We now know when the 2020 NBA Draft will be held.
That's a Friday night; it's the first time since the 1970s the NBA will hold its draft on that day of the week. By the time it gets here, we'll have waited nearly 16 months between drafts, making for the longest gap in league history.
Even though we've got nearly four months to go, so much mockage is left to take care of!
Let's have some fun and bring a twist to the proceedings for this particular mock. It's been six weeks since my previous mock, but we haven't had a combine, haven't had players do workouts with teams, haven't established a lottery order. I see no reason to adjust players' positions just for the sake of doing it, you know?
Here's the twist, then.
I'm projecting out the 2020 first round based on my de facto big board. Below, in order, are the players who I think deserve to go exactly as they are listed because this is my prognostication on how good each of these guys will be as pros. I am taking into consideration their pre-NBA careers, identifying their current skill sets and glomming on my own projection on the areas I think they can and will, or can't and won't, improve upon.
I am not taking team needs into account. I am not bouncing my thoughts off intel from NBA personnel, nor am I cross-referencing the picks in this mock draft with any other mock draft. The 30 players below are placed in deliberate order and they represent my collective best guess at who will have the most productive and long-lasting NBA careers from the 2020 draft pool.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Obi Toppin PF
Dayton • Soph • 6'9" / 220 lbs
Annually speaking, the best all-around player in college basketball is far from a sure thing in being the eventual best player in his draft class. It does sometimes happen, though. (Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and Tim Duncan being three examples in the past 25 years.) So in that regard Obi Toppin has a lot to live up to. I watched about 75% of Dayton's games last season. Toppin, for me, projects as the safest pro of the bunch. Strong, agile, good handle for his size, really nice shooter, great at drawing fouls, good defender, excellent team player, fine knack for getting the right shot from short range. Toppin shot 69.8% from 2-point range and hit 39% of his 3-pointers. He's got little shot at going first in October but I believe he'll have the best NBA career 15 years from now because he has the highest floor and most reliable game of anyone in this draft.
Round 1 - Pick 2
This is a long play. After plenty of deliberation, I'm now fully on on the Hayes-is-the-best-point-guard-in-this-draft train. He's definitely better, right now, than LaMelo Ball. Ball's placement in mock drafts is very much about his development, projection and similarities to his brother, Lonzo, who's done pretty well for himself in three years' time. As for Hayes, he's great off ball screens, he can shoot with reliability but is not a vacuum with the orange in his hands. His IQ is regarded as elite within the context of this draft class. The next big point guard from overseas hails from France and will be a top-10 floor general in the league by the end of his first contract.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Memphis • Fr • 7'1" / 240 lbs
Some general managers regard James Wiseman as the best chance-it guy in this draft. He's No. 1 on some teams' boards, no doubt. I'm going to gamble a bit here and bank on Wiseman's size, improved jump shot and likelihood he doesn't play much true/traditional center during his time in the NBA. There is so little to base his résumé off of, given he had only three games to his name at Memphis and his high school career was spotty in terms of competition. Even then, his performances were at times erratic. I buy into his work ethic and ceiling, though. If he taps into his best attributes and sustains them, he's a top-three player in this class.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Georgia • Soph • 6'4" / 225 lbs
The spectrum of outcomes for Anthony Edwards is a practically mile wide. If the dynamic shooting guard hits almost immediately and we discover his skill set is tuned to the NBA in the 2020s, we could learn rather quickly that he's the top talent in this draft. But if he winds up with the wrong franchise or is too much of a chucker with a penchant for hero ball, his floor in this draft pool could be in the mid-to-low teens. Edwards had some great flashes in college but also was prone to significant droughts. It's just too tough to tell at this point and anyone who places him at No. 1 is banking on the shooting to win out. It might, but his effective field goal percentage was 47% off an average of 16.2 shots per game. That's a worry if you're deliberating at No. 1.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Southern California • Soph • 6'9" / 240 lbs
Onyeka Okongwu was lightly gossiped about as a prep player for how good he was in his own class, only to be ranked 25th -- which was good, but obviously 15-20 spots too low. Then the murmurs of hype for his role at USC wound up being greatly undersold, as Okongwu was undeniably a top-five freshman last season. He's a combo PF/C who is going to earn generational wealth thanks to his rebounding ability, rock-tough defense and facilitating play in the paint. I don't yet know if his overall package will wind up being enough to get him to an All-Star Game, but I do think he'll be a top-five rookie in 2020-21 and will hold on to that production for the majority of his career in relation to this draft class.
Round 1 - Pick 6
In the past six months, Avdija has wormed his way up from the 20s and into lottery discussion and could wind up being the biggest riser of draft night. I still think my slotting at No. 6 here is higher than he'll go in October, but don't be surprised by a top-10 reality for the Israeli wing who has the physical traits to seamlessly move on from Maccabi Tel Aviv and into the NBA. Can put it on the floor, is great on drive-and-dishes. Playmaker whose shot is coming along nicely. If his stats this summer spike (he is currently playing overseas) and efficiency holds steady, he won't be waiting long on Oct. 16.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Took me seven spots, but here we go. Every media member tasked with mocking out drafts makes misreads on where guys should be taken. Part of the job and it happens with every analyst every year. Some hits and misses are much bigger than others. This is my all-in play for 2020. I am not taken with Ball's long-term viability as a franchise-making player. When you see him slotted first, second or third in most other mock drafts, that's what the prognosticators are telling you: that NBA teams in position to pick first, second or third are buying Ball's growth as a player to be someone capable of playing point guard and ultimately being a championship-caliber guy. His measurements are good and his passing ability continues to impress, but the decision-making, the defensive gaps, some physicality concerns and the sometimes-erratic play have me leaning toward Ball being good but not great in the NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Vanderbilt • Soph • 6'5" / 215 lbs
Maybe he's Michael Redd 20 years later? Aaron Nesmith has been out of sight, out of mind for the past five months because a stress fracture forced a premature end to a forgettable Vanderbilt season (the Commodores were the worst team in the SEC). But Nesmith was the best shooter in college basketball in 2019-20, making 52% of his 3s. Kyle Korver's another comp I land on, but Nesmith is going to be a better defender in the pros than Korver. Nesmith has a good wingspan, wonderful shooting form, will ace the interviews and has pro's-pro written all over him. He's such a good shooter, he might be able to play 15 years in the league based on his shooting shape and physique.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Isaac Okoro SF
Auburn • Soph • 6'5" / 225 lbs
Will never be the best or second best player on his team -- I don't think -- but Okoro's so easy to root for because he always cares. He is energy personified on the floor at both ends. An uncommon player in this regard: his defense is standout, but his offense doesn't suffer as a result of all the effort put into the defensive end. Okoro's no great scorer, but he's still got enough in the tool belt to make his repertoire on offense respectable enough. One of those players who, no matter what franchise picks him, is going to adapt and almost certainly be bust-proof wherever he's picked.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Iowa State • Soph • 6'5" / 185 lbs
Slots 10-15 got tough for me, but I will go with the point guard who isn't prone to turnovers, who rarely showed poor decision-making with his shots and who was among the most efficient freshmen in college basketball two seasons ago. Tyrese Haliburton would probably not be projected in the lottery 20 years ago if his skill set was the same, but thanks to the evolution of basketball analysis, his fortes are now looked at with much more respect. He's not a huge point guard, he doesn't break people down with ease off the dribble, but he's reliable and level-headed. Will pay his dues as a backup point guard before eventually being handed the keys by the time his second contract hits.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Saddiq Bey SF
Villanova • Soph • 6'7" / 215 lbs
If you have Saddiq Bey stock to sell, I'll take it off your hands. Quality shooter, capable defender, high-IQ player who learned quickly at Villanova and in two short years turned himself into lottery-pick fodder. I'm convinced he'll be taken lower than he should, so for the purposes of this mock draft, I've comfortably rated him highly. Bey made 45% of his 3-pointers last season and was one of the 20 most accurate 3-point shooters in college basketball.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Cole Anthony PG
North Carolina • Soph • 6'3" / 185 lbs
I don't see Cole Anthony failing in the NBA. I don't think he's going to outright thrive due to his nature of needing the ball in his hands a lot, but his competitiveness, inherent talent and commitment to basketball have me believing he'll be there for the long haul. Most concerned about his jump shot, which at North Carolina was sometimes forced and therefore led to efficiency concerns.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Memphis • Soph • 6'8" / 225 lbs
His rebounding numbers and paint presence were consistently impressive. Precious Achiuwa wasn't a surefire one-and-doner when he got to Memphis, but as soon as Wiseman quit the team and he became the guy, Achiuwa proved how valuable he was. As I've written previously: the tape is going to tell his story and should make him a lottery pick.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Maryland • Soph • 6'9" / 215 lbs
Might have some growing pains early, but Jalen Smith is a lean offensive weapon who is going to make a living hitting buckets from four and 24 feet from the rim. Needs to pack on some muscle, but the encouraging thing on Smith is his steady improvement -- almost in the form of a gradual growth curve -- from the start of his college career until this past March. He ranked fourth nationally in box plus/minus last season (+12.0). His stock is hard to pin down, but his ceiling as an offensive player is too high for me to place him any lower.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Washington • Soph • 6'8" / 250 lbs
Physical, competitive, gives a damn and knows how to bruise around the boards. Isaiah Stewart is never going to be an NBA team's first or second best player, but he has a chance to be a vital glue guy. He was so solid at Washington, that team's 15-17 record won't reflect at all on his draft stock. One player comp that Stewart could wind up matching, certainly in terms of rebound presence, is Paul Millsap.
From Brooklyn Nets
Round 1 - Pick 16
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 200 lbs
Wonderful 3-and-D projection for an athletic wing who should be a longtime role player in the league. Devin Vassell is not that well known, but he was the best 3-point shooter and the best defender on arguably the best Florida State team in program history. The Seminoles went 26-5 last season and would have had a great shot at a No. 2 seed had the ACC Tournament been played as scheduled. Vassell is not going to outright wow the fan base of the team that selects him, but he will be a quick study and should earn decent burn as a rookie.
From Memphis Grizzlies
Round 1 - Pick 17
Duke • Soph • 6'9" / 270 lbs
I'm tempted to go even higher for here, as Carey expanded his offensive style and habits significantly in five months worth of playing time under Mike Krzyzewski. He ranked higher in PER (34.1) than everyone else in college basketball with the exception of William & Mary's Nathan Knight (35.0) and Iowa's Luka Garza (34.4). Carey also ranked second in win shares per 40 minutes, according to Sports Reference. Yes, he's a true center. Yes, there's still a spot for him in the NBA. Will need the right staff to utilize his aptitude for working the post and facing up in the short-range.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Michigan State • Soph • 6'7" / 245 lbs
The fact that college basketball's No. 1 player in box plus/minus -- and therefore, one of its best defenders -- is not universally viewed as a first-round talent is still beyond me. Xavier Tillman still hasn't announced what he's going to do -- stay or return to Michigan State -- but it shouldn't take much longer. As far as I see it, he's got a ceiling that's clearly in the top 20 of this year's pool of players. Great teammate, instinctive and intelligently physical on defense. Offense needs some work, but he still shot 61% from 2-point range. Aside from lacking a step-out jumper, Tillman is an ideal NBA power forward.
From Indiana Pacers
Round 1 - Pick 19
Yet another point guard in this year's draft crop who earned his reputation as a first-rounder by playing outside the United States. Theo Maledon isn't a top-shelf point guard, but his long-range shooting and above-average defense are first-round calling cards. He's just 18, has a 6-foot-8 wingspan on a 6-4 frame and has been a player scouted and followed by NBA types for three years at this point. Biggest question is whether he is a true point guard, but even still, talent is too good to put him below top-20 status.
From Philadelphia 76ers
Round 1 - Pick 20
Minnesota • Fr • 6'8" / 240 lbs
Few players were better on an erratic team last season than Daniel Oturu, who to his credit is still well-regarded even in spite of Minnesota going 15-16 in a loaded Big Ten. Oturu ranked top 10 nationally in rebounds, 2-point field goals and offensive box plus/minus, according to Sports Reference. I wonder if he's a bit like Brook Lopez was early in his NBA career, in that Lopez was not a step-out shooter at all, then seemed to have transformed his game in a few months' time. Oturu already is willing to step out -- he took 52 3-pointers last season -- but might he be a more willing and capable perimeter threat than we realize at this point?
Round 1 - Pick 21
Duke • Fr • 6'5" / 193 lbs
I think Cassius Stanley can be one of the surprises of draft night, in terms of where he's picked vs. the general prognostication on where he goes. Stanley's a top-three athlete in this draft, and no, I'm not putting him so relatively high just because he's one of the best dunkers in college hoops in the past five seasons. He's got great form and boost on his shot (53% on 2-pointers, 36% from 3-point range) and has the tools to become as good of a defender as he wants to be. I think his role in the NBA will necessitate a commitment to being both a good on-ball and in-the-lane defender. Plus, his talent and athleticism lend itself toward getting to the foul line. I'm in.
From Houston Rockets
Round 1 - Pick 22
Tyrese Maxey SG
Kentucky • Soph • 6'2" / 200 lbs
Maxey is going to be picked ahead of 22nd, I promise you that. And this mock-draft experiment leads me to placing a few guys outside of my comfort zone. However, with Maxey, I have to trust what I saw and what he did (and didn't) do while playing for one of the more gracious and liberally minded star-favoring coaches in college basketball ever. Maxey opened up the season dropping 26 points in MSG against top-ranked Michigan State ... then proceeded to average 10.6 points in Kentucky's next eight games. He was erratic and shot below 30%. There is a lot to like but not a ton to love. Volume player who's about to see his shot inventory take its biggest dip ever, and how he adjusts to that will dictate how his NBA career goes.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Something of tough read since Hampton had injury issues that enacted him to stop playing in January. He was solid -- but no standout -- while experimenting with the overseas option. He certainly fell far short of expectations, even if those expectations were unfairly attached to him as a result of his highly publicized decision in 2019 to swoop past college and take on pro ball in New Zealand. Hampton hasn't proven he's good enough as a shooter (40% in 15 NBL games) to warrant top-20 billing on my list. Defense is also often optional with him. It would surprise me if his named was called in the lottery.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Oregon • Soph • 6'1" / 195 lbs
I took a tour of five mock drafts earlier in late May/early June and didn't see Payton Pritchard in the first round of any of them. So consider this my called shot. The man's spent the past four seasons being good-to-great at Oregon, with clutch moments, embraceable defensive effort, high-level point guard play and was a top-five player in the sport last season. He was THE guy for Oregon the past two seasons, top billing on every scouting report, and that didn't stop him from putting up good averages, nor did it ding his efficiency numbers. Might be a borderline career backup, but he's still undervalued by the hive mind.
From Denver Nuggets
Round 1 - Pick 25
Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 170 lbs
We've got a lot of first-round point guard talent in 2020. Kira Lewis is thin but a wonderful passer and because 2020 marks the year he turns 19, there will be a franchise that picks him before 25th. Plays fast but in control, and his numbers were pretty good on an average Alabama team last season. Lewis stayed steady despite playing for two coaches in two years. I'm lower on him in projections because I have some reservation about his playing style, body measurements and whether he'll have a long-lasting career or be an NBA version of a carry-heavy running back who burns bright and fades fast.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Michigan State • Fr • 6'1" / 185 lbs
One of the 10 best college point guards of the past 10 years is going to find a way to stick in the league for at least two contracts. I'd rank Cassius Winston pretty high on the list of players whose draft stock took an immeasurable hit due to not getting an NCAA Tournament stage in 2020. Winston got MSU to the Final Four in 2019, and had the Spartans made a deep run, his projections might be more commonly seen in the first round. He's rightfully slotted lower because of his body, his defensive limitations -- and that's about it. Winston is a very good shooter, a wonderful passer, a terrific teammate and an ideal backup NBA point guard. He'll go in the second round and almost certainly wind up with a better career than at least seven or eight guys taken before him.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 27
Arizona • Soph • 6'9" / 240 lbs
I don't see Zeke Nnaji ever averaging double-digit scoring numbers, but it's not that hard to envision him playing 10 years in the league and growing to be one of the best per-40-minute rebounders. He was pretty good pretty quickly at Arizona, then hit a little slump, was coached up, and within three games in mid-December basically improved in every area and remained consistent. Terrific battery, improved rim-runner. A lot to like here, it's just a question of how good he can be playing power forward in modern NBA offenses.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Nico Mannion PG
Arizona • Fr • 6'2" / 188 lbs
I'm going to bank on the talent here, because Nico Mannion's full body of evidence from his freshman season at Arizona does not suggest he's one of the 30 best players entering the 2020 draft. Mannion is a smart player, no question, and I think he's mentally going to be able to handle the grind of an NBA career -- and he may well thrive as a third point guard option at the outset of his career. But he's undersized, there's no question about it, and his shooting (44.4% on 2-pointers, 32.7% from 3-point range) against college competition left a lot on the table. Maybe he winds up having a roundabout path to eventual NBA stability and importance.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Kentucky • Soph • 6'3" / 190 lbs
These final two spots had a lot of competition. I considered Stanford's Tyrell Terry, Washington's Jaden McDaniels and Texas Tech's Jahmi'us Ramsey. I will go with Immanuel Quickley here, though. He was the best player in the SEC last season and made a massive jump after the starting his Kentucky career, as a former five-star prospect, playing a little lost. Commanding handle, nice ability to get into traffic and make a play, and he's got a good ceiling as a defender. I can't see him ever being a top-four player on an NBA roster, but teams who slot guys 29th or lower on their big boards are hoping to have a reliable bench player whose work ethic outpaces their talent. With Quickley, that's a neck-and-neck race, which is a great thing.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 30
Tre Jones PG
Duke • Soph • 6'1" / 185 lbs
Tre Jones is set up to be a top-20 defensive guard in the league three or four years from now if his habits stay consistent. That alone puts Jones into the final spot of the first round of this mock. The jump shot absolutely needs work and if we're being honest it's going to take years worth of work in order to get him to a place where teams will respect his ability to create and make off the bounce. But he's got enough physical tools, a good pair of eyes on the floor and can play with a good change of pace. Low ceiling, but the height of his floor is comfortable at this point in the draft.