It's been assumed for months, if not years, that the 2020 NBA Draft would not be great. Now that we're less than five months away from it, that assumption seems more true than ever.
There is no Zion Williamson in this draft.
There is no Ja Morant in this draft.
If I'm being honest, I'm not even sure if there's anybody as good as RJ Barrett in this draft — and it's had a real drain on this college basketball season for lots of reasons. Anthony Edwards is on a likely NIT team at Georgia. James Wiseman quit his Memphis team midseason. North Carolina's Cole Anthony has been sidelined since early December. LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton never enrolled in a university. Add international prospects Killian Hayes and Deni Avdija to the list, then add Iowa State's Tyrese Halliburton and Washington teammates Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart to the list, and that's 10 projected lottery picks — literally 71.4% of the lottery — who are not currently expected to appear in the 2020 NCAA Tournament, according to CBS Sports' Jerry Palm.
Thank God for Obi Toppin, I guess.
Either way, 60 players, for better worse, will still be selected in June. The following is a look at the 30 who could go first. Please note, team needs were NOT taken into consideration at all because I'm more interested in having a proper order than I am in making sure somebody is a good fit for the franchise theoretically making the selection. That'll come later but not until the NBA season is completed and lottery order is set.
Round 1- Pick 1
Georgia • 6'3" / 235 lbs
Edwards is a strong and athletic guard who isn't going to generate the type of buzz at the top of the draft that Williamson generated last year — but he's still probably the best option to go No. 1. He's averaging 18.9 points and 4.7 rebounds through 20 games this season. The low 3-point percentage (30.8%) is less than ideal. But Edwards has shown, here and there, that he's capable of scoring in bunches from beyond the arc.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Memphis • 7'1" / 240 lbs
Wiseman's decision to quit his team midseason raised eyebrows with some NBA executives — but his natural ability is so overwhelming that he can't possibly slip too far in a draft this devoid of high-end talent. As I explained at the top, I do not consider team-needs for the purposes of this mock draft. But, obviously, if the Warriors do end up picking second, and Wiseman is available, he's a perfect fit for Golden State and the type of piece that could help the Warriors operate at the top of the Western Conference again soon.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Ball has gone from Lonzo's little brother to a legitimate high-level prospect in the span of just a few years thanks a unique combination of size, ball-handling ability and vision. Like Edwards, he's a great talent who hasn't shot consistently well from the perimeter. But he's elite at enough other things to go in the top three of this draft.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Obi Toppin PF
Dayton • 6'9" / 220 lbs
Nobody has helped himself more this season than Toppin. The former zero-star recruit is averaging 19.8 points and 8.0 rebounds through 21 games while turning Dayton into a legitimate contender to win the 2020 NCAA Tournament. He's a super-athletic forward who dunks everything around the rim and reliably makes jumpers in pick-and-pop situations. It's hard to imagine him not being impactful from the moment he enters the NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Cole Anthony SG
North Carolina • 6'3" / 190 lbs
The biggest reason North Carolina is about to miss the NCAA Tournament is tied to Anthony's in-season knee surgery. The Tar Heels were 6-3 with a win over Oregon with Anthony in the lineup; they're 4-7 without him because, when they lost his 19.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists, they lost a lot and didn't have the necessary pieces to hold things together. Anthony has said for weeks that he intends to return to UNC's lineup this season. Assuming he does, NBA scouts will be anxious to get additional looks at him.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Iowa State • 6'5" / 175 lbs
Halburton, like Toppin, is an example of a mostly unheralded high school prospect who has become a statistical monster in college. He's averaging 15.8 points, 6.9 assists and 6.1 rebounds in 37 minutes per game while shooting 49.5% from the field and 40% from the 3-point line. So he's a guard with size who consistently makes shots. Every team needs those.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Hayes is an American-born combo guard who was raised in France and is currently playing professionally in Germany. He shared Most Valuable Player honors in the 2017 Jordan Brand Classic international game and is averaging 12.8 points and 6.2 assists in 26.8 minutes per game this season while shooting 39.0% from 3-point range and 90.9% from the free-throw line. Combine all that with a high basketball IQ, and what you get is a lottery pick.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Tyrese Maxey SG
Kentucky • 6'3" / 200 lbs
Maxey got 26 points in the season-opening victory over Michigan State while showing all of the things that made most assume he'd be UK's leading scorer this season. In reality, though, he's UK's fourth-leading scorer. He's struggled to find any consistent level of production. And he's only shooting 30.6% from 3-point range. But, despite everything I just typed, Maxey remains a probable top-10 pick, mostly because he's at least shown flashes of brilliance that most prospects available have not.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Washington • 6'10" / 201 lbs
McDaniels has the skillset to operate on the perimeter, which is the main thing that makes him a high-level and obvious one-and-done prospect. His production has slipped in recent weeks while Washington fell to 2-6 in the Pac-12 — and those two facts are certainly related. Mike Hopkins even removed the talented forward from the starting lineup. But McDaniels is still averaging 12.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in 32.2 minutes per game.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Avdija will likely be the first non-American international player to come off the board. He's an 18-year-old playing professionally, at a high level, in Europe. Often described as a playmaker, Avdija is an intriguing talent even if he's never shot it too well from the 3-point line. It's hard to see him slipping outside of the top 10.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Memphis • 6'9" / 234 lbs
The ceiling on Memphis' season was lowered drastically when Wiseman quit — but it's hard to argue Achiuwa hasn't benefitted. The super-athletic forward is averaging 15.2 points and 10.3 rebounds through 20 games. He's terrific in transition, effective around the rim and comfortable away from it. All of that, combined with a great motor, should be enough to make him a lottery pick after he helps Penny Hardaway make the NCAA Tournament for the first time as a head coach.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Nico Mannion PG
Arizona • 6'3" / 190 lbs
Mannion hasn't shot it terrificly this season — and his Wildcats have fallen out of the national rankings because of a 10-game stretch in which they went 4-6 with losses to St. John's, Oregon State and Arizona State. That's rough. But he's still a lottery talent, I think, based on his vision, ability to run an offense and pass. He's averaging 5.8 assists in 30.5 minutes per game.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Hampton could be a difference-maker right now for Kansas, Texas Tech or Memphis, three of the schools he seriously considered. But it's hard to blame him for pursuing an opportunity to play overseas, make real money and prepare for the NBA Draft by competing against professionals. He'll be a combo guard in the NBA, probably for many years to come.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Washington • 6'9" / 250 lbs
Stewart is widely considered to be Washington's second-best NBA prospect — but he's undeniably been the Huskies' most productive player. He's leading Washington in points (18.2), rebounds (8.9) and blocks (2.1) while playing just the third-most minutes on the team. Scouts acknowledge guarding in space could be a problem. But Stewart's high motor, and incredible production, could lead to him cracking the lottery.
From Brooklyn Nets
Round 1 - Pick 15
Isaac Okoro SF
Auburn • 6'5" / 225 lbs
Okoro was merely a borderline top-40 prospect coming out of high school, but he quickly emerged as one of college basketball's best freshmen. He's averaging 12.9 points and 4.5 rebounds for an Auburn team that started 15-0, then lost twice, but has now won three straight to move to 18-2. His athleticism and ability to shutdown opposing wings are his strongest attributes. He's the rare 18-year-old who can really, really guard.
From Memphis Grizzlies
Round 1 - Pick 16
Matthew Hurt PF
Duke • Soph • 6'9" / 235 lbs
Hurt is a natural shooter with size whose mechanics are ideal for him to become a floor-spacing forward in the modern-NBA. He made 42.3% of the 3.9 3-pointers per game he's attempted through 20 contests while shooting 50.9% from the field. So while Hurt could be a liability defensively at the next level, his ability to shoot the way he shoots is plenty enough to offset any deficiencies.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Maledon is a skilled athlete and interesting prospect — even if this season, while playing professionally in France, hasn't gone smoothly. He missed time with an injury and has mostly been underwhelming. Regardless, it's important to note, in 2018, he became the youngest LNB All-Star in history. And the talent that made that possible still exists.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Isaiah Joe SG
Arkansas • Jr • 6'5" / 180 lbs
Joe's 3-point percentage is noticeably down this season — but he's still making nearly four per game and is among the main reasons Arkansas is ranked inside the top 30 at KenPom and headed to the NCAA Tournament. He's made at least five 3-pointers in six of the 18 games in which he's played. So, on average, every third game, Joe is punishing an opponent from the arc in a way that'll earn him a lot of money for many years.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Alabama • 6'3" / 165 lbs
Lewis is a sophomore but still just 18 years old. He's been incredibly productive this season — averaging 16.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists for an Alabama team that's in the top 50 of the NET rankings. The low 3-point percentage (31.5%) is tough to ignore. But Lewis is a good free-throw shooter, and he shot a higher percentage from beyond the arc last season, which are two things that suggest there's room for improvement.
From Indiana Pacers
Round 1 - Pick 20
Southern California • 6'9" / 245 lbs
Okongwu has mostly operated off of the national radar because he's playing for an unranked school on the West Coast. But he's been fantastic. The 5-star freshman is averaging 17.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. He's the main reason USC won 16 of its first 20 games. Is he an undersized center? Yes. But the NBA is now littered with undersized centers. So Okongwu should be able to find a role at the next level that allows him to do most of the things he's doing in the Pac-12.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Arizona • 6'11" / 240 lbs
Nnaji has been the biggest surprise of Arizona's stellar freshman class. He was a borderline top-40 prospect coming out of high school, the Wildcats' third-best recruit on paper. But he's been Sean Miller's most productive player by averaging 16.9 points and 8.7 rebounds in 29.6 minutes per game. His true shooting percentage of 70.2 ranks fourth nationally.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Michigan State • 6'1" / 200 lbs
Winston is small and not the best athlete. So he'll never measure or test great — and that'll turn some franchises away. But he's super-smart, great in pick-and-roll situations and someone who has proven to be a high-level shooter in all four years of college in one of the toughest leagues in the sport. Bet against him at your own risk. I'm not going to do it.
From Philadelphia 76ers
Round 1 - Pick 23
Tre Jones PG
Duke • 6'3" / 185 lbs
There's nothing sexy about Jones. He doesn't create highlights. He's not a good shooter. But he remains a terrific run-the-team point guard who really defends on one end of the court, and really creates opportunities for his teammates on the other. He's averaging 14.9 points and 6.8 assists for a Duke team that is 17-3. If he helps the Blue Devils win a national title, and then carves out a role in the NBA, just like his older brother, Tyus, it won't be that surprising. He has a real chance to do both.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Jordan Nwora SF
Louisville • 6'8" / 225 lbs
Not all underclassmen who enter the NBA Draft before ultimately deciding to return to school actually help themselves by doing it — but Nwora has. He's averaging a career-high 19.5 points while shooting a 43.9% from the 3-point line for a Louisville team that's 18-3, on a seven-game winning streak and in position to perhaps finish atop the ACC standings for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
Round 1 - Pick 25
LSU • Soph • 6'9" / 240 lbs
Watford, much like LSU, didn't get off to the best of starts this season. But he's now averaging 13.4 points and 7.2 rebounds for a team that's 16-4 overall, 7-0 in the SEC and on an eight-game winning streak. He's only shooting 28.2% from beyond the arc. So that needs inprovement. But there's still enough interesting stuff here to make Watford a first-round pick.
From Denver Nuggets
Round 1 - Pick 26
Josh Green SG
Arizona • 6'6" / 210 lbs
It's wild to think Arizona is 4-6 in its past 10 games with three likely first-round picks on the roster — but here we are. Green is an athletic wing with a great motor who is averaging 12.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals in 31.1 minutes per game. So he's getting a lot done even if his 3-point percentage of 30.2 leaves something to be desired.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Duke • Fr • 6'10" / 270 lbs
This same version of Carey would be a top-10 pick in a different era. But with big-bodied, non-athlete centers devalued and sometimes unplayable in today's NBA, there are a lot of things working against the Duke star even though he's having a super-productive freshman season — averaging 17.4 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 59.5% from the field and 45.5% from 3-point range.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Minnesota • 6'10" / 240 lbs
Oturu has been one of college basketball's most productive players this season — averaging 19.7 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 58.8% from the field through 20 games. His Player Efficiency Rating ranks ninth nationally. He's a good enough athlete, and skilled enough big, to make an impact in the NBA on both ends of the court.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Kentucky • 6'3" / 200 lbs
Hagans is the best on-ball perimeter defender in college basketball, just an absolute nightmare for opposing guards who seems to always make big plays when Kentucky needs them. His shooting is clearly an issue; no denying that. But he's so tough, and so good with his hands, I genuinely believe he'll be in the NBA for many years to come.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 30
Ayo Dosunmu PG
Illinois • Jr • 6'5" / 200 lbs
Dosunmu has been on an absolute tear — averaging 19.2 points in Illinois' past five games while leading Brad Underwood's team to a six-game winning streak that secured a national ranking. The Chicago native's 3-point percentage isn't great, which is an issue that must be addressed. But, for what it's worth, he has made multiple 3-pointers in six of the Illini's 20 games.