Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press
The 2020 NBA draft has a bit of a going-out-of-business sale vibe to it, as in, “Every draft pick must go!”
It starts right at the top. In his latest draft for The Athletic, Sam Vecenie mentioned how “Minnesota’s No. 1 overall pick and Golden State’s No. 2 overall pick are on the trade market.”
Moving down the draft board, the Phoenix Suns might be sellers if it gets them more win-now support to build off their undefeated bubble run. The Boston Celtics need to consolidate their three first-rounders, since they don’t have the roster space to use them all. The Brooklyn Nets may want to flip their pick for financial flexibility ahead of a new deal for sharpshooter Joe Harris.
It’s not hard to identify sellers. But uncovering which clubs may want to purchase those selections? That’s the challenge, due both to the abundance of available inventory and the lack of a consensus top prospect in this class.
But we’re never ones to back away from a challenge, so after updating our mock first round, we’ll spotlight three teams who might be motivated to move up.
2020 NBA Mock Draft
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
2. Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman, C, Memphis
3. Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball, PG/SG, Illawarra Hawks
4. Chicago Bulls: Deni Avdija, SF/PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Obi Toppin, PF/C, Dayton
6. Atlanta Hawks: Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State
7. Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm
8. New York Knicks: Isaac Okoro, SF/PF, Auburn
9. Washington Wizards: Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC
10. Phoenix Suns: Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State
11. San Antonio Spurs: Patrick Williams, PF, Florida State
12. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Jalen Smith, PF/C, Maryland
14. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies): RJ Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers
15. Orlando Magic: Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
16. Portland Trail Blazers: Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn Nets): Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis
18. Dallas Mavericks: Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Olympiacos II
19. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers): Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
20. Miami Heat: Josh Green, SG, Arizona
21. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City Thunder): Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford
22. Denver Nuggets (via Houston Rockets): Grant Riller, PG/SG, Charleston
23. Utah Jazz: Saddiq Bey, SF/PF, Villanova
24. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers): Theo Maledon, PG/SG, ASVEL
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver Nuggets): Zeke Nnaji, C, Arizona
26. Boston Celtics: Jaden McDaniels, SF/PF, Washington
27. New York Knicks (via Los Angeles Clippers): Jahmi’us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech
28. Los Angeles Lakers: Malachi Flynn, PG, San Diego State
29. Toronto Raptors: Desmond Bane, SG, TCU
30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks): Xavier Tillman, PF/C, Michigan State
Teams Most Likely to Trade Up
While it’s rarely (if ever) recommended for teams to consider roster needs early in the draft, the ideal prospect scratches a specific need without necessitating a reach. That could easily be the case with Charlotte and big man James Wiseman.
The Hornets need a long-term solution at center. They only have one center under contract for next season, and it’s the decidedly unspectacular Cody Zeller. Even if they like him, he’s 28 years old and only signed through 2020-21, so they’ll need a succession plan at the 5 sooner than later.
Wiseman looks like the ideal target. He’s a wildly intriguing prospect—last summer’s top overall recruit, per 247Sports—with drool-worthy physical tools. As a 7’1″ center with impressive athleticism, he can immediately plug into a rim-running role. Over time, he may offer focal-point potential if he expands his scoring range out past the three-point arc.
Charlotte has the option of sitting and fingers-crossed hoping that Wiseman falls in its lap at No. 3. But if the Hornets think he’s the best prospect available for them, they may not want to chance it. Even if the Timberwolves and Warriors aren’t thrilled with what the Hornets have to offer, there should be three-team trade possibilities where a third team collects the third pick and sends some win-now support to Minnesota or Golden State.
New York Knicks
This feels like recycled analysis, since we’re saying it every year, but the Knicks are star-searching again. While they could explore the trade route to find one—Chris Paul? Zach LaVine?—their team dynamics suggests they should take a more future-focused approach.
The most important players in their rebuild are 20-year-old RJ Barrett and 22-year-old Mitchell Robinson. While they might benefit from having a veteran leader to follow, they could gain a lot more from being joined by a high-level prospect who grows alongside them.
The draft-lottery gods didn’t help by saddling them with the No. 8 pick, which puts them well outside the draft range of their presumed target: LaMelo Ball. For a team in need of an offensive identity and trying to solve a seemingly perpetual problem at point guard, the 6’7″ floor general could be a godsend.
“LaMelo would bring excitement back to Madison Square Garden, but more importantly, he’s an elite-level passer who can jump-start the Knicks’ bland offense and make the game easier for RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson,” B/R’s Jonathan Wasserman wrote.
Ball’s star power (seen most clearly in his 5.6 million Instagram followers) is perfect for the Big Apple, and his comfort pushing the pace could power up their 27th-ranked offense.
San Antonio Spurs
These aren’t your slightly older sibling’s Spurs anymore.
Long regarded as the Association’s model of consistency (for good reason), they finally missed the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Their development-focused approach to the season’s restart may signal a willingness to reset around their youth, and while they have a handful of interesting prospects, the collection is perhaps without a centerpiece.
If San Antonio sees that player in this draft, it could have an opportunity to go get him. The Spurs have an abundance of plug-and-play veterans entering their final season under contract—DeMar DeRozan (player option), LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills—and if teams don’t want to trade out of the draft, San Antonio could add the No. 11 pick to a deal.
The Spurs don’t have any roster roadblocks in front of any of this draft’s top prospects. LaMelo Ball could walk into the primary playmaking role. Anthony Edwards might have as good of a chance as anyone to become its top scorer. James Wiseman could supplant Jakob Poeltl, a restricted free agent, as the franchise’s building-block big man.
The organization would have to move away from a long-held desire for maximum competitiveness, but that process seemingly got started in Orlando.
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