August 29, 2020

2020 NBA Mock Draft: Top 10 Picks

The 2020 NBA Draft is almost here. 

Following the NBA Draft Lottery, and each team knows where it is going to be selecting in the upcoming draft. And while there are sure to be some trades that will shake up the draft order, it is worth taking a look at what selections teams are the most likely to make in the event that they end up picking in each of their designated spots.

Here is a look at the top 10 picks in the 2020 NBA Draft and who they might be, as these lottery teams look to strike gold and boost their chances of getting out of the lottery and into the playoffs in 2021.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards is the consensus top pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, and the Minnesota Timberwolves were the team that won the lottery in order to get him. Edwards would join DeAngelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns on a Wolves team that is hoping that Edwards will be able to help the franchise reach heights that they were not able to with Kevin Love, Andrew Wiggins and countless other high draft picks that have been the result of losses piling up year after year in Minnesota. And while there is a lot to like about Edwards' game, there are some understandable questions to ask about him as well.

Edwards averaged just over 19 points per game as a freshman at Georgia last season, though his postseason was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. That number is impressive, but Edwards was a 40% shooter from the field and hit just 29% of his three-point attempts on the season. Also troubling is the fact that Edwards' Georgia team was 16-16 by the time the season stopped. We have seen players like Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons struggle to become complete NBA players after leading mediocre college squads. But in a draft that lacks the star power of last year's class, Edwards is likely to be the best prospect a team can get.

2. Golden State Warriors: LaMelo Ball

There isn't a player in the 2020 NBA Draft who's had a stranger path to the league than LaMelo Ball. The brother of New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball, and the son of erratic Big Baller Brand impresario Lavar Ball, LaMelo was pulled out of high school when Lavar didn't want his son playing for the coaches there. He spent time playing amateur ball in Lithuania before playing professionally in Australia. Ball, despite all of the instability, turned into a quality player during his journey as his ability to distribute the basketball makes him an attractive option for a team that prioritizes ball movement the way that the Golden State Warriors do.

Like his brother, Ball will need to improve his outside shooting in order for him to reach his potential. And he will have to overcome the fact that he is the current object of Lavar Ball's attention, which means that controversy is sure to follow him in the same way that caused Lonzo to break away from everything Big Baller Brand related. But both of those issues are manageable, and landing with the Warriors would give Ball a great chance to win titles and be a productive player alongside future Hall of Famers Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Ball could certainly learn a thing or two about shooting from the Splash Brothers. 

3. Charlotte Hornets: James Wiseman

James Wiseman is one of the most interesting prospects in the upcoming draft because he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA ahead of last season, and Wiseman left Memphis to focus on preparing for the draft. Because of this, there isn't a lot of game film for teams to reference from Wiseman's college career. But Wiseman has one thing that can't be taught and doesn't need to be put on film: his size. At 7-foot-1, Wiseman could be a top-three pick based on his upside as a big man. But he'll need to develop a reliable jump shot to reach his immense potential. 

Wiseman seems like a perfect fit in Charlotte. The Hornets don't have any top-tier talent at the center position, with players like Cody Zeller and Willy Hernangomez aren't starting quality. And with guards like Terry Rozier and Malik Monk on the roster, it would make more sense for the Hornets to go big. There are already calls for Wiseman to learn how to shoot from the outside, which is a sign of the times in today's NBA. If he can do that, the Hornets would be lucky to have Wiseman.

4. Chicago Bulls: Killian Hayes

Luka Doncic is currently taking the NBA by storm, as the tall point guard from Europe is a transcendent scorer and passer for the Dallas Mavericks. Killian Hayes isn't quite on Luka's level — to be fair, who is? — but there are some parallels to be drawn between Doncic and Hayes, who has been playing professionally in Germany for Ulm. Hayes is 6-5 and a left-hand dominant player, which makes him an attractive selection at the point guard position. And perhaps more important than his physical stature is the fact that he has racked up experience playing against other professional athletes.

There is nothing wrong with playing college basketball, but players like Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis have shown that it can be advantageous to play against other professionals. Without having to go to classes or have limited practice time, European pros are able to focus on basketball and basketball only. A player like Hayes can make an impact faster based on those facts, which could help the Chicago Bulls become a respectable franchise sooner rather than later.

Together with Cobi White, the Bulls would have an intriguing — and young — backcourt in Chicago. 

5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Obi Toppin

The last time that the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted a high-profile prospect who built a following while playing basketball in Ohio, it kicked off a love story between the city and LeBron James that lasted well over a decade. Obi Toppin is unlikely to be as good or as influential as LeBron James, but the star of last year's Dayton Flyers team would be a great selection for a Cavaliers squad that needs help in the frontcourt. Toppin was a gifted scorer for a Dayton team that might have been the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2020 had it taken place.

With Collin Sexton and Darius Garland set to run things at the guard spots for years to come, the Cavs could target a forward like Toppin, who would fit in well and be able to learn from Kevin Love while he's still a part of the team.

The one concern with Toppin is his ability to play defense at a high level. But if Toppin's scoring touch translates to the next level, and his shooting continues to improve, the Cavs will be content in the short term while hoping that he can get better on the defensive side. 

6. Atlanta Hawks: Onyeka Okongwu

Pac-12 college basketball is full of talented players, but the league as a whole has failed to produce quality teams in recent years. Because of that, basketball fans might not know too much about USC's Onyeka Okongwu, a player who is going to have staying power in the NBA as a rim protector. Despite his 6-foot-9 stature, Okongwu has elite defensive instincts that allow him to be in the right position to alter shots.

Rim protection just so happens to be a huge need for the Atlanta Hawks. They have things figured out at the guard spots, especially with Trae Young emerging as one of the best players under 25. But the Hawks have tried and failed on several occasions to bring in rim protectors to help those guards on defense. If Okongwu falls to them with the sixth pick in the draft, expect the Hawks to try and lock down a rim protector once again, in the hopes that their defensive woes subside while their sharp perimeter shooting continues.

7. Detroit Pistons: Tyrese Haliburton

It isn't common to see a player near the top of the NBA Draft be someone who has spent more than one year in college. That is the case with Tyrese Haliburton, though, as he spent a couple of years at Iowa State. Haliburton started out as a backup for the Cyclones but earned a starting spot in his second year with the team. And Haliburton grew in his starting role, as he established himself as an above-average perimeter shooter while getting into passing lanes and generating steals on a regular basis.

Someone like Haliburton would make a lot of sense for the Pistons, who just need some consistency from their guards going forward. Haliburton would appear to fit that bill, and looks like a player who has a high floor, even if his ceiling isn't necessarily as high as you would like from a top-10 prospect. But that is the theme of this draft, as there aren't any players who really jump out as future superstars. Instead, being able to take someone like Haliburton who projects to be a reliable contributor in the NBA is a great look for the Pistons.

8. New York Knicks: Deni Avdija

Another international prospect could be heading to New York to play for the Knicks. This time, it could end up being Deni Avdija out of Israel. Avdija has been playing professional basketball at Maccabi Tel Aviv, one of Israel's top clubs. He is a 6-foot-8 forward who has a diverse skill set that is highly coveted in the current NBA landscape. He can put the ball on the floor, pass, shoot and he has the size to help the Knicks' frontcourt on the boards. Of course, there would be cause for concern for Knicks fans if this is the route that the team went.

The Knicks have made a habit of drafting players with a similar size and skills of Europe in the past. Players like Danilo Gallinari and Kristaps Porzingis were selected over other players before the Knicks sent them elsewhere. In both cases, those former Knicks blossomed after leaving the Big Apple. Thus, the question here is whether the Knicks will have the patience to let Avdija develop and become a quality player in the NBA, or if this will be another case of the Knicks drafting a player and not giving them the chance to reach their full potential.

9. Washington Wizards: Devin Vassell

The Washington Wizards are in a strange place heading into the 2020 NBA Draft. John Wall is supposed to be coming back from injury, while it is unclear whether the team will be shipping Bradley Beal out via trade. Because of that, it is difficult to tell what direction the Wizards should head in this year's draft. But, as currently constructed, a player like Devin Vassell could be a great piece to enhance what they already have as the Wizards look to stay healthy and get back to the playoffs.

Vassell played two years at Florida State and had a strong sophomore season to climb up draft boards. Vassell averaged 12.7 points per game on 49% shooting in his second season as a Seminole, as Florida State was one of the best teams in a loaded ACC last season prior to the premature shutdown of the season. With Rui Hachimura being selected to play on the interior last year, and Wall and Beal still on the team, for now, getting a player like Vassell to be a three or a small-ball four would be a smart move for the Wizards.

10. Phoenix Suns: Isaac Okoro

Auburn has been one of the best programs in college basketball in recent seasons, reaching the Final Four two years ago and looking like a threat to do it again last season before the season was canceled. A big reason for that success was the play of Isaac Okoro, who was an efficient scorer for the Tigers. He averaged 12.9 points per game in his freshman season, converting on 51% of his shots in his lone collegiate campaign. Perhaps more important is the fact that Okoro is a quality perimeter defender, which will make him an instant contributor for whoever drafts him. 

The Phoenix Suns are gifted offensively already, thanks to the offensive explosivity of Devin Booker and all of the shooters that they have lined up around him. But Phoenix is defensively challenged, making Okoro a logical selection to round out the top 10. If he can limit opposing second units on the perimeter, the Suns will be able to keep pace when Booker and the starters are off of the floor. And as we saw in the NBA bubble, the Suns starters are a group that is difficult to beat when the reserves aren't giving all of those points back.

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