Although the 2020 NBA Draft is still scheduled -- as of this post's publishing, for June 25 -- expectation is it will be pushed back.
It's merely a matter of time, and that official announcement should arrive in the next couple of weeks. What this means for the 2020 pool of draft-eligible players is an extended stay in limbo. The 2020 Draft will be unprecedented not just because of COVID-19's grip on the world or aberrational draft day delay, but mostly because prospects to this point lack the ability to prove themselves the way others have for decades.
No workouts, no in-person interviews, no combine, no measurements. No promise any of that will become reality prior to whenever the 2020 draft is held.
So with that in mind, I'm unveiling my first mock for 2020 and listing prospects in approximate order based on a combination of how I think they project as NBA players and an acknowledgement of where a lot of these guys land on big boards across the industry. I've also got a few projections that you probably won't see in other places. With no lottery order -- and no semblance of any draft order yet -- team needs of course are not taken into account. There's still a long way to go.
The draft ordered has been determined by utilizing SportsLine projections, because we don't know yet if the NBA will resume it season. So, for example, SportsLine projects Philadelphia with the 22nd-best record (which would be traded to Brooklyn), and so on. Protected picks are taken into account.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Georgia • 6'4" / 229 lbs
Since we're likely months away from the draft happening, between now and whenever that day arrives, I think you're likely to see plenty of disagreement amongst media types and NBA evaluators on who should go No. 1. You'll see arguments between now and late this summer for Edwards, Obi Toppin, LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman and maybe, if we all get stir-crazy enough, Killian Hayes. In that respect, it's an unusual pre-draft process this year. We've gone from the biggest no-brainer for No. 1 in almost 20 years (Zion Williamson) to a more wide-open chase. For now, I'll ride with Edwards, who played on a bad team but put up solid numbers (50% 2-point shooting in addition to the averages above) and projects as a reliable scorer at the next level. There is a belief that he was actually not used to his full potential at Georgia, despite the fact Tom Crean let him use the sandbox to his heart's desire. Edwards' ceiling is probably two notches below James Harden's, and that's still plenty high.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Obi Toppin PF
Dayton • 6'9" / 212 lbs
Toppin's incredible 2020 will continue whenever he is selected in the top five of the 2020 draft. At this point, it's hard to argue that won't happen. His all-around repertoire, and stellar reputation, has turned him into the kind of prospect that general managers will find hard to pass on. Toppin was outstanding in Dayton's system. He shot 69.8% from 2-point range and developed into a more-than-OK 3-point shooter (39.0%). His defensive potential is also substantial. Good wingspan, broad shoulders, can handle the ball well and understands how to play in space. Should be a wonderful NBA player for about a decade.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Ball is the most popular projection to go No. 1 as of now, but I can't get on board with that. He has grown and developed nicely the past 18 months, and at 18 years old, he's going to woo a lot of evaluators. He's practically a top-three lock, and the third spot is where he goes here because of his vision, size and tempting potential. It has helped his case that Lonzo Ball has not flamed out. But Ball is not as polished, all-around, as his brother was when Lonzo came out of UCLA. He's also not nearly in tune defensively. But there has been some much-needed progress in his game. Going to Australia to play in the NBL clearly helped him significantly.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Southern California • 6'8" / 245 lbs
Was a fabulous small-ish center who can thrive at the power forward spot, too, and has done so well for himself that he's keeping strong in mocks by hovering in the No. 4-6 range. Had Okongwu been given the benefit of workouts and a normal pre-draft cycle, it's not unthinkable that he could have cracked the top three. Perhaps he still will. The one-and-doner is not a stretch shooter but he's got a nose for the rim, has a great second jump and can be a high-level shotblocker in the NBA even at 6-9. He shot 62.1% from 2-point range last season on 280 shots -- exactly 10 per game.
Round 1 - Pick 5
A wonderful prospect who's been known for at least three and a half years at this point, in terms of his NBA potential. You can make the argument right now that he's the better point guard prospect when lined up against LaMelo Ball. Hayes is a poised player who can work the screen-and-roll game naturally and shoots well off the dribble. His shot mechanics look a wee bit wonky, but it's working overall. Hayes has progressively become a more accurate long-distance shooter. He's among the smartest players in this draft when it comes to improvising after plays break down.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Memphis • 7'0" / 244 lbs
Expect Wiseman to be the player with the most uncertainty around him heading into the draft. He infamously played only three games for Memphis, then ditched his team in December in order to prep and train for the NBA. Now he's stuck with a thin college resume, an elite reputation dating back to his high school days, and as much potential as skepticism due to the tough hit rate on drafting centers. Wiseman's not a traditional center, though. He can shoot from the midrange, and that flexibility in his arsenal is what's going to keep him from dropping too far. He falls into an interesting crevice. The NBA has become smaller while offenses have extended further out. Wiseman is skilled enough to become a hybrid big, but going to the right franchise to maximize his abilities will be crucial.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Isaac Okoro SF
Auburn • 6'5" / 225 lbs
A wonderful defensive player, someone who Bruce Pearl lovingly referred to as the only senior he's ever had as a freshman. Okoro is an ideal NBA wing, and is a lock to go in the top 10 thanks to his measurements, athleticism, defensive acumen and vast potential given his age. He's not a super-familiar name, given he missed a few games to injury and was not a superstar freshman, but he's been on general managers' radar since early December and is under no threat of dropping to the bottom of the lottery. His ceiling is probably No. 4 in this draft, but we'll slide him in at No. 7 and split the difference.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Iowa State • 6'5" / 175 lbs
Wonderful point guard who missed out on the tail-ish end of last season when he fractured his left wrist. Iowa State was strangely bad in 2019-20, going 12-20, Haliburton incapable of lifting up the team around him. The slender 6-5 point guard is a responsible passer, an angular player who sees the floor well and keeps defenses honest thanks to his respectable shooting from 2- and 3-point range (59.2 and 41.9%, respectively). The most obvious comparison is Monte Morris, also an ISU alum, also a point guard who was largely allergic to turnovers. Haliburton can grow into a starting-level point guard in the NBA by 2023.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Interesting international prospect because he's capable of playing anything from point guard to power forward, though he'll clearly best fit in as a small forward/power forward hybrid. Avdija has wonderful playmaking capability and would be a great No. 3 option in a best-case scenario. His shooting leaves some concerns, but physically he's ready for the NBA now. At 19 years old, the Maccabi Tel Aviv prospect is top-five material in the eyes of some and a lottery pick in the view of all.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Vanderbilt • 6'5" / 215 lbs
Can't call Nesmith a sleeper, but there are some evaluators who love this kid despite being hidden at Vanderbilt. He's smart, has a great NBA frame and wonderful shooting form. This is probably the best pure shooter in the 2020 NBA Draft, which is fairly thin on sharpshooters to begin with. Nesmith was forced to sit the second half of Vanderbilt's season because of a stress fracture he could no longer ignore. Prior to that, he shot 52.2% from 3-point range, which was the most accurate rate of anyone in college basketball. He's also got plenty of promise defensively. An ideal comp here is Kyle Korver, but with a bit more upside on defense.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Tyrese Maxey SG
Kentucky • 6'2" / 191 lbs
I have a hunch Maxey's going to go higher than most others are projecting him to go. He was an elite five-star recruit when he picked Kentucky, and Kentucky one-and-done players are often given the benefit of the doubt. In Lexington, it's fair to say he (slightly) underachieved. Maxey was good, but objectively he was not one of the 10 best freshmen in college basketball last season. Nevertheless, he did enough, and still has the athleticism, playmaking charisma and physical attributes to pop into the top 10. He'll likely be a gunner (I use the term courteously) at the next level. The biggest issue is his 3-point shooting. Maxey made 29.2% of his 113 3-pointers last season. There will be general managers who believe they can fix that. In reality, Maxey was Kentucky's third best player, though he did learn to play with some unselfishness that should help his case to go in the lottery.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Memphis • 6'8" / 235 lbs
Top-five freshman last season, and someone who did wonders for his stock once he completely took the load for Memphis in light of James Wiseman quitting on the team. Achiuwa was a usage monster and kept the Tigers' season respectable after a lot of unexpected barriers surfaced. He not only works well around the rim, his ball handling in the paint -- and in traffic -- is very good. His game is two-dimensional but he's so solid at scoring close, rebounding and winning physical battles. The tape is going to tell his story and should make him a lottery pick. "Reliable" is the word I keep coming back to.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Cole Anthony PG
North Carolina • 6'2" / 190 lbs
Anthony's spectrum for selection is fairly wide. He was a volume player by necessity -- but that was also the expectation when he got to North Carolina. The Tar Heels having their worst season, by far, under Roy Williams is not why I have Anthony lower than most. He lacked efficiency (40% from 2-point range, 34.8% from 3-point range), and physically, he's undersized. There's a competitiveness to his game that helps his case, but there are also some chemistry concerns. Fair or not, Anthony has not been able to shake a reputation for years that his style is not for everyone. Whereas some teammates can adapt to his manner, others cannot. Ultimately, talent-wise, he's a lottery pick. That should bear out on draft night.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Saddiq Bey SF
Villanova • 6'7" / 215 lbs
Sleeper pick of the lottery. Bey is the next really good pro to develop in Villanova's system. He went from being Villanova's least-heralded player in its 2018 class to being the best Wildcat on the roster in a year's time. Had he been given the benefit of an NCAA Tournament, his stock could've spiked. As is, he's grown into a top-20 kind of pick. I'll buy high on him. Solid athlete, smart player, never gets in the way and does a little bit of everything fairly well. His ceiling might be that of a solid starter and nothing more, but his floor is probably as high as any player projected beyond the top eight in this year's draft.
From Brooklyn Nets
Round 1 - Pick 15
A quality 3-and-D type who'll be an import from France. When we look up in five years and notice that college players are having as tough a time as ever in breaking through to the draft, players like Maledon will be a good example of why. Here we have yet another international prospect who showed flashes of NBA potential as early as the age of 15. Maledon's not the kind of pick who's going to excite the fan base of whatever team gets him at No. 15, but he's a quality defender, solid shooter, can dictate a possession with the power of his dribble and is by almost all accounts someone laser-focused on his craft.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Washington • 6'8" / 250 lbs
You can say what I'm about to say of Stewart with four or five more top-40 prospects: if this was 15 years ago, they'd be drafted much higher. The Washington one-and-done prospect was irrefutably one of the three or four best freshmen in college basketball in 2019-20. He was Washington's only really good player, the kind of power forward who has the ability to carry a team for multiple stretches of games. Unfortunately he's the next Washington player to come out of a season with a sub-.500 record. But Stewart is motor-motor-motor. He's exceptionally strong and, when we look up 10 years from now, will likely wind up being one of the three best rebounders from this draft.
From Memphis Grizzlies
Round 1 - Pick 17
Hampton made a lot of headlines almost a year ago when he announced he didn't want to play college and instead pursued a path through Australian pro ball on his way to the NBA in 2020. Guess what? Hampton probably dinged his stock a bit by not playing college hoops. Would that have been the case if he, say, played at Kansas? Who's to say for sure, but I've a hunch being part of the best team in college hoops would have only fortified his credentials. Hampton was also hurt last season, which affects things a bit. But he'll still go top-20 for sure. Fast player with good body control and a nice pull-up. Hampton's an off-the-bench scoring option at this juncture, but some scouts like him longterm for how he could grow into a pro's pro from a shooting perspective five, six years down the road.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Florida State • 6'5" / 195 lbs
Florida State will put a player into the first round of the NBA Draft for the fourth time since 2016. Vassell is no big name but he's a great 3-and-D guy, and one of the four or five really good shooters that can be selected in the first round. His production was slightly muted at FSU; Seminoles prospects tend to not be stat compilers, but Leonard Hamilton knows what he's doing. Sitll, Vassell easily projects as a first-round talent. He is terrific defending both one-on-one and in space. He's not an all-around surefire prospect, but he can physically be an impact player and step in to help almost any team from a defensive standpoint right away.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Alabama • 6'1" / 170 lbs
Lewis did not wind up having the kind of sophomore season that popped to such a degree where he pushed into the top 10. He was discussed as a potential Ja Morant-type, in that regard, but it never surfaced. Still, Lewis is another very good point guard prospect in a point guard-heavy draft. He's one of the fastest players in this year's pool, and because he's so developed despite being relatively young, he's got a chance to blossom halfway through his rookie contract. Falls somewhere between project and plug-and-play.
From Indiana Pacers
Round 1 - Pick 20
Maryland • 6'10" / 215 lbs
Jalen "Sticks" Smith is a modern stretch-four for the NBA. He is unafraid to shoot from five, 10, 15 or 20 feet away from the hoop. He's got a good wingspan and has proven to be a tougher player than his frame would suggest. Smith was Maryland's best player and got better with each month last season. With an NBA regimen of workouts, meals and weight-training, he can grow into a starting-level power forward within two years. If you told me he's as high as No. 12 or 13 on some boards but as low as No. 32 or 33 on others, it would come as no surprise.
From Houston Rockets
Round 1 - Pick 21
Michigan State • 6'8" / 245 lbs
Tillman is a polarizing prospect, weirdly. Many evaluators will not put him in the top 30. I can barely keep him outside my top 20. He was one of the five-or-so best defensive players in college basketball last season. He's a grown man with a great team attitude and a solid hoops IQ. His offensive habits need some refining, but Tillman has many of the tools required to have a long-lasting NBA career as a power forward. If you watched Michigan State, the case was made over and over. You can't convince me there are 25 -- let alone 30 -- better pros in this draft than him.
From Philadelphia 76ers
Round 1 - Pick 22
Tre Jones PG
Duke • 6'1" / 185 lbs
Jones developed a rightful reputation as an elite college defender after this freshman season in 2018-19. Jones dropped off a bit last season on that end of the floor, but he did improve his jump shot enough to where he's going to remain in the draft for good and have it pay off with a first round selection. He improved his 3-point shooting from 26.2% on 103 attempts as a freshman to 36.1% on 108 attempts as a sophomore. From 2-point range, Jones hurt himself: he went from 48.6 to 44.7%. That's a significant drop and something that will cause general managers to vacillate. He's slightly undersized as a point guard but still has the toughness and intellect to become a backup point guard in the NBA. He also had a few big moments on offense last season (that UNC win, remember?) that help his case.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Duke • 6'9" / 255 lbs
Few will go with Carey this high, but his development from November to March was extremely impressive. Credit to Duke assistant Nate James, who's proven to be a fantastic big-man coach with the Blue Devils. Carey almost never played in the post prior to arriving at Duke. In little time he grew into a viable back-to-basket player, and even if that style is an aberration at the NBA level, it goes to show how versatile Carey can be and how quick a study he is. He's only 19, remember, and he comes from a family of athletes. He was better than any freshman in college basketball last season, and in fact was one of the 10 best players in the sport. That stuff should matter. A big man with a good touch, a good defensive profile and a nice passer for a player of his size. If he falls beyond 25, it's a mistake. Period.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Arizona • 6'9" / 240 lbs
Arizona coach Sean Miller never relied on a freshman class more than he did last season, when Nnaji entered as the least heralded of the three (alongside Nico Mannion and Josh Green). By the end of December it was obvious that Nnaji was the best of the three newbies, and that did not change once Arizona got to Pac-12 play. Nnaji is an outstanding rebounder and has an ever-charged battery. He's also one of the strongest players in this draft pool. He's got tremendous work ethic and developed a nice short-range jump shot. The longer stuff is still a work in progress, but Nnaji will be drafted with the expectation he can provide 12-15 minutes of energy and defense per game as a rookie. He should pass that test.
From Denver Nuggets
Round 1 - Pick 25
Washington • 6'9" / 192 lbs
A wash of a one-and-done season at Washington. McDaniels was unfairly compared to a young Kevin Durant by the time he was 17 because of his lanky frame, similar-looking J and penchant for scoring streaks. Fact is, McDaniels has never had a killer's instinct. He's a talent, no doubt about it, but he was problematically inefficient at UW (92.0 offensive rating; Isaiah Stewart was up at 115.7) and despite his 6-9 frame he didn't like spending time near the rim. One team will take a flyer on him in the 20s in the hopes they can unlock something, because if he plays up to his potential he's a top-10 prospect in this draft. But there's a lot to tear away at before McDaniels can be a really good player.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Minnesota • 6'8" / 240 lbs
The Minnesota big man rated as the eighth most statistically efficient player in college basketball last season, according to KenPom.com. Oturu trailed only behind Luka Garza as the Big Ten's best. At 6-10 and 240 pounds, Oturu is a center with some shooting ability. He made 19 of his 52 3-pointers and was a high-usage minutes eater for the Golden Gophers. He's a very good defender, a power player with touch and good stamina. Whereas he was once hiding in plain sight, the secret's out on Oturu. He'll play for 12 years in the NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Nico Mannion PG
Arizona • 6'2" / 188 lbs
The Arizona point guard was not able to live up to his playing reputation in five months with the Wildcats, but his spurts of creativity and on-court composure should assure he's taken in the first round. Similar to Maxey, who plays a different position, evaluators will trust the years of potential more than months of tape. Mannion was not short on talent around him at Arizona, but his shot sometimes betrayed him. He is a little undersized but is a wanting distributor who has thrived in international competition over the years as well. He's carried the quasi-prodigy label with him since he was a middle schooler. Now perhaps he can start to blend into his surroundings, which wouldn't be such a bad thing.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 28
Duke • 6'5" / 193 lbs
I'm aggressive here, but Stanley's film is intoxicating. He's one of the two or three best athletes in this draft. The anecdote that will stick with Stanley forever at Duke: the year after Zion Williamson left campus, Stanley strode into Durham and bested Williamson's program-record for vertical leap. He's a poppy shooting guard whose tape is going to boost his case the longer the ramp is to the draft. Stanley needs to be more committed defensively, but his overall package is tempting for any team looking to draft a backup shooting guard who'll be able to run with the B team immediately once training camp begins. He shot 36% from 3-point range and showed a knack for knowing how to get to the foul line.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Florida State • 6'7" / 227 lbs
Great wingspan, great defender, great potential for the FSU freshman who thrived despite creating exactly zero headlines this past season. The overall production for Williams wasn't there, but he'll be able to guard everybody but centers at the next level and he'll fit in as a rangy wing who can supplement a good team's roster.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 30
Texas Tech • 6'3" / 195 lbs
The Big 12's star freshman made 42.6% of his 3-pointers and will be the third straight TTU player to go in the first round, following Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver. Ramsey is a top-30 prospect thanks to adroitly fitting into Chris Beard's system -- on both ends. He can switch screens well and is a great pound-for-pound defender. With 10 more pounds of muscle, he can grow into a nice two-way backup, the kind of energy guy who's capable of scoring off screens or creating with his dribble.