After basically a year and a half of speculation thanks to the COVID-19 interruption that pushed the NBA calendar back by six months, the 2020 NBA Draft is finally in the books. The top three picks were Anthony Edwards to the Minnesota Timberwolves at No. 1, James Wiseman to the Golden State Warriors at No. 2 and LaMelo Ball at No. 3 to the Charlotte Hornets.
There weren't the fireworks many of us thought we'd see coming into this draft. No huge trades. No terribly surprising picks, though Patrick Williams, a guy who didn't even start for Florida State, rising to No. 4 (Chicago) wasn't exactly expected, and Deni Avdija falling to the Wizards at No. 9 was a slight eye-opener. Still, there's plenty to discuss. So let's get into it. Here are my biggest takeaways from the 2020 draft.
1. Warriors get Wiseman, possibly lose Thompson
Before we could get to the first pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, some sobering news broke on Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson, who Yahoo's Chris Haynes reported was feared to have suffered a "significant Achilles injury" while working out in Southern California. On Thursday, the news was confirmed. Thompson is out for the 2020-21 season with a ruptured Achilles.
Beyond the concern for Thompson, which poured in from around the league, the immediate question became: Might this impact the Warriors' draft strategy? It did not appear to do so. With the No. 2 overall pick, Golden State took James Wiseman, a 7-footer with elite athleticism who immediately slots as the Warriors' projected starting center in a Western Conference that is once again demanding traditional big-man matchups for Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic.
Wiseman has been linked to Golden State for quite a while. He makes sense from a fit standpoint, again, addressing the most pressing roster need as a legit big who can run the floor, serve as a lob partner for Steph Curry and protect the rim on a team lacking for size.
Where Thompson's injury might have factored in was with Andrew Wiggins, who becomes far less expendable as a wing scorer and defender if Thompson were to be out for an extended period. In almost every deal the Warriors were reportedly exploring, and pretty much any potential deal you could dream up yourself, Wiggins was the guy to make the money work. Perhaps the Warriors decided they couldn't lose him with the injury to Thompson. Perhaps they had decided not to move him anyway. We'll see if Golden State gets aggressive in the trade market to try to replace Thompson in the short term.
2. LaMelo Ball cools Westbrook market?
ESPN Insider Brian Windhorst recently said on Zach Lowe's podcast that based on his widespread conversations with league executives, there is basically no trade market for Russell Westbrook. It's not surprising. He's owed just under $85 million over the next two years with an additional $46 million player option for 2022-23, and let's be honest, he hasn't proven to be much more than a stat stuffer the last handful of years.
That said, the one team that has been talked about as a legitimate Westbrook suitor has been the Charlotte Hornets, who perhaps didn't think LaMelo Ball would fall to them at No. 3 overall. He did. And with Ball on board, there wouldn't seem to be room for Westbrook, who has stated his desire to return to his former OKC role of controlling the ball at the top of an offense. That job now belongs to Ball, who brings, at the very least, a plethora of excitement to one of the NBA's borderline forgotten franchises.
3. Sixers purging salary
It didn't take Daryl Morey long to shake things up in Philadelphia. In the hours preceding the draft, Morey sent Al Horford to the Thunder -- along with the 34th pick in Wednesday's draft and a 2025 first-round pick -- in exchange for Danny Green, who was just moved to OKC from the Lakers, and Terrence Ferguson.
Horford was a nasty fit with the Sixers and his contract is considered one of the worst in the league as he's guaranteed $81 million over the next three seasons, at the end of which he'll be 37 years old. Green, on the other hand, is an expiring contract; he's making $15 million next season and then he's off the books. Also, Green can shoot, a skill in embarrassingly short supply in Philly.
Speaking of cheap shooters, later in the night the Sixers landed Seth Curry from the Mavericks, sending out Josh Richardson, who is on the books for $10.8 million next season with an $11.6 million player option in 2021-22. Curry, meanwhile, is one of the best shooters in the league and is a bargain at an average of just over $8 million per year over the next three seasons. He will slot perfectly next to Ben Simmons and give Joel Embiid some of the floor spacing he's been dying for.
Great night for the Sixers. They trimmed money and added two guys whose best skill is the one Philly needs most.
4. Wolves cross fingers on Edwards
Nothing much to say here that hasn't been said a thousand times over the last month: Edwards has all the measurables -- an elite athlete with a strong-safety build who can overpower or out-athlete his way to plenty of buckets. He has a smooth jumper but didn't shoot well from a percentage standpoint in his one season at Georgia, and his shot selection is iffy to be generous.
Defensively, again, he has all the physical tools to be really good, but there are questions about his desire to begin with and defense begins and ends with desire. That's not me saying that. That's people who've scouted him heavily saying that. We'll see.
In the end, this was a weak draft at the top. We knew that coming in. All the top prospects had flaws, so it was about upside for Edwards and a little bit of fit. LaMelo Ball would've been relatively redundant next to D'Angelo Russell and having Karl-Anthony Towns at center diminishes, in theory, the need for James Wiseman, though a rim protector next to Towns isn't the worst idea in the world.
5. Another Suns surprise
In 2019, the Suns took Cam Johnson with the 11th pick when most projections had him going in the 20s, perhaps even the late 20s, and it was considered a wild reach. Turns out, it was a pretty good pick. Johnson was solid for the Suns in his rookie year and fits great as a knock-down shooter alongside Devin Booker and now Chris Paul and a surprisingly good defender.
Fast-forward to 2020, and the Suns took Jalen Smith, a 6-10 big man, with the No. 10 pick. On paper, it's not as big a reach as the Johnson pick seemed; a lot of mocks had him going in the 12-15 range, but our Gary Parrish didn't like it. He gave the pick a D- and said he had Smith going in the late teens.
You watch film on Smith, and he's a smooth big. He can put the ball on the floor. He can step out and make jumpers with a natural rhythm. The Suns have DeAndre Ayton as their foundational big, but if Smith can stretch the floor that's not a pairing that can't work. When the Suns showed up on the clock and Tyrese Haliburton was still on the board, it seemed like that was a natural fit. But the Suns went a different way than most expected. We'll see if it works out again.
6. What a bummer draft
We all came into this draft expecting fireworks with a ton of polarizing prospects and teams seemingly itching to make deals. Instead, we got a bunch of chalk selections and absolutely no big-time trades. We went from thinking either of the top two selections could be moved, to nothing. We heard Boston was trying to move into lottery ... nothing. We heard Atlanta was looking to do something with its No. 6 pick ... nothing. We thought there might be a trade between those two teams involving Gordon Hayward, who was extended extra time to decide on his 2020-21 player option, but his name didn't pop up once (though I expect it will soon).
The most exciting name in the draft, LaMelo Ball, went to the freaking Hornets. The only thing that got anyone worked up was Tyrese Haliburton, who approximately 96 percent of the country has never heard of, "falling" to the Kings at No. 12 when a lot of people thought he made sense perhaps as high as No. 6 to Atlanta, and for sure at No. 10 to the Suns. Stop traffic. A classic draft sleeper slept in a handful of spots longer than he perhaps should have.
Forgive me if I'm not falling out of my chair at the news that Luke Kennard is headed to the Clippers and Landry Shamet is going to the Nets. The night started with a decent bang when the Sixers traded Al Horford to OKC in exchange for Danny Green, and later on in the night sent Josh Richardson to the Mavs. Still, those didn't involve any of the big draft names. On Wednesday morning, I went on a Las Vegas radio show predicting utter chaos. Instead, I nearly fell asleep by the 20th pick.