Brian Rauf | @brauf33 | 05/30/20
Like everything else, the NBA season has remained on hold since March due to the COVID-19 crisis. While finding a way to resume the season has been the league’s foremost concern, that delay has also thrown off the 2020 NBA Draft schedule.
Both the draft lottery and combine were postponed with the league targeting dates in August or September for the events, and many pre-draft interviews will be conducted around that same time frame. Teams have been holding virtual meetings with prospects, but that would likely be their first opportunity to visit with them in person.
We don’t even know the complete draft pool yet as the deadline for early entrants to withdrawal – which was set for June 3 – has been pushed back to a date yet to be determined.
Yet we have new information about which prospects teams are targeting, who they have concerns about, and who may end up where. So, without further ado, here’s a look at our updated projections for the entire first round:
1) Golden State Warriors – James Wiseman, C, Memphis
Wiseman does come with concerns about his overall skill level, but his physical gifts, ability to run the floor, and his rebounding prowess all fit in perfectly for Golden State. Keep in mind that the Warriors are still in win-now mode once they get healthy, and Wiseman would be a needed addition in the middle for them.
2) Cleveland Cavaliers – Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
It seems blasphemous to think the Cavs would take a guard in the top 10 for the third consecutive year, but it’s also clear the Collin Sexton/Darius Garland pairing isn’t working the way they thought it would. Edwards has a higher ceiling that either player, too, and is the only one with real potential to be a franchise player.
3) Minnesota Timberwolves – Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC
Minnesota got their point guard position taken care of with the addition of D’Angelo Russell. Adding defense and finding a long-term frontcourt partner for Karl-Anthony Towns are their next areas of concern, and Okongwu should take care of both.
4) Atlanta Hawks – Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn
Speaking of defense, the Hawks need to add that, too, especially on the wing. Okoro is an elite perimeter defender with extreme athleticism and a reliable three-point shot. That should make this a perfect marriage.
5) Detroit Pistons – LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawara
The Pistons need a complete and total reboot at this point, and that starts in the backcourt. Ball would not only fill their need for a reliable point guard, he also gives them a potential star with his elite size, skill set, and off-court presence. Consistency and maturity are the biggest keys with him.
6) New York Knicks – Deni Avdija, SF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Do the Knicks need a point guard? Yes, because the Knicks need a lot of things. They also need help on the wing and many love Avdija’s potential as a smart 19-year-old wing who can handle the ball at 6-foot-9.
7) Chicago Bulls – Tyrese Haliburton, PG/SG, Iowa State
Versatility is the name of Haliburton’s game as he can do a little bit of everything. He made his name at Iowa State on that all-around skill set but his most valuable as a playmaker. That’ll be big for a Chicago team that needs backcourt depth and already has a pair of elite scorers on the perimeter in Zach LaVine and Coby White. Haliburton’s size (6-5) should allow him to play anywhere along the perimeter, too.
8) Charlotte Hornets – Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova
Charlotte needs to find more shooting and to find help on the interior. Bey helps in the former as a 6-foot-8, 220-pounder who shot 45.1 percent from three last year and can defend positions 1-4 at a high level. That versatility (there’s that word again) is key for a rebuilding Hornets team.
9) Washington Wizards – Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton
While Washington tries to figure out a long-term plan for their backcourt (how much longer are they sticking with John Wall and Bradley Beal?), they are making an effort to improve their frontcourt. Toppin would give them their only real above-the-rim threat of the group while fitting into smaller lineups with his three-point shooting ability.
10) Phoenix Suns – Killian Hayes, PG, Ulm
Ricky Rubio is more of a transitional point guard than the future of the position for Phoenix. There’s still hope about what Elie Okobo could turn into, yet Hayes is another high-upside prospect with professional experience that will add more depth to the position.
11) San Antonio Spurs – Precious Achiuwa, PF, Memphis
San Antonio has an aging frontline and LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract is set to expire after next season. Achiuwa is still raw but is a freak athlete with a high motor and great potential. Gregg Popovich could help get the most of that potential.
12) Sacramento Kings – Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State
It’s clear the Harrison Barnes contract may not be working out in Sacramento and they could use some youth on the wing. Vassell provides that and could develop into a premier 3-and-D wing.
13) New Orleans Pelicans – Aaron Nesmith, SG/SF, Vanderbilt
The Pelicans plan to surround Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball with shooting, so why not add a guy that shot over 52 percent from deep in 14 games for the Commodores? Nesmith is the best shooter in the class, making this a perfect fit.
14) Portland Trail Blazers – Jaden McDaniels, SF, Washington
Portland would likely love is Nesmith fell to them but, with him off the board and a big need on the wing behind Carmelo Anthony, they reach a bit for McDaniels. He’s talented but comes with questions about his motor and consistency. The Blazers could gamble on their strong locker room getting the most out of him.
15) Orlando Magic – RJ Hampton, PG, New Zealand
Hampton was projected to be a top-five pick before the start of the season so this would feel like a steal for a Magic team in need of backcourt help. He has the size and scoring ability to play off-ball next to Markelle Fultz, but is also a solid playmaker and can provide some insurance given Fultz’s medical history.
16) Minnesota Timberwolves (via Nets) – Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
With their second first-round pick, the T-Wolves can go with the best player available. That’s Maxey, who has shown flashes of offensive brilliance alongside quality defensive play. He has the potential to be a solid starter for Minnesota or a reliable two-way guard in their bench rotation.
17) Boston Celtics (via Grizzlies) – Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
I think someone is going to slide on draft night and it’s Anthony in these projections – which works to Boston’s gain. A top prospect coming out of high school, Anthony with injuries and overall efficiency during his one year in Chapel Hill. Fears of being an inefficiency volume scorer may cause him to fall, but he has too much talent to fall too far.
18) Dallas Mavericks – Josh Green, SG, Arizona
The Mavs would like to add an off-ball scorer and shooter alongside Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Nesmith would be a great fit here but, with him gone, they take an athletic high-upside wing in Green.
19) Milwaukee Bucks (via Pacers) – Jahmi’us Ramsey, SG/PG, Texas Tech
There have been questions about Eric Bledsoe’s long-term future in Milwaukee. That may cause a team in need of backcourt depth to look towards the guards in this draft. Ramsey has the potential to be a steal given his NBA-ready body, shooting, and ability to play either on or off the ball. He’d fit in well next to Giannis Antetokounmpo, too.
20) Brooklyn Nets (via 76ers) – Cassius Stanley, SG, Duke
Like Milwaukee, Brooklyn will be making his pick based on who can fit in around their stars (Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving). Stanley might be the best athlete in this class and, while inconsistent with his shot selection, ranked in the 93rd percentile in spot-up three-point shooting last year. Those skill should allow him to play a support role immediately and give him tremendous long-term upside.
21) Denver Nuggets (via Rockets) – Robert Woodard II, SF, Mississippi State
Denver’s goal for the draft is to add more depth on the wing. Michael Porter Jr. is coming along nicely, but he comes with injury concerns and both Paul Millsap and Torrey Craig will be free agents whenever the offseason comes. Woodard comes with ideal size (6-7, 230 lbs) and athleticism, and he shot 42.9 percent from three last year. That shooting, plus his defensive potential, makes him the pick for Denver here.
22) Philadelphia 76ers (via Thunder) – Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
Philly needs shooting and backcourt depth. Mannion comes with concerns defensively and athletically, but he’s a high IQ playmaker with a reliable jumper. That should make him a good fit as a backup for Ben Simmons.
23) Miami Heat – Theo Maledon, PG, Villeurbanne
Kendrick Nunn has been a revelation for the Heat, but Goran Dragic is aging and they lack depth at the position. Maledon was a projected top-10 pick before getting sporadic playing time overseas, but he has all the physical tools to play both on and off the ball.
24) Utah Jazz – Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
This pick will provide Utah with insurance in case Mike Conley Jr. doesn’t exercise his $34.5 million player option for next season (he will) and provides some long-term depth at the position. Lewis is still putting it all together but is fast, has good size (6-3), and was a great all-around player for the Crimson Tide.
25) Oklahoma City Thunder (via Nuggets) – Jalen Smith, PF, Maryland
Given the amount of picks the Thunder have over the next decade, everything is on the table whether that be reaching for upside or simply drafting the best player available. I have them going with Smith here, as his athleticism, rebounding, and proficiency in the pick-and-roll gives him some serious sleeper potential.
26) Boston Celtics – Patrick Williams, SF/PF, Florida State
I’ll be surprised if Boston ends up keeping all three of their first round picks, but if they do, Williams makes a lot of sense for them given his athleticism, versatility, and power. He has upside but, without a reliable perimeter shot, his floor as an energetic rebounder makes him worth the gamble.
27) New York Knicks (via Clippers) – Payton Pritchard, PG, Oregon
We mentioned New York’s need for a point guard earlier and they get one here in Pritchard. Perhaps underrated because he played on the West Coast, Pritchard is a great pick-and-roll ball-handler and has range well beyond the NBA three-point line. He’s a solid defender, too.
28) Toronto Raptors – Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Olympiakos B
The Raptors have never been shy when it comes to gambling on high-upside talent, choosing to trust their development system. Pokusevski is the youngest player in the draft and, as a seven-footer with guard skills, his upside is immense. He could be a long-term answer in the frontcourt once Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol move on.
29) Los Angeles Lakers – Tre Jones, PG, Duke
Jones is an elite defender and solid playmaker, but struggles with the consistency of his jumper. That is a concern and the Lakers need shooting, yet his defense and the potential for him to be the lead playmaker for their second unit makes him worth the pick here.
30) Boston Celtics (via Bucks) – Vernon Carey Jr., C, Duke
Boston still has some questions about their center position long-term. Carey isn’t a perfect prospect due to his inability to defend on the perimeter, but he is a dominant low-post scorer with range extending out to the three-point line.
Brian Rauf is a college basketball writer for HeatCheckCBB.com. His content has been featured by Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, and FanSided, among other publications. Rauf is also a current USBWA member and Rockin’ 25 voter.