams in the post-lottery range are taking a heavy look at him. But at the end of the day, one of these bigs is going to fall in the draft. It’s unclear which one it’ll be, but it’s unlikely that they all go as high as they think they’re going to go because teams just don’t value role-playing bigs that highly anymore. Here, Smith is the guy who falls, and he could be an excellent developmental player for the Raptors, who have to deal with the free agencies of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka this year.
30. Boston Celtics (via MIL)
Xavier Tillman | 6-9 center | 21 years old, junior | Michigan State
The player: A high IQ player who is all about winning and all about team-first play. Starts on defense with Tillman. A multi-dimensional team defender whose cerebral nature on that end shines through on every possession. The most well-rounded defender in college basketball last season. First and foremost, a tremendous pick-and-roll defender. Can also really defend inside due to his strength and principles. Offensively, the game is a bit simpler. Tillman is a screen-and-roll big. Paired with Cassius Winston to form the best pick-and-roll combo in college hoops. An elite screen setter who knows all of the tricks of the trade. Makes contact on screens, knows how to not be called for the illegal ones, can flip screens, set backward, ass-out screens. He’s really sharp in that role. Then, has incredible versatility off the roll. Can dive and roll hard all the way at the rim. Made 68.1 percent of his shots at the rim in halfcourt settings, 10th among all bigs in this class. Good with both hands. Can short roll to pass at a high level.
The fit: Let’s call this a guess that the Celtics would be high on Tillman. He’s strong, he’s mobile, he’s incredibly intelligent, and he’s versatile. Brad Stevens and company could do a lot with a player like this on both ends of the floor.
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
Devon Dotson | 6-2 guard | 20 years old, sophomore | Kansas
34. Philadelphia 76ers (via ATL)
Malachi Flynn | 6-1 guard | 22 years old, junior | San Diego State
35. Sacramento Kings (via DET)
Tre Jones | 6-3 guard | 20 years old | Duke
36. Philadelphia 76ers (via NYK)
Isaiah Joe | 6-5 wing | 21 years old, sophomore | Arkansas
37. Washington Wizards (via CHI)
Payton Pritchard | 6-2 guard | 22 years old, senior | Oregon
38. New York Knicks (via CHA)
Immanuel Quickley | 6-2 guard | 20 years old, sophomore | Kentucky
39. New Orleans Pelicans (via WAS)
Elijah Hughes | 6-7 wing | 22 years old | Syracuse
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
Sam Merrill | 6-5 guard | 24 years old, senior | Utah State
43. Sacramento Kings
Udoka Azubuike | 7-0 center | 20 years old, senior | Kansas
44. Chicago Bulls (via MEM)
Grant Riller | 6-3 guard | 23 years old, senior | Charleston
45. Orlando Magic
Jahmi’us Ramsey | 6-4 guard | 19 years old, freshman | Texas Tech
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
Yam Madar | 6-3 guard | 19 years old | Hapoel Tel Aviv
50. Atlanta Hawks (via MIA)
Vernon Carey Jr. | 6-10 center | 18 years old, freshman | Duke
51. Golden State Warriors (via UTA)
Killian Tillie | 6-10 forward | 22 years old, senior | Gonzaga
52. Sacramento Kings (via HOU)
Cassius Stanley | 6-6 wing | 20 years old, freshman | Duke
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
55. Brooklyn Nets (via DEN)
Abdoulaye N’doye | 6-7 wing | 22 years old | Monaco
56. Charlotte Hornets (via BOS)
Ty-Shon Alexander | 6-3 guard | 22 years old | Creighton
57. Los Angeles Clippers
Kenyon Martin Jr. | 6-7 forward | 20 years old, post-grad | IMG Academy
58. Philadelphia 76ers (via LAL)
Mason Jones | 6-6 wing | 21 years old, junior | Arkansas
59. Toronto Raptors
Paul Eboua | 6-8 forward | 19 years old | Pesaro
60. New Orleans Pelicans (via MIL)
Justinian Jessup | 6-7 wing | 22 years old, senior | Boise State (stashed with Illawarra Hawks for 2020-21)
(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic)