The theme of this year's NBA Draft process -- much like the theme of 2020 -- can be summed up in one word: uncertainty. The draft was moved from June to October and then moved again to November. Now we know the draft will be held Nov. 18 (unless it is moved again.
All of that uncertainty trickles down to affect the draft and how things unfold on draft night. The lack of opportunities to see players workout has created a cloud of uncertainty about this draft more than others. But now that theand the players in the draft can no longer back out to go back to school, it's at least an educated guessing game trying to pair team needs with prospects who fit them.
So that's what I'll do in my latest mock draft, which comprises gathered intel over time and potential pairings. Team needs are taken into account and weighed more heavily than my personal rankings (which can be found here).
Mock Trade from Minnesota Timberwolves
Round 1 - Pick 1
Georgia • Fr • 6'5" / 225 lbs
Minnesota's front office says it is committed to exploring every possible avenue after winning this year's No. 1 pick, so here I have them trading out of the slot with Charlotte. The Hornets are already guaranteed one of the big three between Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball, but a two-spot jump from their current position ensures they get their preferred man. Anthony Edwards gives them a young wing to build with, while trading out nets Minnesota more capital and thus more opportunity to better surround D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns and their current core.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Golden State intends to use this draft asset aggressively in potential trade talks, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski has reported. But it's possible the best asset may be simply staying put and selecting LaMelo Ball if he's available at No. 2. He has elite court vision and feel for the game and is considered a consensus top-three player in this draft. If his shot develops and he's able to add weight to his frame he has a chance to be the standout star of this class.
Mock Trade from Charlotte Hornets
Round 1 - Pick 3
Memphis • Fr • 7'1" / 240 lbs
Minnesota's move back to No. 3 in this mock draft still nets them one of the big three talents of this draft in James Wiseman, seen by several scouts I've spoken with not just as the No. 1 big man prospect this year, but as the No. 1 overall prospect. The fit isn't ideal alongside Karl-Anthony Towns but in terms of total value, he's the best available prospect at this spot. Maybe Minnesota makes the odd fit work but more likely in this situation they can dangle him as another asset to acquire more.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Chicago's new front office led by Arturas Karnisovas has experience -- and success -- scouting the international scene. That should give them a leg up with Israeli standout Deni Avdija, who I expect will get serious consideration starting at No. 4 in this draft. He's a point forward-type prospect with good positional size who can make plays off the dribble. His selfless style of play should fit where the Bulls are headed under their new regime.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Obi Toppin PF
Dayton • Soph • 6'9" / 220 lbs
In Obi Toppin the Cavs can land a safe, high-floor prospect who is freakishly athletic and able to contribute on offense from day one. He can space the floor and knock down 3-pointers, and ultimately, his fit on this roster is key for the front office as they try and maximize the backcourt of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton they have so heavily invested in.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Iowa State • Soph • 6'5" / 175 lbs
If Tyrese Haliburton is on the board here I'd be stunned if the Hawks didn't swoop. Exceptionally efficient college guard who can create plays on the ball as Trae Young's backup but also has secondary playmaking ability that could complement him, too. Has a high-enough hoops IQ to be able to affect winning playing on or off the ball.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Detroit is a bit of a wild card here, but under new GM Troy Weaver, a splashy play here to get French guard Killian Hayes would ingratiate him with the fans. Hayes is a 6-foot-5 lead guard with a smooth all-around offensive skill set that really pops, particularly as a shot-creator and as a passer. At just 19 years old, he's already got a FIBA U-16 MVP under his belt and has long been considered one of the most prodigious international talents in this class.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Alabama • Soph • 6'3" / 165 lbs
I can't imagine the Knicks not selecting a guard in the first round. So if they don't move up to get one of Hayes or Ball, Kira Lewis Jr. could be in play here. He's a super-speedy, downhill point guard who is still just 19 years old and has major upside as an offensive weapon. By the time we get to the draft we'll be talking about him as a consensus lottery talent.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Southern California • Fr • 6'9" / 245 lbs
This would be a major Washington win if Okongwu slips this far; I'd say this is as far as he can drop, with his highest range being No. 3 or 4. He's a defensive menace who can defend from post to perimeter and does everything around the rim on both ends of the floor in ways that neither Mo Wagner or Thomas Bryant can.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Vanderbilt • Soph • 6'6" / 213 lbs
One of the most lethal outside shooters in this draft, Aaron Nesmith gives Phoenix (another) sharpshooter on the wing and (another) weapon for Devin Booker. He shot 52.2% from 3-point range on 115 attempts last season before a season-ending injury and brings ideal size and a quick shooting release that should translate to NBA success.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Florida State • Fr • 6'8" / 225 lbs
Patrick Williams is incredibly raw but the 6-8 forward from Florida State is one of the biggest potential booms in this range if things fall into place for him. He has great defensive instincts and a nearly 7-foot wingspan, with a chance to be a real difference-making wing. San Antonio has the track record of molding raw prospects into superstars and is in the midst of a potential franchise reset, which makes a pairing here make sense.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Florida State • Soph • 6'7" / 194 lbs
There's some real value to be had here for the Kings if they look to add depth to their wing spot, and Devin Vassell is the direction I suspect they go if he happens to fall this far. Plug-and-play forward with 3-and-D upside to be a low-usage, high-impact addition. Great spot-up shooter who can defend at a high level.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Saddiq Bey SF
Villanova • Soph • 6'8" / 216 lbs
Saddiq Bey is exactly the type of prospect New Orleans needs to fit with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram: a 3-and-D wing who can defend multiple positions and knock down shots at a high level. He made 45.1% of his 175 3-point attempts last season and rated in the 98th percentile in spot-up opportunities, per Synergy.
From Memphis Grizzlies
Round 1 - Pick 14
Isaac Okoro SF
Auburn • Fr • 6'6" / 225 lbs
Okoro's range in this draft is somewhere between No. 4 and the middle of the lottery, so this is further than I expect him to fall. But if he does I can't imagine Boston would pass. He's a big-bodied wing who can defend multiple positions and has all the defensive tools in his bag to compete at a high level, the ideal addition for a Celtics team primed to win right now.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Cole Anthony PG
North Carolina • Fr • 6'3" / 190 lbs
Orlando is invested in ensuring Markelle Fultz finds success, but its backcourt depth is a real sore spot. Getting Cole Anthony addresses depth behind Fultz and also gives them a lethal scorer who could grow with Fultz. He can make shots in a variety of ways and has enough playmaking chops on the ball to wear different hats as an offensive weapon for the Magic.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Maryland • Soph • 6'10" / 225 lbs
Portland can add a new and interesting wrinkle to its already-great offense with the addition of Jalen Smith, the Maryland big man. Smith can step out and knock down 3-pointers at a high clip but can also pull up and score above the break like a guard. He made 37% of his 3-pointers last season at Maryland while doubling his blocks per game on defense, at 2.4, making him one of the most unique dual-threat bigs in this class.
From Brooklyn Nets
Round 1 - Pick 17
Tyrese Maxey SG
Kentucky • Fr • 6'3" / 198 lbs
Despite some serious struggles shooting the rock at Kentucky -- making just 29.2% of his 113 3-point attempts -- Tyrese Maxey's a value add for Minnesota because of his elite on-ball defense. He can serve as a disrupter on the perimeter, and with D'Angelo Russell functioning as lead guard, it'd free Maxey up to slot in off the ball as a secondary creator and driver where he's best.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Desmond Bane SF
TCU • Sr • 6'6" / 215 lbs
This is higher than where you'll see most analysts project TCU star Desmond Bane, but plain and simple: he's a first round talent. He made 43.3% of his 575 3-point attempts in college and has a quick, smooth release that should give him a chance to thrive as a spot-up shooter -- which is exactly what the Mavs need as they surround Luka Doncic with talent.
From Philadelphia 76ers
Round 1 - Pick 19
Brooklyn's roster is ready to compete for a title with Kevin Durant returning from injury, so this pick may be made from the Nets front office with an eye on the future. Theo Maledon can play either guard spot and has improved as a 3-point shooter the last year, but carving out a role as a lead guard in their already-deep backcourt may be tricky with Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie both holding down spots. At just 19 years old, though, Maledon landing here could give him time to sharpen his game and grow behind an All-Star.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Memphis • Fr • 6'9" / 225 lbs
Recent reports suggest it likely that Goran Dragic will re-up with the Heat, so if they're plugging holes, Precious Achiuwa is an interesting fit and flier. He's a 6-9 energizing big who should be able to play the 4 or 5 at the next level with an interesting blend of athleticism and defensive chops that would fit alongside Bam Adebayo in the frontcourt.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Grant Riller PG
College of Charleston • Sr • 6'3" / 190 lbs
The Sixers need someone who can create their own shot and run the offense, and Grant Riller -- a four-year player at Charleston -- can fill both those needs. He's a ridiculously skilled creator who can pull-up and score but also gets to the rim easily and has good finishing ability. His vision isn't advanced, but his offensive firepower and capability of making basic reads would lift Philadelphia's thin backcourt.
From Houston Rockets
Round 1 - Pick 22
Michigan State • Jr • 6'8" / 245 lbs
Xavier Tillman is a dominant defensive big who can capably guard 4s and 5s and can do so in the paint just as well as he can from the perimeter, despite his 6-8 frame. His selfless style of play as a rebounder, screener and defender affects winning in all the little ways that could add up to a big value for Denver.
Round 1 - Pick 23
The Jazz value wings who are capable playmakers and passers, and Leandro Bolmaro -- a 6-7 international prospect -- checks those boxes. He can create off the dribble and is electric with the ball in his hands. When he's playing downhill he can generate offense and act as an initiator, which would lighten the load for Donovan Mitchell. Bolmaro's still got work to do as a 3-point shooter, but his size and creation has point-forward potential Utah would undoubtedly find hard to pass on.
From Indiana Pacers
Round 1 - Pick 24
Josh Green SG
Arizona • Fr • 6'6" / 210 lbs
A physical, tough-nosed on-ball defender, Josh Green is an instant impact-type addition who brings athleticism, energy and competitiveness to the NBA. And the Bucks -- like every NBA team -- can use all of those skills as they continue stacking talent around Giannis Antetokounmpo. Low-usage off-ball guard who can make 3-pointers at a respectable rate and potentially fill the role of a 3-and-D talent for Milwaukee.
From Denver Nuggets
Round 1 - Pick 25
Oklahoma City has a treasure trove of draft assets because of the Paul George trade, so why not take a big swing? Aleksej Pokuševski is one of this draft's biggest boom-or-bust talents because of the way he can move, score, dribble and create at his size. If he busts it's a late-first wasted, but if he booms he can develop into a franchise-caliber center. It's going to take a significant investment before he can reach that level but it's not an impossibility. "The skill, the ability and the size he provides projects to him becoming in time a potentially significant contributor down the road," one scout told me of him recently. "He's not ready. But my gosh, he's a roster development type of guy that I know teams will have higher than what people think."
Round 1 - Pick 26
Washington • Fr • 6'9" / 250 lbs
Isaiah Stewart has some throwback big-man vibes but a promising shooting touch that many believe, in time, will translate to 3-point success in the NBA. But whether that comes or not, he's a hard-nosed rebounder and defender who could give the Celtics toughness in the post and developmental depth at a position it needs to address.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 27
Texas Tech • Fr • 6'4" / 195 lbs
The Knicks took 3-point attempts with the lowest frequency in the NBA last season and ranked fourth-worst as a team in that category. Jahmi'us Ramsey is at the very least a competent shooter who can help in that regard. He made nearly 43% of his 3-point attempts at Texas Tech and has a lightning quick release that likely translates to similar success for him at the next level.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Michigan State • Sr • 6'1" / 185 lbs
This has been my mock projection for several months for obvious reasons: the Lakers need a competent guard who can handle it and who can shoot. Cassius Winston can do both. He's one of the best outside-shooting guards in this draft and his wealth of college experience bodes well for him potentially playing early.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Washington • Fr • 6'9" / 200 lbs
A bumpy freshman season at Washington stunted his draft stock, but Jaden McDaniels remains a near-lock for first-round territory because of his 6-10 frame, ability to handle the ball, and scoring instincts. In terms of pure talent he's a lottery pick, and Toronto is one of the best-equipped NBA franchises to turn raw talent into something more.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 30
This is just a value pick for the Cs; I don't see any way RJ Hampton falls this far. He's a combo guard with a nice handle who showed some flashes in the NBL last season as a stop-and-pop scorer and in the pick-and-roll. He wasn't great, and he needs time to physically develop, but this is a low-risk flier for Boston on someone who I think can be a competent two-way guard in time.