With the 2020 NBA Draft under a month away, Rex Foster delivers the first version of his 2020 NBA Mock Draft for NuggLove.
Believe it or not, the 2020 NBA Draft is taking place in a little under a month.
There’s not a consensus first overall pick, prospects have been subjected to virtual combines, and last year’s college basketball season was cut short, so the 2020 NBA Draft process is going to be nothing short of strange.
Proclaimed as one of the worst draft classes in the past decade, it’s going to be intriguing to see how these NBA hopefuls impact the future of the league. Nonetheless, the upcoming draft is considered to be stocked with quality role players, so teams can still make selections that could instantly change the direction of their franchise.
Without any further ado, here’s the first version of my 2020 NBA mock draft:
Though LaMelo Ball is in consideration for the first overall pick, selecting Ball over Anthony Edwards would be nothing less than a mistake for the Minnesota Timberwolves. It’s hard to imagine Ball and D’Angelo Russell, two ball-dominant point guards, coexisting in a backcourt.
By choosing Edwards, the Timberwolves bring in a dominant scorer who can create shots with ease and bruise his way to the rim. Adding Edwards to a team with Russell and Karl Anthony-Towns instantly creates one of the most offensively gifted, young cores in the NBA.
There are two options the Golden State Warriors have with the second overall pick: trade the pick for a win-now player (Ben Simmons seems dreamy, though very unlikely) or select James Wiseman.
This past NBA season has reminded us that big men are important as ever for a championship caliber team. For the past five years of the Warriors dynasty, Golden State has succeeded without a dynamic rim-protector and post player. However, the Warriors need to adapt and forgo their small-ball lineups if they want any chance of stopping big men like Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic and Kristaps Porzingis en route to another NBA Finals run.
The Charlotte Hornets need a player to structure their team around and LaMelo Ball could be their cornerstone piece. Arguably the best playmaker in this draft class, LaMelo has the passing ability and court vision to become one of the NBA’s most entertaining players.
An underrated part about Ball’s draft portfolio is his hefty experience playing against older opponents throughout his life, much like Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic. Whether it’s playing on his older brothers AAU team — starting (and exceeding expectations) for Chino Hills during underclassmen seasons — or casually hooping against Australian professionals, LaMelo already has the experience most prospects lack when entering the draft.
With a team stocked with developing talent, Deni Avdija makes the most sense for the Chicago Bulls. As a 6-9 forward, Avdija is a proficient ball-handler and passer which creates matchup problems for opposing defenses. With a scoring-minded backcourt of Cody White and Zach LaVine, Avdija can be the missing piece to maximize Chicago’s offense – which has been plagued with poor ball movement and fluidity.
I expect scouting genius and new general manager Arturas Karnisovas to make the right decision and select Avdija fourth overall.
As the best player available left on the draft board, Obi Toppin seems like the necessary pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Toppin, a breakout player in 2019-20, provides the Cavaliers with a needed spark on offense. At 22-years-old, he’s one of the older prospects in the draft, but the combination of Toppin’s vertical explosion and playmaking (especially in the pick-and-roll) is just too good to pass up on. Especially for Cleveland’s bland offense. The only concern for Toppin is his defense, as he routinely gets lost in pick-and-roll situations and his lack of lateral quickness provides issues on the perimeter.
Still, a core of Toppin, Collin Sexton, Kevin Porter Jr., and Darius Garland gives Cleveland an interesting core for future seasons.
The Atlanta Hawks gave up a league-worst 119.7 points per game to opposing teams last season. As the worst defensive team in the NBA, selecting Okoro is vital. Okoro is the best defender in this draft class due to his versatility, high defensive IQ and fundamentals.
Along with his defensive prowess, Okoro isn’t afraid to drive to the rim and finish through contact, providing Atlanta with an additional offensive weapon. Like many top prospects in this draft, Okoro still needs to work on his shot (specifically his shooting mechanics).
It’s going to be interesting to see how Atlanta’s other young wings, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, will fit into a rotation with Okoro’s presence on the roster.
Onyeka Okongwu would be a good fit for Detroit given their need of rebounding support and overall frontcourt depth. However, committing to two undersized centers in Christian Wood (6’10”) and Okongwu (6’9″) is risky.
Instead, Detroit should select the best overall player remaining on the board in Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton. The Pistons don’t have a long-term solution for their point guard role, which needs to be filled, and Haliburton seems destined to take that position. A decent two-way player, Haliburton furnishes a smart playmaking ability and is a respectable off-ball defender.
Like Charlotte, the Pistons need to shape their team identity and selecting Haliburton is the first step.
I promise it’s not deja vu as, three years later, the New York Knicks select another French point guard with the eighth overall pick in the NBA draft. This time, the prospect is Killian Hayes, who’ll play on the perimeter with franchise cornerstone R.J. Barrett.
Standing at 6’5,” Hayes has the height and length to consistently penetrate the lane and be a solid help defender. However, it’s his sharp playmaking ability and court vision that separates him from other point guards.
The Knicks need to be patient with Hayes if they want to develop him into a legitimate piece for the franchise moving forward.
Onyeka Okongwu gives the Washington Wizards the strong, rim-running, shot-blocking presence that they’ve been missing for multiple seasons. Time is running out for the Wall-Beal Era in Washington and the Wizards need to capitalize on the opportunity to address their frontcourt weaknesses.
Ranked 28th in rebounds per game (42.0) and 29th in opponent’s points per game (119.1), Okongwu could immediately help Washington in both of those categories. It’s a perfect fit, to say the least.
The Phoenix Suns can attack the 10th overall pick in a variety of ways. Blending a point guard into the mix of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson is certainly a route that makes sense. Throwing in stretch-four could cover Ayton’s weakness in perimeter shooting.
However, selecting Patrick Williams gives the Suns a forward who is explosive, deadly on the fast break and, most importantly, has a high upside on both ends of the floor. Williams would be the latest addition to the young, exciting core that Phoenix has in store.
The San Antonio Spurs have a plethora of young guards on their roster in Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker. Taking Devin Vassell or Aaron Nesmith makes sense, especially with the Spurs ranking 28th in 3-point attempts per game (28.5). However, questions have arisen as to whether or not they can be suitable defensive matchups against bigger forwards.
After watching the Spurs in the bubble, it’s clear that they need a reliable rebounder and athletic body for the frontcourt. Being mentored by LaMarcus Aldridge could do wonders in polishing Achiuwa’s shooting and basketball IQ.
Questions continue to arise surrounding the future of guards Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdonovic. Vassell supplies what Hield and Bogdan have lacked in the Kings back court, a suffocating defensive presence. Substituting Vassell for Hield or Bogdanovic is only a little tweak, but it could result in some major defensive improvement for Sacramento moving forward.
Furthermore, Vassell shot 41.5% from 3-point range at Florida State; the Kings won’t lose the sharpshooting aspects they craved from Hield and Bogdanovic.
Surrounding Zion with shooters should be a priority for New Orleans this offseason.
J.J Reddick is only getting older and Josh Hart was disappointing last season. There isn’t a single guard on the roster who can hit shots consistently, which is exactly what New Orleans needs to space the floor for Zion. Aaron Nesmith is the perfect player for the Pelicans. At Vanderbilt, Nesmith shot an unreal 52% from deep and was an unselfish piece to Vanderbilts offense. He understands what it means to be a team player and can be fluid in an offensive system.
If Precious Achiuwa is available with this pick, I’d be shocked if Danny Ainge passed on the Memphis big man since he fits an obvious need in the Boston Celtics’ frontcourt. However, besides Achiuwa, there aren’t many options left on the draft board for Boston who can fill the responsibility of guarding Bam Adebayo, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
With Brad Wannamaker on the free agency market this offseason and Kemba Walker’s concerning injury history, Boston should take Kentucky point guard Tyrese Maxey. Though his freshman year was shaky, Maxey has the winning mentality and scoring spark Boston needs coming off the bench.
Is Markelle Fultz a realistic option at point guard for the Orlando Magic moving forward?
Kira Lewis Jr., one of the best playmakers in the draft, can match the athleticism and defense the frontcourt has with Aaron Gordon, Mo Bamba and Jonathan Isaac.
Saddiq Bey fills a need the Portland Trail Blazers searched for all of 2019-20: a steady 3-and-D threat. Bey can also be the go-to defender that has been absent for the Blazers as of late.
Jalen Smith would give the Minnesota Timberwolves a nice complement to Karl Anthony-Towns. He’s a talented shot-blocker who crashes the glass and can stretch the floor who can play both next to and behind the superstar center.
Seth Curry and Tim Hardaway Jr. are good offensive players but the same can’t be said of their defensive ability. Meanwhile, Josh Green is a wing who can thrive in a 3-and-D role while being an additional ball-handler.
Green could be a core piece the Dallas Mavericks’ championship puzzle
Bey is a player who can help Brooklyn’s aspirations as a win now team. He’s NBA ready and has the ability to defend talented wings and be explosive on the offensive end.
Miami Heat president Pat Riley is notorious for pinpointing talent in the draft. R.J. Hampton, who developed his game in New Zealand playing against pros, is a potential replacement for the aging Goran Dragic.
If it wasn’t obvious, the Philadelphia 76ers are in dire need of a modern-day point guard who can help them score on the perimeter and run the pick & roll. Cole Anthony had a disappointing freshman season at North Carolina after dominating in high school and the AAU circuit but there’s no doubt he’s a scoring-minded guard.
Denver Nuggets’ president Tim Connelly has shown himself to be a patient man in regards to the team’s draft picks and though the Nuggets’ have opened their championship window, they may be in no rush for a win-now player.
Aleksej Pokusevski is by far the biggest wildcard in the draft but he checks off all boxes that fit Denver’s championship vision. On the surface, he’s just a thin 7-foot center, but like Bol Bol he has incredible playmaking ability and shooting skill.
A frontcourt that includes Pokusevski, Bol and Nikola Jokic has the potential to be lethal on the offensive end. Throw in Michael Porter Jr. and the Nuggets have four players over 6’10” who specialize in getting the ball into the basket.
It’s a scary sight.
Denver could shape their future and revolutionize the modern NBA with a ‘tall-ball’ philosophy that they experimented with in their exhibition games.
A floor general to help stabilize and control the Utah Jazz’s offense when Conley shows signs of regression in the next couple of seasons, Theo Maledon helps convince fellow Frenchman Rudy Gobert that the Jazz are built to last.
The Milwaukee Bucks have shown that they could use a reliable outside shooter who can space the floor for two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo without having to sacrifice their defensive identity. Desmond Bane can do both of those. If he falls to Milwaukee, it’s a dream come true.
Jaden McDaniels is going to be a project for the Oklahoma City Thunder and, even with a possible rebuild in Oklahoma City, he could see a lot of time in the G League (if they even have a 2020-21 season).
Should McDaniels can develop into a smarter, more poised player, the Thunder have a piece that can be a foundation of their future frontcourt.
Mississippi native Robert Woodard II is a sleeper pick. He has the physical tools to be a quality defender, rebounder, finisher for the Boston Celtics and, if he polishes his game, can be a valuable piece of any team’s defense. He shot 42.9% from 3-point range last season at Mississippi State.
The athletic Paul Reed gives the New York Knicks a plus defender at forward. Shooting is a concern, (as he shot 30.8% from 3-point range), but the Knicks need defensive help immediately.
Known for his creative playmaking ability, Nico Mannion would be an interesting fit next to Anthony Davis and LeBron James should he make the Los Angeles Lakers’ rotation. I picture Nico being the Lakers’ version of Norris Cole.
Between Kyle Lowry’s age and the uncertainty of Fred VanVleet’s free agency decision this offseason, it’s clear that the Toronto Raptors need to invest in a point guard. Leandro Bolmaro’s shooting needs to improve over time but the Raptors’ strong history of player development lends credence to the belief that they can turn Bolmaro into a starting-caliber player over the next couple of years.
The Celtics needs to add more size to their roster and they finally do with the addition of 6’10,” 240 pound center Daniel Oturu. Oturu (who has already met with the Celtics) is a strong interior defender, a talented post player and can shoot from outside as well.
What do you think of Rex Foster’s first 2020 NBA Mock Draft? Let us know on Twitter @Nugg_Love.