What Each NBA Team Should Do With Their First Round Pick

Below is a culmination of the Sports Hub’s 2020 NBA Draft preparation and scouting.  It features The Big Board 2.0, a breakdown of what each team should do with their first round pick, and an overview of some of the most notable prospects left out of the first round.  

Here is the link to The Big Board 2.0 (the final edition).  It is recommended to keep it open while reading, as it will be referenced multiple times while analyzing picks.

Without further ado, here is a 2020 NBA Mock Draft, predicated on what teams should actually do and not what teams might do Wednesday night.

No.1, Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards, Georgia

Some of the circumstances written about last week have changed, but if Minnesota keeps the pick, Edwards should be their selection.  It’s sounding possible that they could be able to move down and still secure him, though.  Trading out seems to be even less likely now that Jrue Holiday has been officially moved and Bradley Beal’s availability (or lack thereof) has been made clear.  The Magic still could pull off the Aaron Gordon deal, and that might be Minnesota’s best option at the time being.

No.2, Golden State Warriors: Deni Avdija, Israel

Similar to Minnesota, things have changed since the above article was published, but if Golden State remains here, Avdija is the best fit.  Gordon is another good fit for the Warriors, and Wendell Carter Jr. would be as well.  The Warriors moving down just a couple spots makes reaching for a wing like Devin Vassell or Aaron Nesmith less troubling, and picking up someone of Carter Jr.’s potential would be a valuable move.

No.3, Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball, New Zealand 

The Hornets seem to (rightfully) covet a big with this pick, but Ball being here is too hard to pass up, even with Onyeka Okongwu on the board.

The need at guard may not be obvious or exist at all, but consider what Charlotte actually has in its current group.  

Devonte’ Graham’s breakout season was a nice surprise and earned him some serious Most Improved Player buzz, but it’s likely he is best suited as a potent sixth man off the bench in the league.  

Despite a perhaps underrated season in 2019-20, Terry Rozier’s contract is still a disaster, and neither his play or age fits Charlotte’s timeline.  Additionally, his free agent deal signed last summer was for just three years.  The Hornets have to be thinking about what lies ahead after that deal is up.

In Ball, Charlotte would land a player they can truly feel confident in as their franchise point guard.  There are certainly some concerns and dark spots, but Ball’s skill of passing and seeing the court is not just his best attribute, but the best attribute any player in this draft class has.  Ball checks the top box of what you want in a point guard, and it’s the reason he finds himself atop the big board.

Ball is a special passer.  He’s on a completely different level than his brother Lonzo was coming out of UCLA in 2017, and that’s saying a lot.  It’s not just the passes with LaMelo.  It’s the ability to see passes before anyone else.  He scans the court like a quarterback progressing through his reads.  

There’s been few better passers than Ball in recent drafts.  Perhaps the scariest part is that his distribution is potentially just half of his game.

Ball’s unselfishness passing occasionally morphed itself toward the other direction.  The 18-year-old consistently jacked up bad shots during his time in New Zealand, and played like he was trying to make things harder on himself rather than easier.  His persistent dribbling, shot selection and hero-ball mentality doesn’t have to be shuttered in the NBA, but it must be reduced until the efficiency can improve.

If Ball can get threes to fall consistently and become less selfish when scoring, then we have everything people thought Lonzo could be and more on our hands in LaMelo.  Lonzo was never going to be someone who got the ball and cooked with it in the NBA, despite certain performances at UCLA.  Ball’s got the shot creation skills his brother doesn’t possess, but they’re raw.  

The concern is that Charlotte isn’t built up well enough offensively yet to help take some of the load off Ball early.  That could create bad habits, and lead to a worst-case scenario of what Ball could be in the NBA.  That type of player isn’t a liability though.  No one with that good of a passing gene is.

Ball could ultimately be a microcosm for this draft.  If everything works out, he’s going to be a star.  But there’s a lot to work out, and if a good amount of things don’t, then what’s left?  

Ball’s likely the execption to most in this draft.  If the rest doesn’t work out, you’re still getting someone who could be a generational passer and will still have a positive impact in the league.  If Ball tops out at someone like Rajon Rondo, is that a bad thing?  Rondo was a great player, and is still contributing even beyond his prime.  The issues are that if Ball doesn’t pop, someone else in this draft will.  Nobody really knows who that is going to be.

No.4, Chicago Bulls: Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky 

Of guys selected in this mock, Maxey is probably the biggest surprise (Bigger surprises could emerge amongst who is not picked).  Here’s an explanation.

Maxey is ranked third on the board.  He’s an absolute killer on both ends.  He’s an incredible defensive presence given his short stature, using his speed to keep up with practically anyone and his quick arms to get into passing lanes.  Even for towering wings, Maxey is a hassle.  At just 6’3, he’s switchable 1-3.

Offensively, Maxey’s got what you want in a lead guard and potential No.1 offensive option.  He hit big shot after big shot at Kentucky, and has to the poise to keep cool in big moments.  He’s got the type of game that could lead a successful team – the hesitations and herky-jerky dribbling allows him to create his own shot effortlessly.  

His size is an issue – big wings could swallow him.  But his moves are just that good, which enables Maxey to get to the rim instead of pulling-up.  We’ve seen defensive-minded wings still not be able to guard smaller 1s and 2s – just ask Boston how they handled Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet in the playoffs.

Maxey’s considerably lower on likely every board that exists, and some of those reasons make sense.  He’s small.  He’s not a knockdown shooter, especially from three.  He’s a bit of a ball-hog and takes shots he shouldn’t.  To most, he seems to be a boom or bust type player.  But there’s a chance he’s actually one of the safer bets in this draft, even if he doesn’t emerge as the star the board projects him to be.

How often are you getting the competitiveness and defense Maxey brings to the table?  That’s what Maxey can ultimately fall back on if his size and poor shooting limits his ability as a No. 1 shot-creator.  Additionally, his potential as a sixth man is  limitless.  The energy he brings is undeniable.

The Bulls are in need of a star player.  Coby White is solid.  Zach Lavine is not.  Wendall Carter Jr. needs a serious chance, and he wasn’t ever projected as someone who was going to be a shot-creator at the center position anyways.  Lauri Markkanen has battled injuries, is unhappy and hasn’t totally panned out.  New GM Arturas Karnisovas has so far been operating the Bulls as if they’re a clean slate – Kris Dunn’s declined option proves that.  That means he likely won’t care about Lavine’s starting role, or the fact that the Bulls drafted White last year.  Karnisovas also won’t care about the fact that Avdija would be the perfect replacement for Markkanen if he’s available, and that Avdija would be everything the Bulls hoped Markannen would be.  Karnisovas is going to take the best player available.  Maxey is it.

No.5, Cleveland Cavaliers: Onyeka Okongwu, USC

The Cavaliers should be estatic if Okongwu falls to them here.  Almost guaranteed to take a big after selecting guard after guard in previous drafts, Okongwu’s the best big available in this draft.

Written about briefly in Monday’s breakdown of Golden State’s options (linked above), Okongwu is essentially a team inserting a Bam Adebayo-type into their lineup.  The two are extremely similar players: switchability and rim protection defensively, intuitive passing and feel offensively, and a developing jump-shot that could lead them to step out to the perimeter someday.

Okongwu may not be the all-around defensive player Adebayo is – his switching isn’t quite there yet.  But the athleticism is, and with better instincts he could be an effective 3-5 switcher.

Okongwu has the ability to get to the rim, though he’s not as smooth as Adebayo is creating his own shot. Instead, he could be a dominant and efficient post presence, something that Adebayo doesn’t totally have in his game.

The Cavaliers have washed up veterans in their front-court and need to be looking toward the future.  Okongwu fits the timeline of their young guards, and each can help one another.  Okongwu’s passing allows the guards to develop their off-ball game a bit, and suddenly, Cleveland’s once dim future would seem much brighter.

No.6, Atlanta Hawks: Killian Hayes, France

The Hawks have put themselves in a position hard to get out of.  Their fascination with Trae Young is irreversible at this point, so they must strive to build the best team they can around him, and maximize what he’s good at.

Atlanta has done a good job of this so far.  Their mix of youthful wings compliments Young nicely, and Cam Reddish’s late-season improve providing much needed scoring.

But Young is still going to be need more help if Atlanta views him as their franchise.  The third-year point guard is best at scoring, and he should solely be geared toward that facet of his game.  This means reducing his playmaking and, stoutly put, possibly moving him to shooting guard.

Killian Hayes has perhaps the widest range of outcomes on draft night.  Some boards begin with him, others have him in the late-lottery or out of it all together.  Ranked sixth on this board, Hayes could be the perfect ladder for Young to hang on.  He’s an astute passer in and out of the pick-and-roll, brings length and effort to the defensive side, and plays unselfishly – a vital trait in playing next to Young.

The unselfishness is a little frustrating when he’s without the ball.  The three point shooting numbers are bleak, and pairing him with a high-usage guard could make him quite idle when he’s not running the show.  But Hayes has upside that few others do in this barren draft, and Atlanta doesn’t have crippling needs aside from giving Young help.  Hayes is the player who can do that best at this point in the draft, and his potential is worth the pick.

No.7, Detroit Pistons: Obi Toppin, Dayton

The Pistons should be in best player available mode, especially after moving on from young guard Bruce Brown Sunday morning.  Per the board, Toppin is that player.

Toppin is polarizing, and it’s deserved.  He’s a destructive force offensively, thanks to his leaping ability out of the pick and roll and his three point shooting on pops.  His athleticism allows him to not rely on post-ups to score – he can be effective as a cutter, slasher, and a quick-and-easy bucket guy since his size is just so overpowering.

Defensively is where the questions arise.  For all of his athleticism, the lateral quickness and foot speed is practically non-existent.  The only players he has a chance against are old school bigs and traditional power forwards – those who are slowly being faded out of the game.  Teams are rarely feeding guys in the post anymore, and if they are, it’s because nobody can stop them.  Toppin’s not an exception.

The former National College Player of the Year makes sense for Detroit despite his drawbacks because 1) he can be their whole offense for as long as they need him to be 2) Christian Wood’s a free agent and could leave, giving Detroit a need long-term in the front-court 3) Wood, if he stays, can make up for Toppin’s limitations defensively and take some of the pressure off.

No.8, New York Knicks: Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State

The Knicks could go a variety of routes here, but ultimately, it’s smart for them to take the safe one.

Haliburton’s not as highly rated on the board as he is others, and it’s due to a lack of an elite skill.  The No. 1 trait assigned to Haliburton is his intelligence on and off the court, but his passing and decision-making doesn’t totally reflect his IQ.  He’s kind of just okay at a bunch of things.

Haliburton projects as a great distributor and a solid defender – particularly off the ball.  His longer frame makes him able to guard opponents 1-3, if he can stay on them after receiving the pass.  Everything else checks out fine.  He’s not a good shooter or shot-creator.  He needs to be a better disruptive and locked-in defender.  His athleticism is meh.

But New York should be okay with these things.  They need to be.  The Knicks are on track to rebuild the right way now, and with R.J. Barrett, Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson in place, all they lack is a true superstar and a solid point guard.  Haliburton takes care of one of those, and New York should be bad enough in 2020-21 to land one of the stars atop next year’s draft class, completing what should be an intriguing lineup nonetheless come 2021-22.

No.9, Washington Wizards: Isaac Okoro, Auburn

Okoro is one of the top players left on the board here and it’s thanks to his destructive defensive presence.  He’s a rare mix of someone who’s a switchable, solid defender and a disruptive defender all in the same package.  His length allows him to be a viable 1-4 defender, while his long arms poke balls from smaller, shiftier guards.  

Okoro’s offense leaves a lot to be desired.  The shot just isn’t there, and doesn’t project well either.  He’s likely just a slasher and cutter on offense, as his dribble penetration game could get swallowed at the next level.  But Okoro’s defense has the chance to be valuable enough to make up for the deficiencies offensively.  There are few players like that in basketball.  If they exist, they’re locking down the opponent’s best player.  That’s likely where we’ll be seeing Okoro for years to come.

Washington could use any defense it can get.  The team was horrific last season on that end, and Okoro serves as someone who can help clean up teammates’ mistakes instantly.  A lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimera, Okoro and Thomas Bryant makes the Wizards seem a lot better than they might be.

No.10, Phoenix Suns: Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt 

This might be high, but the Chris Paul trade and Hayes and Haliburton’s drafting shifts Phoenix’s thinking here.  

If Hayes or Haliburton is available here Wednesday night, the Suns should pull the plug on one of them (Hayes, preferably).  Paul’s trade doesn’t change the need for a long-term point guard, though it shores up the immediate impact that position can bring to the Suns.  Paul’s age is no laughing matter though, and there’d be no better mentor than the Point God himself to a young player.

But here, neither are available.  Phoenix could reach for another lead distributor, but even though reaches are encouraged in this no-trades mock, better players exist for Phoenix.

Enter Nesmith.  The best shooter in this class, Nesmith simply doesn’t miss.  He was over 50 percent at Vanderbilt last season, and that was with a heavy offensive workload on a bad team.

He’s a tad limited defneisvly, but Mikal Bridges’ lockdown tenacity on that end can make up for almost all of Phoenix’s wings.  Taking Nesmith after drafting Cam Johnson last year might seem redundant, but if Golden State taught us anything, it’s that the more shooters you have, the better.

No.11, San Antonio Spurs: RJ Hampton, New Zealand 

The Spurs are similar to the Bulls in that they have some young, intriguing pieces of which none can offer true superstardom in the future.  They’re solid almost everywhere, which means they can afford to take a swing or a risk here.

Hampton has an incredibly low floor but a high ceiling.  He’s a shot maker and creator, but if he can’t be great at those two things, then there’s nothing else to really get out of him.

He’s a star or he’s not.  If he’s not, then the Spurs are fine.  If he is, then watch out.

No.12, Sacramento Kings: James Wiseman, Memphis

One of the consensus top prospects in this draft doesn’t receive the same shine here.  

Wiseman may be underrated on the board, but it seems as though some teams feel the same way the board does as well.  Multiple reports have suggested that certain teams have Okongwu over Wiseman on their boards, and that’s probably the right ranking.

Wiseman’s ranking isn’t suggesting that he’ll be a bust, but it’s more of an overall summary of what he actually is: a rim running and protecting big.  It’s as simple as that.

There isn’t much else to it, even though Wiseman may seem to think so.  All of the speculation about his offensive game morphing into that of a wing’s is silly when Wiseman will have to face NBA defenders.  His rim protection has the chance to be elite, though his skinny frame will need bulk for him to truly contain bigger centers.  For someone who moves as fluidly as Wiseman does at his size, the switchability isn’t really there.

So why does a skillset like that warrant a top three pick, even in a bad draft?  Perhaps it’s his polarizing nature and a team’s business side playing its hand, but in terms of straight talent, Wiseman takes a backseat to a lot of prospects in this draft.

All of that said, he’s a good fit for the Kings here as one of the top prospects left on the board.  Marvin Bagley is a not rim protector, and Sacramento’s backcourt is set.

No.13, New Orleans Pelicans: Devin Vassell, Florida State

New Orleans is ecstatic to land Vassell here, as the sophomore is the classic example of what “solid” looks like in this draft class.

Vassell likely won’t fail in the league.  He’s reminiscent of Trevor Ariza – someone who can play good defense and knock down shots on a good team.

His reason for sliding down the board lies in his lack of an elite skill – similar to Haliburton.  Vassell’s a good shooter and a good defender.  Some feel as though there’s some shot creation skills that could be developed, but it feels like more of a pipe-dream than a reality.

The Pelicans are still looking for a point guard of the future after the Jrue Holiday trade, but drafting a passer here is a bit of a stretch.  Taking Vassell gives New Orleans a solid player to add to their core, and makes a (enter point guard)-Vassell-Brandon Ingram-Zion Williamson–Jaxson Hayes lineup extremely scary.

No.14, Boston Celtics: Patrick Williams, Florida State 

Seminole teammates go back-t0-back here, and it’s likely Boston would have ended up with one of them regardless.

The Celtics need to fill out their bench, and they can do so by taking the best player available that’s not a point guard.  The board says that’s Patrick Williams.

Williams probably won’t make it here, as his stock has risen dramatically in the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s draft.  Reports Tuesday night indicated he could be Chicago’s pick at No. 4 overall.

If he’s here, he’d be excellent value for the Celtics.  Williams is an imposing defensive presence who’s got a sweet jump-shot for his size.  The Celtics love their big, defensive-minded wings and Williams fits the bill.

There’s a lot of potential with him as well – though projecting him into a star is a tough bet.  He’s got good shot-creation skills for his size – the wingspan makes jumpers of his impossible to guard.  There could also be some untapped potential at center on both ends, though rim protection could be a more likely role as his foot speed won’t match the fastest wings.  Williams is simply massive, and could play anywhere from the 2 to the 5 in a given lineup.

Like Maxey, Williams is a safe bet.  If he hits a high ceiling, we’re looking at one of the most gifted and versatile players in the league.  If not, you’re getting great, strong defense and an unguardable shooter.

No. 15, Orlando Magic: Cole Anthony, North Carolina

Cole Anthony is among the most polarizing players in this draft class.  Nobody has fell harder from the preseason draft rankings, and it’s not totally his fault.  His injury decimated the Tar Heels’ season, and it seemed as though Anthony himself never fully recovered from it.

There isn’t much tape on Anthony, so teams are resorting to a lot of high school film, which is always an immediate concern.

Anthony’s a scoring point guard, but his size and usage could limit him.  He made a lot of bad shots when he played in college, and has the body that could very well get swallowed by wings.  There isn’t elite speed or athleticism to make up for it, either.

Anthony is the boom or bust prospect of this class.  His shot-making could be as good we think at the next level, but if it isn’t, then we’re looking at an inefficient, undersized player who’s out of the league shortly.

The Magic have a lot of pieces in place, and just need the guy who’s going to make it all come together.  Anthony is likely not that, but it’s probably worth the shot at this point in the draft.  It wasn’t long ago that we thought Anthony would be in contention for the first overall pick.

No. 16, Houston Rockets: Saddiq Bey, Villanova

With Robert Covington out of the picture, Houston can use the pick they got in return to find his replacement.

Bey’s another one of the safest, most solid picks in this draft.  Like Vassell and Williams, you’re getting good defense and good shooting.  But Bey’s pedigree at Villanova in addition to his insane frame allows him to truly be a multi-positional defender at the next level.

He’s the perfect Covington hole-filler, and will fit Houston’s system like a glove, assuming it doesn’t change dramatically with James Harden’s trade demand.

No.17, Minnesota Timberwolves: Josh Green, Arizona

The Timberwolves continue to fill out their roster with mostly wings, and they take the best available one here in Arizona’s Josh Green.

A knockdown shooter, Green’s an underrated defender.  His thick frame is rare for someone who moves as well as he does, making him not just switchable but strong as well.

The Wolves stealing Green here devastates Dallas, and Minnesota adds another quality wing to a team that could use defense greatly.

No. 18, Dallas Mavericks: Robert Woodward Jr., Mississippi State 

The Mavericks simply need two-way players on their roster, making Green’s selection a tough swallow.

Better players than Woodward Jr. exist on the board, but none fit Dallas’ select need.

Woodward is another strong and long wing who can really shoot it while doubling as an off-ball threat in multiple sets.  He’s straight firepower and certainly won’t kill Dallas defensively – two traits they desperately need to surround Luka Doncic with.

No.19, Brooklyn Nets: Isaiah Joe, Arkansas 

Isaiah Joe was on track to be the best shooter in this draft class until Aaron Nesmith showed up.

Joe’s so ridiculous from the three point line that in 2018-19, his three point percentage topped his field goal percentage – a stat that doesn’t feel like it should be possible.

Additionally, Joe moves like a pinball around the court.  He’s constantly fighting through and flying around screens and trying to get open.  His effort to shoot it is just as impressive as the shot itself.

Brooklyn is in best player available mode or most tradeable asset mode, depending on how real the smoke around a Harden trade is.  If the Nets keep their current team together, Joe would fit right in.

No.20, Miami Heat: Paul Reed, DePaul

Likely another reach, Reed is arguably the most switchable player in the draft.  He’s got legitimate chops guarding all positions, which is unbelievable considering his size.

The Heat strictly need Reed to help Bam Adebayo protect the rim.  This could be placing a limit on Reed’s ceiling, but it’s also very possible him guarding 1-5 at the NBA level is unfeasible.

Reed doesn’t have a great offensive game, but the Heat are so deep and loaded with offense that they can afford the reach here.  Reed gives them what they need.

No.21, Philadelphia 76ers: Jahmi’us Ramsey, Texas Tech

Pinpointing what the Sixers should do here is tough considering their new management and current roster.  Splitting the bill seems like the right thing to do.

It seems unlikely that the 76ers are going to make any major moves this offseason, so addressing their needs given what they have is the right approach.  Philly could certainly use more shooting and more shot-creators around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.  Ramsey provides both.

He’s an upside pick, but Ramsey has shot creation chops that could let him develop into a crafty offensive player someday.  He’s also a good shooter for how high his usage can run, indicating that Philly could use him and his athleticism off the ball in certain sets.

It’s unlikely, but the Sixers could be looking at their future No. 1 offensive option here, depending on how you value Embiid’s post game.  Ramsey has the dog and skill in him to hit that point.  He’s a bit boom or bust, though the shooting provides a foundation no matter what he turns out to be.

No.22, Denver Nuggets: Precious Achiuwa, Memphis 

Paul Millsap might be a goner in free agency this offseason, and the Nuggets could use more long defenders after watching what the Lakers did to them in the Western Conference Finals.  Achiuwa is raw, but the one trait he does bring is energy and athleticism.  The dude is long as all hell, and can use his arms to make himself a problem for practically anyone.  His offense needs to come a long way, but Denver has not been adverse to risk and swinging for the fences in the draft.  Achiuwa’s a bit of a project, but they Denver can let him play and develop him at the same time.

No.23, New York Knicks: Jordan Nwora, Louisville

The Knicks trade-up Wednesday morning is a bit concerning, considering that it was previously thought that they were going to be patient and rebuild the right way.

If they keep the pick, Nwora would be a good choice.  After taking Haliburton in the lottery, New York can still fill a hole on the wing.  Nwora’s a reach here, but his placement at No. 24 on the board shouldn’t make it a surprise.

Nwora’s got an ideal scoring arsenal.  He’s not just a pure shooter, though he’d excel in that role.  The 22-year-old was Louisville’s No. 1 offensive option last season, and his tall frame allows him to get buckets over anyone.

He’s comparable to Cam Johnson with a more diverse offensive game.  Both have lengthy frames, are older and are a tad stiff defensively, but they shoot the hell out of the ball and likely won’t disappoint.

No. 24, New Orleans Pelicans: Tyrell Terry, Stanford 

Terry’s small size is a cause for concern, and the board reflects that.  But he’s a dynamic shooter and good passer, making him New Orleans’ perfect long-term point guard as Zion Williamson figures to have the ball in his hands more given a healthy year.

Terry’s slide to being the No. 28 overall prospect in this draft class has to do with his value defensively.  He’s going to get relentlessly attacked, and there’s not much he or the Pelicans are going to be able to do about it.  

No.25, Oklahoma City Thunder: Elijah Hughes, Syracuse

Oklahoma City is simply in asset acquisition mode.  That means they can afford to take swings.

Hughes is the last of his kind in the draft.  The 22-year-old was Syracuse’s whole offense last year, and did a pretty job running the show.

Hughes’ workload forced him into a lot of bad situations, but the guy has a knack for getting buckets and beating anyone off-the-dribble.  OKC will likely find their star in upcoming drafts, but Hughes isn’t a bad flyer.

No.26, Boston Celtics: Jalen Smith, Maryland

The Knicks’ trade-up with Utah costs the Jazz Smith here, and Boston should be ecstatic.

Boston’s fallen on hard times trying to replace Al Horford.  Smith doesn’t offer the same type of game, but he’s a big, modern center who can switch decently well and shoot threes.  He’s not the passer Horford was and never will be, but could offer Boston a solution to an immense problem.

No.27, Utah Jazz: Zeke Nnaji, Arizona

Trading back and scooping up a high second round pick gives the Jazz Zeke Nnaji, who isn’t a bad consolation prize to Smith.

Nnaji is arguably more switchable than Smith, as he’s got a more wiry frame and more athleticism.  Rudy Gobert’s contract situation and character seems to be limiting his days in Utah, and the Jazz can easily transition to a more modern brand of ball by letting Nnaji takeover when and if Gobert is out the door.

No. 28, Oklahoma City Thunder: Ty-Shon Alexander, Creighton

Once again, Oklahoma City is in best player available mode.  Alexander is a sizzling shooter who’s an absolute beast against guards defensively.  He’s not super switchable, but is able to lockdown almost anyone playing the 1 and 2 positions  while providing shot-making from anywhere on the court.

No.29, Toronto Raptors: Theo Maledon, France

Fred VanVleet’s free agency and Kyle Lowry’s age make Maledon the perfect pick for the Raptors.  Maledon is among the safer players in this draft – he plays like a professional, sees the court incredibly well and carries poise with the moves he makes  There’s a chance he’s just a backup, but the Raptors need depth at the position in the immediate future.

No.30, Boston Celtics: Cassius Stanley, Duke

Boston finishes filling out their bench by taking another wing.  Stanley has rocket-boosters in his shoes, which should help him become a better defensive player than he currently is.  But his shooting is undeniable, and the Celtics love for athletic wings makes this a good fit.

Now for a breakdown of the most surprising prospects not to go in the first round mock, separated into three tiers.

How did these guys not go in the first round?

  • Leandro Bolmaro: The dude is basically jumbo-size Steve Nash, but he’s likely to be overseas until at least 2022, making his value tough to gauge.  A further developed jump-shot could make him an unstoppable force offensively. (Note: A previous version of this article had Bolmaro going No. 11 to the Spurs, which left RJ Hampton without a spot in the first round.  Apologies for the error).
  • Immanuel Quickley: Better shooters just exist.  He’ll be a threat off screens and cuts in the league.
  • Ashton Hagans: NBA teams just aren’t as high on him.  It’s understandable, as he’ll never, ever shoot.  But his defensive tenacity and knack for running a team should lead to some success at the next level.
  • Peyton Pritchard: An intriguing target for Toronto at No. 29.  Maledon just projects as a better distributor.  Pritchard’s frame might limit his scoring impact, too.
  • Cassius Winston: Here’s another safe pick.  It’s just that there is almost zero ceiling with him.
  • Isaiah Stewart: Moves really well for how much of a throwback big he is.  Is a beast defensively and can guard pick and rolls.  Problem is lack of a modern offensive game.
  • Malachi Flynn: Just another really solid backup point guard.

Want to like, but…

  • Desmond Bane: He doesn’t move his feet well for someone who’s acclaimed defensively.  Should be able to hit shots at the next level, but the NBA might be a wakeup call for him on the other end.
  • Udoka Azubuike: He’s similar to Stewart but can’t move like him.  Injuries really hurt his stock at Kansas.  One of those guys you wish was better.
  • Tyler Bey: What is there besides insane athleticism?  A bit raw.
  • Killian Tillie: Tillie would be a guaranteed top 20 pick if his medicals weren’t horrifying.  There will likely be teams staying completely away, and it’s purely a shame.
  • Yam Madar: Projects as a fourth-guard, where as the Pritchard’s and Maledon’s of the draft can probably be third guards.
  • Devon Dotson: Could be a fun scorer but lacks the athleticism needed to do it.

Tough swallows:

  • Kira Lewis: He doesn’t have De’Aaron Fox’s speed or passing ability, which was the reason Fox was able to make up for his lack of shooting out of college.  Also might be a tough hang defensively due to his small size.  That’s the complete opposite of Fox.
  • Grant Riller: Riller is basically the equivalent of someone 6’7 playing basketball against people who are 5’8.  He was that much better than everyone else at Charleston, making all the highlight reels hard to really believe in.
  • Tre Jones: A great defender but plays way too reckless offensively.  Maybe his brother Tyus can teach him some things about settling down.
  • Jaden McDaniels: Hard pass.  Nobody was more underwhelming in college basketball last year.  The tools are there but the execution and effort is not.
  • Nico Mannion: If Grant Riller is the 6’7 dude, then Mannion is one of the 5’8 people.  He might be able to shoot it and pass at the next level, though his stature is concerning on both ends.
  • Aleksej Pokusevski: Another hard pass.  He’s the exact type of player you don’t want to fall in love with.  He’s not a fluid mover, which is concerning given his ridiculous frame.  He’s robotic shooting and dribbling, and will get banged around endlessly.
  • Daniel Oturu: Oturu has been dominant since his high school days, but his style of play doesn’t totally fit the modern NBA.  He’s been rumored to be shooting it well, but there’s still no switchability or rim protection on the other side.
  • Xavier Tillman: No shooting and no rim protection is a bad combination as a big these days.
  • Vernon Carey Jr.: Nope.  Way too much old-school in his game, and Duke didn’t help modernize him at all this past year.

The Suns And Bucks Are All In

The Suns biggest need this offseason was impact.

It didn’t matter where it came from.  All that was known was that it’d be hard to find. 

This draft doesn’t offer much, especially at the No. 10 overall pick.  The Suns spending big in free agency seemed unlikely considering they recently sold their G-League team, and had brought in Ricky Rubio the offseason before.  Despite the 8-0 run in the Bubble, the team felt kind of stuck as just a competitive group that likely wasn’t going to crack real success, and had to rely on their best player just to hit that low mark.

That changed in a hurry Monday morning.

The Chris Paul trade was a deal that felt like it could have gone bad.  When th news broke, breathing stopped while waiting for the package going back to the Thunder.  It seemed like it would take a lot.

But it really didn’t.  The Suns swapped point guards (Rubio for Paul), traded an inefficient sixth man in Kelly Oubre, gave up two younger guards with some upside (Ty Jerome and Jalen Lecque) and moved off a first round pick that is probably the best asset in the deal all in return for one of the 40 best players of all-time and a top 10-15 player in the league.  Not bad.

The Oubre label might seem harsh, but with the emergence of the Mikal Bridges-Cam Johnson at the 3-4 lineup in the bubble, a starting role was not going to exist for Oubre, even with the energy and scoring he brings.  Additionally, Oubre’s contract has been a hot topic since last offseason, and the flamboyant wing was likely going to want more security as he’s scheduled to hit the market again next summer.  

Oubre would have been a nice pop off the bench in a sixth man role, but he’s not exactly the ball-handler you want in that spot.  Plus, his poor outside shooting can lead to some inefficient and poor shot selection at times, making him an occasional tough fit.  Plus, it’s not wild to wonder whether Oubre would have been happy not starting – a suspicion says that’d be a tough sell for him.

Lecque was a project, and didn’t have a home thanks to the sale of the Northern Arizona Suns.  Jerome had a tough rookie season thanks to a lack of playing time and injuries – his impact at backup point guard was also not enough, leading to the signing of Cam Payne pre-bubble.  

It’s legitimately possible the 2022 first round pick the Suns gave up in the deal is the No. 1 asset in it, and that’s even after reports trickled out Monday morning that the infamous “double draft” – the year where high schoolers will be able to enter the league after graduation on top of the college freshmen class – might come in 2023 instead of the year before.  That would make 2022 picks way less valuable than previously thought, and make the price on 2023 selections sky-rocket.  The Suns seemed to do a nice job holding firm on ’22, as 2021 figures to be a loaded draft class as well.

Phoenix was able to flip that package into an All-NBA player last season in Paul. Paul’s the exact type of help Booker and Co. needed.  Rubio provided it, sure, but lacked the secondary scoring punch and offensive impact that Paul now brings.

CP3’s age and contract is subject to some critics, and in a way rightfully so.  But Paul is coming off a second-team All-NBA season (He was third-team on this ballot), led the league’s best clutch offense and surprised everyone by dragging OKC to a fifth seed in the playoffs and taking Houston to seven games in the first round.  He’s also the Point God, too.

Paul’s contract doesn’t matter because he’s likely never going to play down to the level we expected him to on it.  Sure, a second-team All-NBA appearance may not be very likely again, but playing at a slightly worse level or even a whole step lower  than that doesn’t make the contract a waste.  

Why?  First, this is Phoenix’s big move.  There’s nothing coming that is bigger than this.  This is the team they’re moving forward with.  Paul’s contract isn’t blocking anyone else.  Second, the Suns didn’t give up anything significant, so it’s not like they gave up truly meaningful assets for someone on a brutal contract.  Paul’s shown so far that he’s likely to outplay the negative value of his deal.  

It feels like there had to be better deals for Oklahoma City, unless teams were still deathly scared of trading for Paul’s contract.  Perhaps these could be teams trying to maintain cap flexibility, and didn’t want the large salary figure Paul brings on their salary sheet.  But after seeing what the Bucks gave up for Jrue Holiday Monday night, it seems hard to believe Paul could be had for so much less.  Where was Milwaukee on Paul if they were willing to give up what they did for Holiday?  What about Philadelphia?  The Mavericks?  Denver?  Bueller?

This trade feels like selling low for the Thunder.  It’s possible they didn’t have a choice, but why not hold firm for one of Johnson or Bridges?  Or potentially a straight up deal for DeAndre Ayton?  Oubre is a sneaky young piece (still 24 years old – will be 25 by the season’s tip) for them, but his deficiencies were noted above.  His defense will be a nice addition to a Thunder team that could use it, though.

Rubio makes zero sense for OKC’s timeline, and point guards are found more commonly than any other position through the league, which limits his potential flip value in February.  Plus – who’s taking on that deal for a non-needle mover?  Rubio was in the deal to make the money work, but why didn’t the Thunder demand more draft compensation from Phoenix to make up for the taking on of Rubio’s deal?  Lecque and Jerome are fine flyers – with Lecque being the ultimate project and fitting what OKC is doing well.  And then there’s the first round pick, which the Thunder should have bargained to be a 2021 or 2023 pick instead of 2022.

The Thunder have more moves to make, and perhaps they will be a bit better than this one.  But Paul was supposed to be the asset anchor of the Thunder’s rebuild, and this deal didn’t get it done.

On the Jrue Holiday trade to Milwaukee…

If Giannis Antetokounmpo is Shaq – well, Jrue Holiday isn’t exactly Kobe.

But he fits the mold, and clearly, that’s all that matters to Milwaukee.

Holiday’s shipment to the Bucks was stunning because of what the deal consisted of.  The Bucks were able to swap Eric Bledsoe and his contract for the Pelicans star point guard, but had to give up potentially five first round picks (Three first rounders and two first round pick swaps) to do it in addition to a reliable role player in George Hill.

Holiday is perfect for Milwaukee.  The Bucks upgrade at point guard, as Bledsoe’s a good defender but doesn’t quite hit Holiday’s level due to poor shooting, high usage and lesser passing ability.  Holiday’s the guy they need if Antetokounmpo is going to turn the corner in the playoffs, and play as more of a true big rather than a driving guard.  Additionally, Holiday brings better shooting and more efficiency to the Bucks offense, while making their defense somehow even better than it was prior.

It cost them a lot though, and perhaps too much.  Bledsoe’s a wash, but Hill was one of the league’s best shooters in 2019-20 and was able to double as a three-point threat off-the-ball and a nice backup point guard.  The amount of picks is asinine, especially considering who they’re going to (New Orleans – who owns the Lakers future thanks to the Anthony Davis trade).  It’s the type of deal you practically guarantee a title with, though the Clippers have yet to do that and Golden State and Brooklyn are rising as legitimate contenders.  The picks are likely to be late in the first round, but what happens if an injury occurs, or if the team is flipped on its head in the summer of 2021?  Then what?

You would hope Milwaukee made this deal not to convince Antetokounmpo to stay but as a gift for him committing to stay.  It’s an unprecedented, dangerous deal to make without knowing whether you’re losing the back-to-back MVP in a year or not.  A future without Antetokounmpo is a bleak one.  One without him and your draft picks is devastating.

The deal for New Orleans is more than they likely could have asked for.  The sheer volume of picks just adds to their war-chest, and there was likely no higher bidder – topping that offer means another star would have to be involved.  The Pelicans got the Bucks to seriously overpay, and for that they have to take on Bledsoe.  But they get Hill, who can be a competent role player in multiple facets and mentor whoever they need him to.  

On Bogdan Bogdanovic’s sign and trade to Milwaukee…

It’s possible to look at the Holiday trade as a combination of it and Milwaukee’s next deal, which featured the Bucks sending Donte DiVencenzo, DJ Wilson and Ersan Ilyasova to the Kings for Bogdan Bogdanovic in what will be a sign-and-trade deal on Sunday morning.

Let’s evaluate it that way instead: The Bucks traded Bledsoe, Hill, Donte DiVencenzo, DJ Wilson, Ersan Ilyasova, three first round picks and two first round picks swaps for Holiday and Bogdanovic – who they will be paying a large contract to.

On the aggregate, it’s not as bad.  But moving five first round picks on top of your only two young assets for a non-guaranteed championship is still a risky deal.  Stars who will deliver a ring earn that type of package, not necessarily two really good players.

If the Bucks overpaid for Holiday, then they certainly underpaid for Bogdanovic.  DiVencenzo is the star of the deal for the Kings, but aside from that Sacramento is looking at a defense-only wing in Wilson and a veteran big who doesn’t fit their timeline (Ilyasova has flip potential, though).  Sure, Milwaukee has to pay Bogdanovic, but the sneakily-veteran Serbian combo-forward brings a lot of what Malcolm Brogdon did to the table for Milwaukee, and that’s in addition to a real point guard in Holiday.

At the end of the day,  Milwaukee can still be called a loser in these deals because of Brogdon.  They refused to pay him, and instead they’re making panicky, win-now deals to make up for it.  Paying him would have alleviated the need for all of this.

But, Holiday-Bogdanovic-Middleton-Antetokounmpo-Brook Lopez is a ridiculous team, full of defense and ball-handling that can help support Antetokounmpo in the playoffs.  Here’s to hoping they get more than one run at it.

The deal for the Kings is a bit underwhelming, but Sacramento was likely operating with low leverage as the necessity for a sign-and-trade manifested after they learned what offers Bogdanovic would get on the open market.  Sacramento smartly salvaged what they could, and it landed them a young wing moving forward in DiVencenzo.

This move would presumably clear the way for Buddy Hield to remain a King – Hield on his contract is a better than deal than Bogdanovic on his.  Sacramento now needs to get back to their speedy ways, and turn the fun core they once had loose again.

On Dennis Schroder’s trade to the Lakers…

It seems as though the LeBron James at point guard experiment is over after one season, and it’s not because it failed.

There’s just no need to make James work that hard anymore, even if he did finish third in the assists per game leaderboard last season.  With Rajon Rondo likely moving on, finding someone who qualifies as even more of a flier than Rondo was last offseason is a tough bet – and getting Rondo’s production we saw in the bubble from someone other than him is even more unlikely.  So, to counter the loss, the Lakers went after once of the best point guards available on the trade or free agent market, and it cost them hardly anything.

The inclusion of Danny Green along with the No. 28 pick for Schroder was a bit surprising, just because even after a tough playoffs, Green represented basic competency on the Lakers roster (Making the money match was likely why Green was shipped).  But perhaps LAL will find another wing to take over his role, and are okay with getting lesser production there with what Schroder brings to the table.

Schroder likely becomes the Lakers starter alongside James and Anthony Davis, with the rest to be determined.  Regardless, Schroder is the best point guard on the Lakers roster now that James is seemingly moved out of the position.  His scoring acumen will be received well by the Lakers, who could use a consistent punch next to their superstar duo.

This trade should have been a precursor to our disappointment in Oklahoma City.  Schroder and Paul should have netted real value, and both came up a tad short.  The No. 28 pick is a rough one in this draft, depending on how the board falls.  The positive is that Green is likely someone who can be flipped, unlike Rubio.  Green could easily net the Thunder a first round pick before the trade deadline – as Green’s sound defense and (occasionally) competent shooting is a massive plus to a potential contender.

Like the Paul trade, the Thunder should have likely gotten more, and the Lakers, for once, didn’t overpay and made a savvy move.

On Robert Covington’s trade to Portland…

This deal was similar to the Holiday move by Milwaukee in that Portland gave up a lot for someone who is 1) really good and 2) fills a major need and will make an immediate impact because of it.

The Trail Blazers had to pay up, sending two first round picks (including their No. 16 overall selection Wednesday night) and Trevor Ariza (back!) to Houston in exchange for Covington, who next to Gary Trent Jr. gives Portland the length they need to make up for their defensively-limited backcourt.

Covington improves Portland dramatically on both ends.  After the years of Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless on the wings, the Trail Blazers finally have a powerful two-way duo in Gary Trent Jr. and Covington.  

There’s likely a ceiling on what Portland can be defensively thanks to their two guards, but Covington was an important glue guy during his short time in Houston, and can do a little bit of everything on the defensive end.  There might be some rim protection skills hidden in his game.  

The price was not cheap, but reports indicated that Portland was not in love with anyone at No. 16 overall Wednesday night (The Athletic’s John Hollinger reported that Jay Scrubb was a target for the Blazers with the pick – a player who will not be ranked on the big board released Wednesday).  The extra first may be overkill, but Covington is an upgrade over Ariza, who pre-pandemic played well for Portland but is 35 years old and had shown serious decline the past two years.  

This has the potential to be a needle-mover deal for Portland, though they’re probably still on the outside of the West’s upper echelon.

One would think Houston was not too keen on making this deal initially.  Even with James Harden and Russell Westbrook wanting out, the Rockets seem firm on trying to compete in 2020-21, and keeping Covington would have certainly helped them do that.

It’s likely that the offer was just too good to pass up on.  Houston needs all the picks it can get, and they’re getting a decent replacement in Ariza (who’s never been the same since leaving Houston to sign with Phoenix in 2018).  Covington was a critical part of Houston’s small-ball philosophy, but with former GM Daryl Morey now in Philadelphia, the Rockets could be shifting away from such insistence on that style of play, making Covington expendable at the right price.

Perhaps Houston is still wanting to play that way and sees Ariza as a similar fit, with the picks making up for the loss in talent.  Regardless, it was an interesting deal for the Rockets, and is likely a precursor to something bigger, whenever that may come.

On the Bruce Brown trade to the Nets…

The first deal after the trade moratorium opened was perhaps the strangest one made.  The Pistons moved one of their few young assets to a contender for a lesser young(er) asset in Dzanan Musa and a second round pick.

Brown had been a pleasant surprise last year, really emerging as a ball-handler and defender on a bleak Pistons roster.  He, Sekou Doumbouya and Luke Kennard were really all Detroit had to look forward too.

Now the Pistons get Musa, who’s a young, deadly shooter but has spent most of his time in the G-League.  Musa and Deividas Sirvydis – Detroit’s second round pick in 2019 who’s still overseas – gives the Pistons some serious shooting depth for the long term, but ball handling and defense comes at a premium in this league, and Brown did both quite well.  A second round pick in return was not enough.

The Nets didn’t really need Musa either, nor did they need the pick.  The same could be said about Brown for them, but why would Detroit sell so low on someone who gave them solid, unexpected contributions?

What a weird deal.

The Warriors Might Be Forced To Reach In The 2020 NBA Draft

The Golden State Warriors are tasked with the ultimate restoration process during this blitz of a NBA offseason.  The league’s latest dynasty is coming off a season full of injuries and young, inexperienced players running the show.  But they enter the delayed 2020-21 season with a secret genius-like presence.  The Warriors are there, but nobody really knows what they’re up to or what to expect from them, and because of that, they quietly fade away until they re-emerge.

If the Warriors are to manifest with their past force, moves must be made over the next week.  Their struggles last season resulted in the No. 2 overall pick – a blessing in any draft but this one – and an extra 2021 first rounder from Minnesota due to the D’Angelo Russell trade.  They still have most of their cornerstones from the past five years in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, all of whom should be healthy and ready to go for December’s tip-off, but the fringes are rough.  Andrew Wiggins still doesn’t feel like a quality player nor a tradeable asset, and the only other mildly intriguing pieces are Kevon Looney and Eric Paschall, who was massively underrated in the 2019 Draft, had a great rookie and has some Green-like elements to him.

It’s tough for Golden State to bank on having 2014-2016-like success this season.  While that team lacked Kevin Durant next to its three stars, they had quality veterans around Curry, Thompson and Green and took the league by storm.  No one was qualified to defend or catch up with them yet.  Green was a much more potent offensive player.  Everyone was younger and just entering their primes.

Now, Thompson hasn’t played basketball in a year and a half, Curry is coming off an injury-ravaged year and Green has regressed on at least one end of the court.  The Warriors are still scary, but they may not pack the same punch that they used to.

The No. 2 overall pick doesn’t do a great job of improving the Warriors roster this year.  It’s no secret or surprise that Golden State has been linked to trade downs or outs.  To get someone who can really help, they’ll likely have to reach or make a monumental move.

Options for the latter exist.  LaMelo Ball – if Minnesota is smart – should be here for other teams Wednesday night.  The Hornets could move up a spot and guarantee themselves Ball, even though they have two other point guards on the roster (Neither really have the ceiling of Ball, though).  The Knicks or Pistons could as well, as those are two teams who should be coveting the brother of Lonzo.  But just like they did with Minnesota, neither team really offers Golden State players that make up for the lost value of dropping from the No. 2 pick.  The Pistons would need to convince Golden State that Blake Griffin (and his contract, and his medical history, and his poor defense) is worth it for them.  Detroit has zero other veteran assets on their team worth the pick swap.  The Knicks truly have nothing that should intrigue Golden State in a trade down.  Charlotte’s options are limited too, and it wouldn’t make much sense for the Warriors to move down just a single spot.  

Moving farther down the lottery and draft, New Orleans has Jrue Holiday – who’s been reported to be a trade candidate this offseason.  Golden State has been linked to him, though the fit between him and Curry seems a little awkward in the backcourt.  Holiday’s a good defender and good shooter, but it leaves the Warriors a bit stubby defensively, and Curry off-the-ball could limit his impact.  Golden State has to consider whether the redundancy in a Curry-Holiday backcourt is more valuable than whoever they take at No. 2 overall.  Holiday would add guaranteed competency, unlike a draft pick, but the fit feels a bit too wonky.  Additionally, this would mean the Pelicans have their eyes on someone high in the draft.  It could be Ball, as they could use a true point guard of the future (Lonzo is likely not it).  The players New Orleans could use are similar to Golden State (wings, minus point guard), making this type of deal tough to sell to the Pelicans.  What wing would be reasonable to take at No. 2 overall?

The Magic represent some intriguing possibilities.  Markelle Fultz has come along nicely after flaming out in Philadelphia, but he’ll never be the best player in his 2017 draft class as expected and shouldn’t be counted on as Orlando’s franchise player.  Ball could be a target of their’s.  Aaron Gordon would be beautiful to watch on Golden State while switching everything and knocking down three-pointers.  There might be some overlap with him and Green, though the two can protect the rim by committee.  Orlando giving up just Gordon and their own pick (No. 15) for No. 2 overall might be pretty enticing.  Golden State could still add an extra wing at No. 15 too.

Aside from that, the Warriors outlook for a trade down is bleak.  Milwaukee could use a point guard, though they’re still trying to compete with Giannis Antentokounmpo, so moving critical pieces of their title pursuit in 2020-21 (like Khris Middleton or Brook Lopez) wouldn’t be an option.  Donte DiVencenzo is the Bucks only moveable asset that would work for Golden State (Eric Bledsoe is a stay-away) – a deal with him and Ersan Ilyasova (who feels like the perfect Warrior) would give Golden State two quality players but still feel underwhelming.

Golden State could pivot away from trade downs and look to move out of their pick all together.  The stars who remain available on the trade market include just Holiday and Bradley Beal, though Beal doesn’t seem likely to go anywhere unless the offer for the Wizards is ridiculous.  Russell Westbrook and James Harden are wanting out of Houston, but Westbrook is the hardest no ever for the Dubs and a Harden deal seems counter-intuitive.  For kicks though: The Warriors could send Green, No. 2 overall and the 2021 Minnesota first rounder as the base of what would be a ridiculous array of picks on top of likely Eric Paschall and Kevon Looney in exchange for Harden.  It seems crazy that Golden State would move one of Thompson, Curry or Green, but the first two aren’t going anywhere regardless of what the fit is.  

That simply isn’t happening, but it likely needed to be addressed given Harden’s apparent availability.  Beal would be intriguing, though the Warriors would need to pay up in addition to No. 2 overall and the future Minnesota pick – would Washington do those two assets on top of Paschall and Looney?

The problem is that Washington has no reason to rebuild with John Wall’s contract purely unmovable, hence their insistency on keeping Beal.  Golden State would have to really sweeten a deal, which could be worth it considering their slot in this draft.

Boston has been rumored to be wanting to move up higher into the lottery.  It’s unclear who their target is, or if he would make sense at No. 2 overall.  Golden State could take back Gordon Hayward and an assortment of Boston’s three first rounders, which they’re looking to move due to a roster crunch.  That would be a king’s ransom for Golden State, as they’d get a solid veteran in Hayward in addition to other picks to help fill out the roster.  This isn’t a great draft, but the players most likely not to bust lie in the exact spots where Boston is picking, giving the Warriors a good prospectus in this potential yet unlikely move.

It’s likely none of these deals come to fruition though.  A team wanting to trade down means another has to come up, and in this draft, that’s risky given the lack of sure-fire bets and potential stars at the top.  The Warriors are going to be force to settle here, but their decision may be a bit tougher than reaching for whoever they think might be the best available.

No. 2, Golden State Warriors: Deni Avdija, Israel

USC’s Onyeka Okongwu has a good case for being the pick here.  Even with the Warriors depth of Kevon Looney and Eric Paschall at center, Okongwu would bring a nifty new style of basketball to the Warriors.

Golden State’s signing of DeMarcus Cousins in the summer of 2018 let it be known that they coveted a true big man.  It was the final iteration of their ridiculous offense. 

Okongwu wouldn’t necessarily be like Boogie, though.  He’d be a switchy, rim protecting big who has a soft touch, would be a deadly lob threat and offer sets Golden State never dreamed possible thanks to his intuitive passing.  

But drafting Okongwu would limit minutes for Looney, who showed he’s able to play big playoff minutes in 2019.  It would also hinder Paschall’s development and reduce potential crunch-time play for him.

At the end of the day, the Warriors can afford to whiff on this pick.  They’re going to be fine with the talent they currently have, and are going to be spending in free agency to fill out the rest of the roster regardless.  This pick is a luxury, and Golden State should take a swing.

That swing is Deni Avdija, who brings an interesting array of skills to the table.  He’s somewhere along the lines of Nicholas Batum, Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanović.  Not to make solely international comparison, but he’s got a little sprinkle of each in his game, and a couple of concerning issues.

First, the good.  Avdija is a dynamic player offensively.  He’s able to ball-handle and pass, which allows him to get to the rim with a variety of spins and moves.  He’s not fast, but moves fluidly enough to get by defenders driving.  His passing is where the comparisons to Batum and Bogdanovic come in, as both players suffice as secondary play-makers in the NBA today.  

Avdija could do a lot for Golden State in terms of diversifying their offense.  As a secondary play-maker, Avdija could turn Curry and Thompson into lethal off-the-ball, catch-and-shoot weapons.  Golden State would also have someone they could plant at the elbow and run the offense through, similar to how Denver does with Nikola Jokic.  Avdija’s ability to move offensively makes him a weapon as a cutter, and his finishing is excellent.  

The bad, unfortunately, makes him a questionable fit in the league today.  The bounciness offensively doesn’t translate defensively – Avdija’s feet are slow, making him a tough switch onto anyone but bigger fours.  It’s a shame considering his weight and wingspan would allow him to really be a two-way force, but foot speed is not something that’s generally worked on and improved.  Avdija’s shooting is extremely questionable, as he’s used to having the ball in his hands and not shooting jumpers.  His free throw percentages are also horrible, ridding of any hope that a jump-shot could be developed down the line.  

The combination of bad, non-switchable defense and poor shooting does not seem like a mix of skills Golden State would want on their roster, considering they were the group that made them a mainstay in the league.  Golden State did just trade for Andrew Wiggins though, and he does neither of those things particularly well.  Additionally, if any team is going to figure out how a player can overcome those issues and still be productive, it would be the Warriors.  

Exploring Minnesota’s Options At The Top Of The 2020 NBA Draft

With the 2020 NBA Draft just nine days away and a wealth of uncertainty regarding  its overall talent, top prospects and the teams making the first two picks, it’s time to start diving in.

This draft has had the reputation of being a bad one, and it’s partially true.  There are no sure-fire stars in this draft.  There’s a wealth of players who could become reliable role-players but no one wants to take them high over a player who out of nowhere becomes a star.  None of the consensus top prospects can actually shoot.  It has the bad label for a reason.

Picking high is not where teams want to be.  As it would be for most teams toward the top of this draft, trading down or out is likely Minnesota’s best option at No. 1 overall.  But trading down means someone else has to trade up, and if picking high isn’t a hot commodity, than trading up to do so is even worse.

There could be some candidates, though.  This mock, which will be revealed in parts leading up to Nov. 18,  has Charlotte getting him anyways (Hint hint), but if the Hornets wanted to secure themselves LaMelo Ball, moving up to No. 1 would ensure them of that.  What would a deal look like though?  Minnesota probably isn’t looking for future picks with D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns on the roster – they should be a playoff team next year.  That means win-now pieces would be the asking price in return for Minnesota.  Charlotte doesn’t exactly possess that, with Nicholas Batum being the closest thing they have; his contract is an abomination and doesn’t really provide fair return though.  The Knicks and Pistons could also be interested in moving up.  Veteran help is a little easier to find in these spots, but Blake Griffin and Towns are problematic defensively, never mind Griffin’s own troublesome contract, injury history and the overall the lack of value for Minnesota in the deal.  New York would have to stack a couple players for it to be worth it for Minnesota, and even then a deal is underwhelming.

Moving way down the draft, Phoenix at No. 10 overall could want Ball to pair with Devin Booker in the backcourt, but veterans logical for Minnesota don’t totally exist on the Suns’ roster.  Orlando is another team that could present options at No. 15 overall – Aaron Gordon has been a long rumored trade candidate and would give the Wolves a nice defensive-minded player who can play next to Towns on the other end.  Is he worth the No. 1 overall pick in this draft?  Possibly.  Markelle Fultz had a nice year, but any hope for him to be their point guard of the future still seems slim. Picking Ball and pairing him with Nikola Vucevic’s passing would be impossible to guard, and Ball would give the Magic legitimate talent on the perimeter.  Gordon getting moved reduces the big man logjam in Orlando’s front-court, and gives Minnesota legitimate shooting and defense.

The value is the biggest question with the deal.  This draft isn’t great, which makes a player on Gordon’s level expendable for the first pick.  The Wolves need contribution right away – any rookie in any draft class is a question mark when it comes to that.  With Gordon, you know what you’re getting, you’re plugging a hole and increasing the talent on your team significantly.

Gordon opens up the discussion of Minnesota using the pick in exchange a star rather than a simple trade-down.  Stars that seem to be available this offseason could include Bradley Beal, Jrue Holiday and Victor Oladipo.  Beal is the best fit and the best player of the three, but Washington seems keen on keeping him and John Wall together for one last go-around since Wall’s contract prevents the Wizards from fully rebuilding.  What can Minnesota send that wouldn’t trigger a true teardown?  No. 1 overall and Jarrett Culver doesn’t do much.  If Washington is trying to compete as best it can, they aren’t going to want future picks loaded into a Beal deal.

Jrue Holiday could fit well in Minnesota and takeover as more true of a true point guard, moving Russell to the 2-spot where he can score. Holiday provides  good defense to a team that needs it, and him for No.1 overall straight up has momentum for being fair, depending on how New Orleans views this draft.  Both Ball brothers on the same team might be a scenario the Pelicans wish to avoid for publicity reasons, but replacing Holiday with the younger Ball brother isn’t a bad succession plan.

There’s nothing concise about Oladipo’s availability on the market.  He’s also the worst fit of the three next to Russell.  Neither are super high percentage shooters and both are most effective with the ball.  Plus, trading No. 1 overall for someone with Oladipo’s health record is risky.  An acquisition of the first pick for Indiana also doesn’t jive with the age and trajectory of their roster, which is one that just added Malcolm Brogdon last summer and isn’t too far away from being a contender.

Those are the most obvious moves for Minnesota that require trading out or down.  Stunners can happen (AKA, Oklahoma City), and the Timberwolves could gladly take an extra pick to makeup for the one they shipped out for Russell in February.  But the Wolves window is now, and if Holiday and Gordon are both off the table, Minnesota’s going to have to play the cards they’ve been dealt.

No.1, Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards, Georgia

The first pick of the 2020 NBA Mock Draft is Georgia’s Anthony Edwards. Ranked second on the big board (The second edition is coming soon, click here for the first), Edwards was the pole-sitter for most of the college basketball season until time allowed for a review of Ball.  Edwards is dynamic on both ends.  He just needs to put a lot of things together.

Edwards’ best skill right now is getting to the rim.  He’s a long 6’5 and possess hyper-athleticism, which can get the best of him at times but results in unstoppable drives to the hoop.  He’s not a player teams are going to be able to just throw a wing at and call it a day.  Defenders need quick foot speed, immense size and even some rim protection ability to stop him.

Edwards’ efficiency isn’t quite there yet.  He had too large of workload assigned to him at Georgia, thanks to poor point guard play.  Head coach Tom Crean tended to overcast him at times due to the unreliable backcourt.  That burden has created worries about his shot creation and shooting ability – which are both valid.  The jumpers needs to fall at the next level, and the concerning part is that his shot form isn’t exactly a mess.  

Still, 77.2 percent from the free throw line is an encouraging sign, and perhaps playing off someone like Russell won’t tire him out as much, leading to more jump-shots actually falling.

The fit between him and Russell might seem suspect, but Edwards is a good player off the ball thanks to his athleticism and knack for finding holes in a defense.  He can cut, catch, take a quick dribble and lay it right in.  He’s a menace in transition.

The Wolves desperately need a defensive presence.  Edwards has serious potential on that end thanks to his size and ability to move fluidly and quickly, but the results have been sub-par given expectations.  A lot of it could be chalked up as a simple lack of effort, with defense taking a backseat to his offensive load in college, but there does seem to be some awareness issues when not locked onto an opponent. 

Fine tuning is needed.  Edwards has every tool necessary to be a high-end defender in the NBA.  The Wolves should be able to get him there, especially since they’re going to need everything they can get on the defensive end of the court.

Edwards may not be the best player in this draft, but that doesn’t totally matter because this draft is anyone’s guess.  Minnesota is in the worst possible spot here.  Trading down or out would be a saving grace.