Brian Rauf | @brauf33 | 08/21/20
The 2020 NBA Draft order has finally been set following the lottery, which created a bit of upheaval at the top.
Minnesota and Golden State landed the #1 and #2 overall picks, respectively, while Charlotte jumped five spots to #3. Chicago also moved up three spots to #4, shifting Cleveland down three spots to #5.
All those teams will still be able to select this draft’s most elite prospects, but there is still no clear consensus on who those players are. LaMelo Ball (Illawara Hawks), Anthony Edwards (Georgia), and James Wiseman (Memphis) are thought to be the three best prospects. However, others like Deni Avdija (Israel) and National Player of the Year Obi Toppin (Dayton) could slide into that mix for the top pick as well.
Now, everyone is waiting and can fully prepare for the actual draft on October 16th. How will it shake out? Here are our updated and complete first-round projections following the lottery:
1) Minnesota Timberwolves – Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
It will be tempting for Minnesota to go with LaMelo Ball here, but I don’t think he and D’Angelo Russell are an ideal backcourt pairing. Edwards isn’t a great defender either, but he’s an elite offensive talent who excels off the ball. He would complete Minnesota’s backcourt of the future.
2) Golden State Warriors – James Wiseman, C, Memphis
The Warriors fully intend to trade this pick to acquire veteran talent who can help them win now. There are a few teams searching for a point guard (Pistons, Knicks) that may like to trade up, too. But, if Golden State keeps this pick, it’ll be tough for them to pass on Wiseman. He can make an immediate impact for them with his rebounding and athleticism while also developing into a potential star.
3) Charlotte Hornets – LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawara
Speaking of stars, the Hornets need one in the worst way and Ball has the best chance to be one in this class. Charlotte general manager Mitch Kupchak has said they’re going to take the best player available – that’s Ball.
4) Chicago Bulls – Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State
The Bulls need depth on the wing and already have great scorers in the backcourt in Zach LaVine and Coby White. Vassell is an elite 3-and-D prospect who can serve as a lockdown defender and make an offensive impact without having plays drawn up for him.
5) Cleveland Cavaliers – Deni Avdija, SF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Cleveland’s wing depth is horrid and, assuming they don’t blow up their frontcourt right away, Avdija is a great pick. for them. The 19-year-old isn’t a reliable shooter yet, but he has guard skills at 6-9 and the kind of versatility that gives him tremendous upside.
6) Atlanta Hawks – Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn
Atlanta really values three-point shooting and needs to upgrade their defense. Okoro checks both of those boxes in one swoop, making him a logical (and likely) pick for the Hawks as they look to take the next step forward in 2020-21.
7) Detroit Pistons – Tyrese Haliburton, PG/SG, Iowa State
The Pistons have said their top priority this offseason will be to add a starting-caliber point guard for the long term. They may trade up for Ball to get that but, if they don’t, Haliburton is a nice consolation prize. The 6-5 Iowa State product is a phenomenal facilitator with a well-rounded game on both ends.
8) New York Knicks – Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton
New York needs a point guard and hasn’t been shy about their love for Ball – and Ball has reciprocated that interest. But, with him off the board in this scenario, the Knicks opt to address needs in their frontcourt by landing the best player available. Who doesn’t want to see Toppin catching lobs in Madison Square Garden?
9) Washington Wizards – Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC
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. Okongwu helps with that by giving them the rim protector they have been lacking.
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 – Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova
The Spurs have long been a destination were players with high basketball IQs thrive. Bey is one of those guys, and the combination of his versatility (athletic 6-8, 215 lbs) and three-point shooting (45.1 percent) make him an ideal prospect for San Antonio – especially as a long-term replacement for DeMar DeRozan.
12) Sacramento Kings – Precious Achiuwa, PF, Memphis
There’s no other way to sugarcoat it – the Kings really lack depth quality frontcourt depth alongside Marvin Bagley. Achiuwa is raw but showed his upside at Memphis, where he excelled with his elite athleticism and as a rebounder. He would fit in well with the preferred up-tempo attack of De’Aaron Fox.
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) Boston Celtics (via Grizzlies) – RJ Hampton, PG/SG, New Zealand
Hampton is another guy who was projected to be a top five or top 10 pick before the start of the season, yet he could slide a bit on draft night due to inconsistent play in Australia’s NBL. Still, his talent as a versatile combo guard who can both score and create for others makes him well worth the pick for Boston here.
15) Orlando Magic – Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
Maxey has the size and ball-handling ability to play either guard position, which is important for Orlando given Markelle Fultz’s injury history. That said, Maxey will give them another needed offensive weapon on the perimeter (though inconsistent) and reliable defender.
16) Portland Trail Blazers – Patrick Williams, SF/PF, Florida State
I think Portland covets Nesmith given their need on the wing (Carmelo Anthony has been good for them, but isn’t a long-term solution). With him gone, they go for a high-upside wing in Williams, a quality defender with a blossoming offensive game.
17) Minnesota Timberwolves (via Nets) – Jalen Smith, PF, Maryland
With their second first-round pick, Minnesota addresses their frontcourt needs with Smith. He will really help the Timberwolves defensively (2.4 blocks per game) and is underrated offensively. Smith excels in the pick-and-roll with range that extends to the three-point line. The 6-10, 225-pounder could develop into a long-term partner for Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt.
18) Dallas Mavericks – Desmond Bane, SG, TCU
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 a Bane, another elite three-point shooter (43.3 percent career) who can more-than-adequately fill that 3-and-D role.
19) 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.
20) Miami Heat – Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
Kendrick Nunn has been a revelation for the Heat, but they have no depth behind him. Anthony was a projected top five pick before the season started before playing for a bad UNC team exposed concerns about his volume shooting and low efficiency numbers. Still, the talent is there, and Miami is excellent at developing draft picks.
21) 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.
22) Denver Nuggets (via Rockets) – Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Olympiakos B
Pokusevski is a seven-footer with true guard skills and a solid three-point jumper. He’s also still a bit raw, inconsistent, and needs to add some serious strength. But the 18-year-old has the potential to be a star, and Denver’s front office is known to take risks. Plus, with no obvious holes in their roster, they can be patient while he develops.
23) 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.
24) 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.
25) Oklahoma City Thunder (via Nuggets) – Robert Woodard II, SF, Mississippi State
Considering the Thunder have roughly 800 first-round picks over the next decade, they can gamble on a player with Woodard’s physical profile. The 6-7 230-pounder shot 42.9 percent from three this past season, was a force on the glass, and showed tremendous defensive upside. OKC will hope they can develop him into a piece of their young core as a 3-and-D player.
26) Boston Celtics – Vernon Carey Jr., C, Duke
I’ll be surprised if Boston ends up keeping all three of their first round picks, but if they do, Carey makes a lot of sense for them given their need up front. 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.
27) New York Knicks (via Clippers) – Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington
With New York addressing their point guard need earlier in the draft, they can address their frontcourt needs with Stewart. The 6-9, 250-pounder may fall on draft night due to his lack of perimeter versatility, but he’s a phenomenal rebounder and post player on either end. Roles for players like him are diminishing, yet Stewart is productive enough to stick.
28) Los Angeles Lakers – Theo Maledon, PG, Villeurbanne
The Lakers don’t have many needs, but depth is always a concern. This is especially true at point guard with Rajon Rondo potentially entering free agency (player option for 2020-21). Maledon is a potential lottery talent with good size, passing, and is an improving shooter. He can play on or off the ball, as well.
29) Toronto Raptors – Payton Pritchard, PG, Oregon
Fred VanVleet is ready to take over Toronto’s backcourt whenever the post-Kyle Lowry era hits, but they don’t have a ton of depth behind him. Enter Pritchard, who is a great playmaker and shot creator with the ball in his hands. He can play without the ball, too, thanks to his three-point shooting, and his defense is underrated. The Raptors have shown an affinity for proven college players and Pritchard fits that mold as well.
30) Boston Celtics (via Bucks) – Josh Green, SG, Arizona
If Boston does keep all three picks, Green would be a steal for them here. A projected lottery pick before the start of the season, Green has seen his stock fall due to a limited offensive game. He showed he’s a much better defender than previously thought at Arizona, but he also showed inconsistent offense outside of his slashing abilities. Green has some upside if he can become a more consistent shooter but needs some development.
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.