Due to obvious reasons, this has been the weirdest NBA Draft season ever. From the NCAA Tournament getting canceled, to the delayed NBA season, to the lack of physical draft combine, etc., it’s been a months long endeavor that won’t even end until October 16. As the NBA Playoffs continue onward, we do at least know the official draft order.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves — Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
The Wolves just traded former No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, so why not draft another version of him. Edwards is a potential three-level scorer with elite burst and strength, it’s just that he’s inconsistent in performance and effort, and might not make his teammates better. We can hope for the best, but it’s up to Edwards to put it all together.
2. Golden State Warriors — LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawarra Hawks (Australia)
The Warriors will be tempted to take James Wiseman to start at center, but LaMelo Ball is a higher upside pick who would land in the perfect spot for his talents. If he played alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, it could force him to grow into a better defender and help develop his off-ball offensive skills.
3. Charlotte Hornets — James Wiseman, C, Memphis
James Wiseman can be a rim-running big capable of competing for Defensive Player of the Year. His ceiling is All-Star caliber if he develops as a shooter and quickly learns the complexity of NBA defenses. Center is the easiest position to find a solid starter for cheap, so he does have to be pretty good to bring value to Charlotte.
4. Chicago Bulls — Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State
Tyrese Haliburton is an excellent complimentary guard in that he’s a fantastic defender, a solid off-the-catch shooter, and a smart secondary playmaker. He probably doesn’t have the off-the-dribble scoring ability to be a primary ball-handler, so he would be a good fit to play alongside scoring guards like Zach LaVine or Coby White.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers — Deni Avdija, SF/PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)
The Cavs have a ton of young guards, but lack quality on the wings. Deni Avdija would be a good fit and a bit of a reach, while his long-term potential is a bit up in the air. He has a reputation as a point forward who can create offense from the wings, but he’s not a great shooter and might not have the physical chops to thrive in the NBA. Players of his mold — best with the ball in their hands, but not as good as other ball-dominant types — are difficult to build around unless they have those secondary skills.
6. Atlanta Hawks — Onyeka Okwongwu, C, USC
The No. 2 player on my personal board, Okwongwu is a two-way monster in the paint. He’s elite on the defensive end with his length, strength and effort. He could handle playing center full time, even at just 6’9, but he could develop his shot enough to play power forward if needed. Developing as a spot-on shooter would help mesh alongside the Trae Young-John Collins pick-and-roll, and his elite defense would help cover both of their deficiencies.
7. Detroit Pistons — Killian Hayes, G, Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany)
The Pistons are set to tear down and start over, save for Blake Griffin’s massive contract. Detroit has been lacking quality guard play for years now, so while French guard Killian Hayes doesn’t have star potential, he’s so solid as an attacking combo guard.
8. New York Knicks — Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton
I get that the Knicks have a thousand power forwards on their roster, but if you’re choosing between Obi Toppin and Bobby Portis, you don’t pick Portis. Toppin is lacking defensively, but having a center like Mitchell Robinson could cover up his lack of range. Besides, I think Toppin’s offense is being underrated because of those defensive issues. He’s a serious threat as a shooter and roller in the pick-and-roll, assuming the Knicks go get an actual point guard.
9. Washington Wizards — Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn
The Wizards had the worst defense in the NBA this season, as they lean on Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans, Thomas Bryant and Rui Hachimura, all of whom are terrible defenders. That’s probably not going to get any better with John Wall coming back from injury. They don’t need much offensively, so they could go for Isaac Okoro, a quick and physical wing who should be a standout defender from the get-go.
10. Phoenix Suns — Devin Vassell, SG, Florida State
As the Suns went 8-0 in the NBA bubble, Devin Booker demonstrated star-caliber play while his teammates grinded on defense. If Deandre Ayton pops next year, and maybe Mikal Bridges remembers how to shoot (goodness I love Bridges), this team has so much potential. Finding another wing would be a boon for them, especially a ready-made 3-and-D guy like Vassell. He’s a solid defender and a fantastic shooter, plus he has latent potential in his off-the-dribble game.
11. San Antonio Spurs — Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
The Spurs are heavy on guard play but light on shooting. They need someone to open the floor for Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker to attack off the dribble. Moving DeMar DeRozan to full-time power forward — where he thrived in the bubble without LaMarcus Aldridge — would open up a spot for Nesmith to reign threes.
12. Sacramento Kings — Patrick Williams, SF, Florida State
It’s so hard projecting the Kings’ because they don’t even know what’s going on. If they target a wing, what does that mean for Buddy Hield and Bodgan Bodganovic? If they draft a forward like Precious Achiuwa, does that push Marvin Bagley to full-time center? The only certainly is that De’Aaron Fox is their star and that they need players who can run with him.
13. New Orleans Pelicans — Kira Lewis, PG, Alabama
I know they’re not going to draft him, but oh my goodness it would be fun to see Kira Lewis running the floor with Zion Williamson. Lewis could actually work next to Lonzo Ball, too, because both of them are capable of playing in off-ball roles (insofar as Lonzo can shoot) and both are quality defenders.
14. Boston Celtics (via Grizzlies) — Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis
If the Celtics keep this pick — they have so many rookies — they should look to solidify their big man rotation. They’re relying on Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter only, which is fine, but neither is a consistent threat. Achiuwa will take time to develop offensive skills, but he should be a solid rim runner and rebounder immediately.
15. Orlando Magic — Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
The Magic could target another long, athletic wing who can’t shoot, but they need some scoring punch off the bench. I don’t think Anthony will be good in the NBA but he has potential as a scoring guard who can get buckets in volume.
16. Portland Trail Blazers — Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova
The Blazers draft with the mindset that no rookie can contribute to a contending team, but finding a quality wing on a rookie contract is invaluable to modern roster construction. They need a big-bodied wing who can shoot, and while Bey doesn’t have much upside, he fits the team better right now.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Nets) — Aleksej Pokuševski, PF/C, Olympiacos B (Greece)
Probably the most boom-or-bust player in this draft, Pokuševski is a 7-footer who moves and shoots like a guard. The problem is that he weighs just as much, gets bullied in the paint in against terrible competition, and might not even play a minute in the NBA if he doesn’t get bigger. If he pops, though, he’s a unique weapon who could compliment Karl-Anthony Towns.
18. Dallas Mavericks — Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
The Mavs don’t lack on the offensive end; in fact, they just posted the best offensive rating in NBA history. Tyrese Maxey needs a bit of work, particularly with his jump shot, but he’s a quick and intelligent perimeter defender who excels getting buckets in tight spaces. He could be a fun wild card in that offense.
19. Brooklyn Nets (via 76ers) — R.J. Hampton, SG, NZ Breakers (New Zealand)
Highly touted out of high school, R.J. Hampton opted to play professionally in the NBL for the NZ Breakers. That turned out to be a disaster, as his team was dysfunctional, he played through injury and got exposed by more physical, experienced players. He’s a high-risk, developmental pick because of his athleticism, but pretty much every player will either be a risky pick or low-ceiling role player at this stage in the draft.
20. Miami Heat — Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford
Tyrell Terry’s body isn’t ready for the NBA, which is exactly why he’d be a perfect fit in a Heat organization known for getting the very most of their players physically. Terry has potential as a pull-up shooter and pick-and-roll playmaker, but needs to gain strength and quickness to survive.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (via Thunder) — Devon Dotson, PG, Kansas
Please, for the love of all things good, draft a functional point guard so you don’t have to rely on Raul Neto in the playoffs.
22. Denver Nuggets (via Rockets) — Zeke Nnaji, PF/C, Arizona
This wouldn’t be a value pick, but it would be a fun pick. Zeke Nnaji is a non-shooter, a mediocre team defender, and doesn’t have much in the way of skill. But he is an effort player who will gobble up rebounds and crash for second chance points. He could be the kind of energy big the Nuggets have lacked since Kenneth Faried was marooned. (They should target a perimeter player like Malachi Flynn, Elijah Hughes or Desmond Bane, imo.)
23. Utah Jazz — Tyler Bey, SF/PF, Colorado
When the Jazz traded Derrick Favors to sign Bojan Bodganovic, they swapped size and athleticism for shooting and skill. They have veered too far that way and now lack the physicality to defend certain wings. Drafting Tyler Bey would help in that regard, because while Bey is a serious offensive project, he could be a versatile and impactful defender straight away. I don’t want Luc Mbah a Moute to be an insulting comparison, but the Cameroonian prince has played 12 seasons as the kind of role player Bey could become.
24. Milwaukee Bucks (via Pacers) — Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington
Having received this draft pick in the Malcolm Brogdon sign-and-trade, the Bucks were trying hard to trade this at the February deadline. They could be similarly aggressive here looking for veteran help in what could be Giannis Antetokounmpo’s last season before free agency. If they do keep it, they could target someone like, Isaiah Stewart, a mauler in the paint who could be solid in the Bucks’ drop defensive scheme.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder — Josh Green, SG, Arizona
Josh Green would be most OKC pick they could possibly select, as he’s an athletic project who needs to be refined into a contributing NBA player. There’s a lot to like in his defensive effort, subtle playmaking abiltiy and his athleticism in transition. But he looks lost more often than not, his jumper is all of the place, and he may be a touch overrated as an on-ball defender.
26. Boston Celtics — Theo Maledon, SG, ASVEL (France)
Every season, Boston has three or four first round picks, all middling value, and they do not have the roster space for that many draft picks. Either they’re going to trade this pick — in which they will receive a future mid-to-late pick — or they’re going to draft-and-stash someone like Theo Maledon, the athletic French guard who is still developing his game.
27. Los Angeles Lakers — Tre Jones, PG, Duke
The Lakers suffered a blow when Rajon Rondo hurt his thumb, which is a nice reminder that the Lakers relied on Rondo in the year 2020. Finding a true point guard is important for their non-LeBron minutes, because they really don’t have anyone to set up their offense. Tre Jones may be limited as a scorer, but he’s exactly the kind of guard they need.
28. Boston Celtics (via Bucks) — Leandro Bolmaro, SF, Barcelona (Spain)
Choosing Leandro Bolmaro would be another draft-and-stash and would be a risky choice considering his erratic play and middling athletic traits. He could be very good, particularly in that reads the game a bit differently than other players, but he’s a huge question mark.
29. New York Knicks (via Clippers) — Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
There’s a conundrum with Nico Mannion, in that people think he’s amazing at basketball, but he’s really not. He’s not a good shooter, doesn’t have the burst to get by defenders off the dribble, doesn’t have the strength/skill/courage to finish in the paint, and will get dusted by NBA guards. He’s a fantastic passer, but that’s not a viable single skill in the NBA. The Knicks would be the team to misevaluate him, or they could be smart and stash him in Europe (he has Italian citizenship) to see if he develops anything more.
30. Toronto Raptors — Malachi Flynn, PG/SG, San Diego State
Your defending champs, your projected two-time defending champs, don’t even need draft picks to find rotation players. Just look at Fred VanVleet, Terence Davis and Chris Boucher, all undrafted players. Even in their starting lineup, OG Anunoby was the highest drafted player at 23rd overall. They’re elite at talent evaluation and player development, probably the best team in the NBA at that right now.
Banter aside, the Raptors will probably have to replace VanVleet this offseason, and if they’re trying to save money for the 2021 offseason (hey, Giannis), they could go for a well-rounded guard who just knows how to play basketball. That could be Malachi Flynn, who is underrated because of his lack of athleticism, but he’s a legit two-way guard.
Apologies to Desmond Bane, Xavier Tillman, Paul Reed and Elijah Hughes, all of whom fall to the second round but end up as steals. Bane is much better than, say, Mannion, but the Knicks don’t know that.