The 2020 NBA Draft Lottery is scheduled for Thursday night with the Warriors, Cavaliers and Timberwolves all having a 14.0% chance to secure the No. 1 overall pick. Unlike some years, if not most years, the lottery winner will determine which player is actually selected first in October.
Such wasn't the case last year.
It didn't matter whether the Pelicans, Knicks, Suns or anybody else got the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Zion Williamson, right or wrong, would've been the first name called. But there is no consensus No. 1 pick this year. And, I think, at least four players — LaMelo Ball, Obi Toppin, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman — could reasonably be selected first. So, ultimately, it'll likely be an eye-of-the-beholder deal. What the Warriors would do at the top of the draft is likely different than what various other franchises would do at the top of the draft.
In other words, Thursday is huge.
I'll update this mock draft again after the draft order is officially set. But, for now, please note that team needs were NOT taken into consideration for this version because, at this time, 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.
Round 1 - Pick 1
The first time I saw LaMelo Ball, he was just 13 years old, playing with his older brothers against 17-year-olds — and actually producing. He was little. And he seemed a little out of place. But he was still a creative-shot maker, and brilliant passer, and he forever looked, at least to me, like a possible future NBA player. Fast-forward five years — and Lonzo's little brother isn't so little anymore. He's now a 6-foot-6 point guard. Super-skilled. Super-smart. And if you're looking for the prospect with the highest upside in the 2020 NBA Draft, the former California high school star is your guy. I know some folks focus on the less-than-great shooting percentages and questionable shot-selection. And when I do that, sure, I also see what they see. But those things can, and will, be improved. And when you combine that likelihood with the fact that Ball can already see things offensively, and do things offensively, that 99.9% of prospects his age cannot do, it's reasonable to conclude the good far outweighs any bad and predict that LaVar's youngest son has the talent to develop into an All-Star many times over.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Obi Toppin PF
Dayton • Fr • 6'9" / 220 lbs
Obi Toppin is a former zero-star recruit who earned CBS Sports National Player of the Year honors after averaging 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 63.3% from the field and 39.0% from 3-point range this past season. He's a super-athletic forward who dunks everything -- he actually led the nation in dunks -- and consistently makes jumpers in pick-and-pop situations. Yes, the fact that he's already 22 years old is an issue worth taking into account. But it will not -- or, at least, it should not -- overshadow the idea that Toppin has a chance to be the most impactful player selected in this draft.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Georgia • Fr • 6'4" / 225 lbs
Anthony Edwards is a big, strong and athletic guard who is one of at least four players who could reasonably be selected first overall. The 6-5 freshman averaged 19.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in his one season at Georgia — but only shot 40.2% from the field and 29.4% from 3-point range. So he was incredible in spots, but largely up and down and inefficient, for a team that was projected to miss the NCAA Tournament. All things considered, he was a little underwhelming. But, that said, the potential for stardom is there. Remember, Edwards won't even turn 20 years-old until August 2021 — but he already has a mature body that can endure contact in the paint. The explosiveness he possesses, especially in transition, will serve him well while playing on or off the ball. And the special combination of size and quickness should allow him to guard three positions and, perhaps, develop into an impactful two-way star. Bottom line, I probably wouldn't select him first overall. But I can certainly understand why somebody else might.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Memphis • Fr • 7'0" / 240 lbs
James Wiseman's decision to quit on Memphis midseason raised eyebrows with some NBA executives who were left wondering if the 7-1 center is wired to be great. But his natural ability is so overwhelming that he won't slip too far in a draft devoid of high-end talent. Obviously, this is the worst time in the history of professional basketball to be a center and only a center because the position has never been less valued. But it's still hard to imagine a physical specimen like Wiseman going any lower, or at least much lower, than fourth or fifth.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Southern California • Fr • 6'8" / 240 lbs
Onyeka Okongwu mostly operated off the national radar this past season because he played for an unranked team on the West Coast. But he was fantastic rather quickly -- averaging 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds while shooting 61.6% from the field. He's the main reason USC won 16 of its first 20 games and would've been in the NCAA Tournament if the NCAA Tournament had been played. Is he an undersized big? Yes, probably. But he's an undersized big who can play multiple positions. And, either way, the NBA is now littered with undersized bigs. So even though Okongwu wasn't thought of this way coming out of high school, it's now reasonable to call him the second-best big prospect in the draft.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Deni Avdija, a former Most Valuable Player of the FIBA Under-20 European Championship, should be the first non-American international prospect to come off the board. He's a 19-year-old Israeli who performed well for Maccabi Tel Aviv in games leading up to the season being suspended. At 6-9, he's tall enough to play power forward and skilled enough to play on the wing. And his shooting has undeniably improved. So, according to most evaluators, Avdija now projects as a likely top-10 pick.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Isaac Okoro SF
Auburn • Fr • 6'5" / 225 lbs
Isaac Okoro was only a borderline top-40 prospect coming out of high school in Georgia. But he quickly emerged, at Auburn, as one of college basketball's best freshmen this past season. The 6-6 wing averaged 12.9 points and 4.4 rebounds for Bruce Pearl's Tigers, who started 15-0 overall and finished 24-4 when Okoro was healthy and available to play. Auburn was just 1-2 without him in the lineup. So, in other words, he was a real difference-maker on both ends of the court. Okoro's athleticism and ability to shutdown opposing wings, thanks to unusually great defensive instincts for a 19 year-old, are, undeniably, his best attributes. So any franchise looking for a high-upside player who impacts winning in a variety of ways should very much be interested. And that's why Okoro is likely to be a top-10 pick even if he wasn't even a top 30 high school recruit in the Class of 2019.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Killian Hayes is an American-born lead guard who was raised in France. So he's technically an American-born international prospect, one who has been playing professionally in Germany. He didn't turn 19 years old until July. So Hayes is one of the youngest players in this draft. But, despite that, he has a high basketball IQ and reputation of somebody who just really knows how to play. Early this past season, Hayes turned the ball over a little too much, which is less-than-ideal for a lead guard. But his assist-to-turnover ratio improved as the season progressed. So his ability to take care of the ball is not a real issue. Shooting is, though. Hayes shot below 30% from 3-point range last season. That's not good enough from that position. But if he improves on that, and the guess here is that he will in time, Hayes will have a chance to live up to the hype — hype that has him likely to be picked in the lottery.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Iowa State • Fr • 6'5" / 185 lbs
Tyrese Haliburton, like Obi Toppin, is a good example of a mostly unheralded high school prospect who became a statistical monster in college. The 6-5 sophomore averaged 15.2 points, 6.5 assists and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 50.4% from the field and 41.9% from 3-point range this past season before suffering an injury in early February that ended his college career. So he's a lead guard with size who consistently makes shots. And there's not a franchise in the NBA that couldn't use a player who can reasonably be described that way.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Saddiq Bey SF
Villanova • Fr • 6'7" / 215 lbs
The more I talk with front-office executives, the more I'm convinced Saddiq Bey has a chance to be a steal in this draft -- especially if he slips out of the top 10. The 6-8 forward was merely a sub-125 recruit in the Class of 2018, the least-heralded prospect in Villanova's four-player class. But he quickly developed into an intriguing prospect who averaged 16.1 points (while making 45.1% of his 3-point attempts) this past season for a Villanova team that shared the Big East title. He's versatile on both ends and an ideal wing prospect for the modern NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Cole Anthony PG
North Carolina • Fr • 6'3" / 185 lbs
Cole Anthony's in-season knee surgery that limited him to just 22 games is the biggest reason — not the only reason, but definitely the biggest reason — the Tar Heels' season spiraled. Remember, they were 6-3 with a victory over the eventual Pac-12 champion (Oregon) before Anthony got hurt but never the same afterward. The 6-3 point guard's shooting numbers as a freshman leave something to be desired — but he took so many tough shots, sometimes out of necessity because of a less-than-inspiring supporting cast — that it's hard to know exactly what to make of them. Either way, Anthony still averaged 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists for the Tar Heels. And though he no longer is a real option at No. 1 like he was believed to be this time last year, a spot in the lottery is still attainable.
Round 1 - Pick 12
R.J. Hampton's decision to skip college and play professionally for a team based in New Zealand last season contributed to the G-League creating a program for elite prospects — and then aggressively pursuing them. So he's already made an impact on the sport, for better or worse. And let the record show the former 5-star recruit was respectable in the NBL. He averaged 8.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. So Hampton skipped college, made a little money, and now he could be, and arguably should be, a lottery pick based on his ability to play either guard spot and beat opponents off the dribble with a great first-step. Does his shooting need to improve? Yes, undeniably. The mechanics are a little off. But history tells us that can be fixed. And if Hampton becomes a reliable shooter, at 6-5, he could be one of the steals of this draft.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Memphis • Fr • 6'8" / 225 lbs
The ceiling on Memphis' season was lowered drastically when James Wiseman quit, but it's hard to argue that Precious Achiuwa didn't personally benefit at least statistically. The super-athletic forward averaged 15.8 points and 10.8 rebounds — and was the only freshman in the sport to average a double-double. He's terrific in transition, effective around the rim, comfortable away from it and capable of guarding smaller players in space. All of that, combined with a tremendous motor, should be enough to make Achiuwa a lottery pick.
From Memphis Grizzlies
Round 1 - Pick 14
Vanderbilt • Fr • 6'5" / 215 lbs
Aaron Nesmith only played 14 games as a sophomore at Vanderbilt before suffering a season-ending foot injury. So the sample size is on the smallish side, which isn't ideal. But it can't be ignored that the big-scoring guard made 52.2% of the 115 3-pointers he attempted last season. That's an incredible percentage that should translate well at the next level, where perimeter-shooting has never been more valued. Beyond that, Nesmith has great size for his position. He's 6-6. So he can maybe guard three different positions at the next level — though his lateral quickness would need to improve for that. And his ability to create shots on his own, to be an effective shot-creator, needs to improve as well. But a player with size who can really, really shoot it is an attractive option in the modern-NBA And that's why Nesmith has a chance to be a top-15 pick in this draft.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Tyrese Maxey SG
Kentucky • Fr • 6'2" / 200 lbs
Tyrese Maxey enrolled at Kentucky with the reputation of a straight-killer — somebody who could go and get 25 on just about anybody. And, in the season-opener, he looked the part. The 6-3 combo guard got 26 points in that November-win over Michigan State and showed lots of the things that made most assume he'd be UK's leading scorer. But, for much of the season, Maxey was inconsistent. He played more minutes than any other Wildcat. He took more shots than any other Wildcat. But Maxey was only third on the team in scoring. He shot just 42.7% from the field and a mere 29.2% percent from 3-point range. So Maxey's one year in college was a little disappointing relative to preseason expectations. But, regardless, he's still mostly projected as a top-15 pick because he does have elite-scoring attributes, presumably can be a better perimeter shooter than he showed at Kentucky, and is really good at finishing inside the arc in creative ways, mostly with an elaborate floater package. So, sure, there are questions here. But if Maxey reaches his potential he should be getting buckets in the NBA for a long time.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Florida State • Fr • 6'5" / 200 lbs
Devin Vassell's numbers don't jump off the screen, but that has more to do with playing at Florida State than anything else. The Seminoles had four players who averaged between 9.2 points and 12.7 points. So Leonard Hamilton's team was balanced at the top, possibly to the detriment of Vassell. Either way, what's important to note is that the 6-7 guard made 41.7% of his 168 3-point attempts over the past two seasons. And what that suggests is that he's a two-way wing who can sink jumpers reliably, which is why he should go in the top 20 of this draft.
From Brooklyn Nets
Round 1 - Pick 17
Theo Maledon is a skilled athlete, one who previously became the youngest LNB All-Star in history. He missed time with an injury while playing professionally in France this past season and was mostly underwhelming — although, in fairness, he played better as things progressed. But the talent that made him an interesting prospect at a young age still exists and is attractive to NBA executives selecting in this range.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Washington • Fr • 6'8" / 250 lbs
Isaiah Stewart was perhaps the only good thing about Washington's wildly disappointing season that culminated with the Huskies finishing last in the Pac-12. The 6-9 center led his team in points (17.0), rebounds (8.8) and blocks (2.1). He was great -- but how well will it translate at the next level? That's the question. And, for what it's worth, scouts acknowledge guarding in space could be a problem. But Stewart's high motor, incredible production, and better-than-some realize skill set should keep him in the top 20.
From Philadelphia 76ers
Round 1 - Pick 19
Florida State • Fr • 6'7" / 215 lbs
Patrick Williams is probably more of a long-term investment than he is an instant-impact rookie considering he'll barely be 19 years old on the night of the draft. He's a project. But the 6-8 forward measures well and was a key piece on a Florida State team that won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title. He performed strongly down the stretch while scoring in double-figures in five of the Seminoles' final seven games. So, again, it's possible he won't help an NBA team much next season. But what Williams could become in a year or two is enough to generate attention in the back half of the first round, where somebody will be getting a player with enough upside that the decision to select him could pay off provided that the franchise that selects him is patient enough to wait on the return.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Alabama • Fr • 6'1" / 170 lbs
Kira Lewis played two seasons of college basketball at Alabama — one for Avery Johnson, the other for Nate Oats. But he'll still only be 19 years-old on the night of the draft. So he's young, which is considered a positive. But he's really light, which is a little bit of negative (because he sometimes gets pushed around and becomes a liability on defense). Those are obvious areas of necessary improvement. But the 6-3 point guard was still really productive as a sophomore — averaging 18.5 points, 5.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds for an Alabama team that finished 60th at KenPom. Lewis made an incredible 48.8% of his 3-point attempts in the Crimson Tide's final seven games. So it appears he can be a reliable, and perhaps terrific, perimeter shooter as a professional — not to mention a real steal in the second half of the first round of this draft.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Maryland • Fr • 6'10" / 215 lbs
Not all legitimate NBA prospects who return for their sophomore seasons actually help themselves from a draft-stock perspective — but Smith definitely did. The 6-10 big added strength, improved his field-goal percentage by 4.6 points, his 3-point percentage by 8.0 points and averaged more points, rebounds and blocks than he did as a freshman. The result was Maryland winning a share of the Big Ten title and Smith solidifying himself as a real first-round option. At the next level, Smith will likely play both the 4 and 5. He can rim-protect. He can reliably make perimeter jumpers. He can run the floor relatively well. Given the way basketball is played in the NBA these days, It'll be crucial for Smith to land in the right spot, with the right organization, and with the right coach and right players around him. But if he does, he has the talent to be in the NBA for a very long time.
From Houston Rockets
Round 1 - Pick 22
Tre Jones PG
Duke • Fr • 6'1" / 185 lbs
There's nothing too flashy about Tre Jones. He doesn't create many highlights nor is he a great 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 averaged 16.2 points and 6.4 assists this past season -- and actually shot it well enough from the perimeter down the stretch to get his 3-point percentage up to a respectable 36.1. So there's enough good stuff about him to make selecting him in the 20s a sensible option for any franchise comfortable spending a pick in this range on someone whose ceiling might be lower than others, but whose floor is likely higher.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Nico Mannion PG
Arizona • Fr • 6'2" / 188 lbs
Nico Mannion only shot 32.7% from 3-point range this past season, which obviously isn't great for a lead guard who has the ball a lot. But he's still an interesting talent because of his ability to make reads and run an offense. Is he athletic or physically impressive relative to current high-level NBA point guards? Not really. And that's a concern. But, in the simplest terms, I'm a believer in Mannion just figuring it out and working to find a long-term role in the league.
From Indiana Pacers
Round 1 - Pick 24
Washington • Fr • 6'9" / 185 lbs
Jaden McDaniels' freshman season did not go well. He was a disappointing team's most disappointing player — one who led the Pac-12 in fouls. That's not good. At one point, the 6-9 forward even got benched by his coach, Mike Hopkins. So while the upside McDaniels possesses will lead to him still getting selected in the first round, probably, the truth is that he did very little to help himself in his one season at Washington.
From Denver Nuggets
Round 1 - Pick 25
Texas Tech • Fr • 6'3" / 190 lbs
Jahmi'us Ramsey was a borderline top-35 prospect coming out of high school who, just like Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver before him, developed into a projected first-round pick after working with Chris Beard at Texas Tech. The 6-4 guard averaged 15.0 points and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 42.6% from 3-point range. It was a strong freshman season. Yes, there are concerns about what else he does really well besides make shots. But shot-making is super important in today's NBA. So Ramsey should be selected in the first round — maybe in the teens but definitely in the 20s.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Michigan State • Fr • 6'8" / 245 lbs
Xavier Tillman used his size and strength to be one of the best defensive bigs in the country this past season, one who is also comfortable guarding in space or out on the perimeter. The 6-8 forward averaged 13.7 points and 10.3 rebounds while shooting 55.0% from the field — and he also made 37% of his 3-point attempts inside the Breslin Center, which suggests he should be able to stretch the floor in the NBA and spend many years in the league as a quality frontcourt presence.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 27
Josh Green SG
Arizona • Fr • 6'5" / 200 lbs
Josh Green was one of three possible first-round picks on Arizona's roster this past season, which is among the reasons it was surprising that the Wildcats only finished tied for fifth in the Pac-12 standings. But some of it was tied to the freshman's inconsistency. The 6-6 wing showed flashes at times. He got 24 points in an early win over Pepperdine. He got 19 in the regular-season finale against Washington. But the truth is that Green is, at the moment, more advanced defensively than offensively, and there are real concerns about his ability to put the ball on the floor and pass it. So while his athleticism and toughness should get him picked somewhere late in the first round, the questions attached to Green could theoretically push him outside of the top 30, where somebody would be getting an explosive athlete and jumper but one who still needs to improve as a playmaker and passer.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Duke • Fr • 6'9" / 270 lbs
Vernon Carey would've been a top-10 pick if he were born 20 years earlier. But with unathletic centers devalued and sometimes unplayable in today's NBA, there are a lot of things working against the Duke star even though he was the best freshman in college basketball this past season while averaging 17.8 points and 8.8 rebounds for a team that finished fifth at KenPom. Will he be played off the floor by certain opponents in certain situations? Yes, that seems likely. But I'm still convinced there's a place for him in the NBA. And spending a late first-round pick on a wildly productive one-and-done player (who was also a heralded high school prospect) seems like a sensible move.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Michigan State • Fr • 6'1" / 185 lbs
Cassius Winston is perceived to be limited because he's small and not the best athlete. He'll never measure or test great — and that'll turn some franchises away. But he's smart, great in pick-and-roll situations and someone who has proven to be a high-level shooter in all four years of college by making 43.0% of the 602 3-pointers he attempted in his four-year career. Teams picking in this range are often good teams already winning in search of a piece who can maybe help immediately. And Winston is somebody who could probably help an NBA team immediately serving as a backup point guard and knockdown shooter.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 30
Arizona • Fr • 6'9" / 240 lbs
Zeke Nnaji was only a borderline top-40 prospect coming out of high school — but he emerged as the biggest surprise of Arizona's freshman class. The 6-11 forward was Sean Miller's most productive player, one who averaged a team-high 16.1 points and a team-high 8.6 rebounds. He was a terrific part of an underwhelming team. Going forward, the best-case scenario has Nnaji developing into a power forward who can create space, rather than trying to be a full-time center, because he's not really a rim protector. We'll see how that goes. But the fast-developing prospect deserves real consideration this deep in the first round.