By Zac Cornell
Now that the 2020 season has been concluded in Orlando, we can start moving on towards the offseason. And that all begins tonight. The NBA draft is happening at 7pm EST and it will be streamed on ESPN. Due to COVID, the draft will be held virtually with NBA commissioner Adam Silver announcing the picks and trades. Both rounds will be finished by the end of the night.
Whereas last year we all knew who the top 3 picks were going to be (Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and RJ Barrett) we do not have that same confidence with this year’s draft. The talent in this class does not appear to be as favorable as in previous years. There is no clear number one pick this year, and there is no “best player”. This makes it difficult to determine the order of the draft. At every selection this year a team can go multiple directions, and there is no right or wrong choice. With that being said, I will give my personal top-10 mock draft with no trades and then I will give some potential trades that could shake up the draft.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves. Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia, 6-5, 225
I really think Edwards is a top 3 player in this class. Like I said, you can’t go wrong with either Edwards or LaMelo Ball here; however, I think this is the best selection for the Timberwolves. With the acquisition of star guard D’Angelo Russell last year, the Timberwolves found their franchise guard and playmaker for years to come. Now they must pair him with another elite scorer to dominate opposing defenses. And Anthony Edwards is that guy.
2. Golden State Warriors. James Wiseman, C, Memphis, 7-1, 240
With a surprising down season after reaching the NBA finals for 5 straight seasons, the Warriors will look to bolster their roster and dominate the Western Conference once again. With all star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson set to return for the 2021 season, the Warriors are looking healthy and ready to go. They are solid throughout their starting lineup, but have lacked a big, dominant big man for many years. For this reason, I have the Warriors selecting James Wiseman out of Memphis. Wiseman was dominating in college last year before being ruled ineligible. He averaged 19.7 ppg, 3.0 bpg, and 10.7rpg while shooting 77% from the field in 23mpg and in 3 games. He will have an immediate impact for the Warriors on both offense and defense.
3. Charlotte Hornets. LaMelo Ball, G, Ball Land, 6-7, 180.
LaMelo Ball is a fan favorite and he has the most potential in this draft. He is a big guard who has elite playmaking instincts and an elite passing ability. He also is a very talented ball handler. He can control the backcourt and become the franchise point guard that the Hornets have been searching for since losing all-star point guard Kemba Walker. Some concerns with his game are his defense ability and shooting, however I think he can develop in both areas very quickly. He has the body and athletic ability to become a great defender and he has the range and ability to become a more consistent shooter. If he continues to develop at his rate, he will become an all star very soon.
4. Bulls. Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv, 6-9, 220.
I doubt the Bulls maintain this pick come draft time, but with this pick the Bulls will take forward Deni Avdija from Israel. The Bulls have tons of potential at every position except the small forward spot. Their core consists of Coby White, Zach Lavine, Wendell Carter Jr., and Lauri Markkenen. The Bulls are in need of a small forward and he is the best player at this position.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers. Obi Toppin, F, Dayton, 6-9, 220
At pick 5, the Cleveland Cavaliers will select Obi Toppin out of Dayton. With Kevin Love likely to be traded during the offseason, the Cavs will have to fill his spot. Obi Toppin is a dominant offensive player and is really athletic. He has a decent shooting ability from the outside but he is a force inside the paint. He also is a highlight reel on fastbreaks. Some concerns about him include his age(23) and his defensive liability on the court. He is a very poor defender on the perimeter, however he is a decent defender inside the paint with his body and size. Toppin has a ton of offensive potential and can be a future star.
6. Atlanta Hawks. Tyrese Haliburton., G, Alabama, 6-3, 180
The Atlanta Hawks select Tyrese Haliburton with the 6th pick. This one is a tough decision. They could either go with Halliburton, Isaac Okoro, or Onyeka Okongwu. The Hawks did just trade for center Clint Capela, so it wouldn’t make much sense to draft Okongwu. The Hawks have tons of potential in Trae Young, Kevin Heurter, Cam Reddish, DeAndre Hunter, John Collins, and Clint Capela. Their weakest position is shooting guard. Haliburton can play either point guard or shooting guard, however his defensive ability and length will be a significant help for the Hawks. Don’t get me wrong, Trae Young is a superstar, but he is also one of the worst defensive players in the league. You can’t win a championship with your main player being a liability on defense. Kevin Heurter too is not a good defender. This is why either Haliburton or Okoro is a no brainer selection to solidify the defensive side at the guard position and help the Hawks reach the postseason.
7. Detroit Pistons. Killian Hayes, F, Florida State, 6-8, 225.
The Piston are entering a rebuild, or should be entering a rebuild and that all starts with building from the core. Here, they select Killian Hayes. The Pistons released star center Andre Drummond last year and are trying to trade all-star forward Blake Griffin this offseason. Not only is Griffin coming off an injury, but he also has a massive, unfriendly contract. For this reason, his trade value will not be very high. If and when they trade Griffin, there is not much on this roster other than D-Rose and Luke Kennard. D-Rose is aging and will not remain a factor on this team for much longer. Killian Hayes is a top 5 prospect in this class, has elite playmaking ability, and is a great ball handler. His shooting is very good; however, there are concerns about his consistency. There is nothing to worry about with his shooting, as it will definitely improve once he enters the league.
8. New York Knicks. Isaac Okoro, F/G, Florida State, 6-6, 190.
Here, the Knicks select Isaac Okoro with the 8th pick. While there are questions about Okoro’s offensive game, Okoro is the best defender in this draft. He is an elite athlete and defender on all stages. He is a great transition player too. His shooting is a major weakness. This could be a problem on the Knicks if Okoro fails to space the floor on offense. Regardless, he is a great player with a bright future. He reminds me of a Russell Westbrook in transition and a Marcus Smart as a defender. He will play next to RJ Barrett as the 2 and 3 position on the team.
9. Washington Wizards. Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC, 6-9, 250.
The Wizards select Onyeka Okongwu with the 9th pick. One could argue Okongwu is the best big man in the class. And I might agree with that. He is a great defender and finisher in the paint. He also has a passing talent that most other big men don’t have. His pro comparison is Bam Adebayo, and it’s a great comparison. If he pans out to live up to his hype, he will be a beast in the NBA, dominating the paint.
10. Phoenix Suns. Devin Vassell, G, Iowa State, 605, 180.
Earlier this week, the Suns traded for Chris Paul. They have young studs in Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton. What the Suns lack is a 3 and D player that can play in the NBA. They drafted Cam Johnson last year to play this role, however he hasn’t been the answer yet. Vassell is one of the better defenders in this draft and also one of the best shooters. He can have an immediate impact on this team who is trying to reach the postseason in a very competitive Western Conference.
These are the 4 most likely trades to occur on draft night:
Knicks trade Julius Randle, picks 8, and 23 to the Cavaliers for pick 5 and Kevin Love
Bulls trade pick 4 and Wendell Carter Jr. to the Warriors for pick 2 and Jordan Poole
Bulls trade pick 4 and Zach Lavine to the Timberwolves for pick 1 and Malik Beasley
Thunder trade Steven Adams, pick 28, and 34 to the Wizards for pick 9