“With the first pick in the 2020 NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select…”
Throughout the past couple of months, buzz about the NBA draft has seemed to slow down with no combine, no group workouts, and no ongoing scouting. However, the NBA will host its annual draft on November 18th, approximately a month before the regular season starts again. While many sports analysts have certain predictions on the draft picks, The Lance has its own unique takes too. It’s time for The Lance to take out its crystal ball and determine the top ten picks that teams should make based on their current roster.
1. Anthony Edwards, G, University of Georgia- Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota recently traded one of their highest scorers, Andrew Wiggins, which means they need an effective shooter. Last season, Edwards led the SEC division in scoring with 19.1 points and has proved able to effectively shoot the ball with either hand. Not only is he explosive at the rim, but he also has a consistent jump shot. He additionally knows how to effectively draw fouls on his way to the rim with his quick speed. Edwards would open up the floor for Minnesota, giving Malik Beasley, a SG and high scorer, the opportunity to shoot more. Despite Edwards’s lack of skills on the defensive end, he has the strength to improve and become a versatile player.
2. James Wiseman, C, University of Memphis – Golden State Warriors
With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson both being healthy this season, the Warriors will have the elite backcourt scoring duo they need. However, since the departure of Javale McGee, the Warriors have yet to find a solid defender at the rim. Wiseman would easily remedy this issue. Out of all the three projected first picks, he is by far the most athletic with great length (stands at 7’1” with a 7’6” wingspan) and has the ability to score inside the paint over his defender. He also will give the Warriors protection at the rim and prevent scoring from other teams.
3. LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawarra Hawks (Australia) – Charlotte Hornets
Despite already having guards Terry Rozier and Devonte Graham, the Hornets need a flashy player like Ball to bring energy to the team. Besides, all three players have played beside another guard before and can share the floor. Ball would also not be a primary scorer, and would mostly just create space for Rozier and Graham with his playmaking abilities. He has great ball handling and passing skills that help him lead his team and fulfill the role of point guard. The Hornets also have a poor defense, but Ball has proven to be an elite defender with help from his height, and ability to read offensives extremely well. By drafting Ball, the Hornets will be adding a lot of versatility and more collaboration to their team.
4. Deni Avdija, SF, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) – Chicago Bulls
While the Chicago Bulls don’t necessarily need another big man, they do need a versatile wing who can run an offense by creating shots for other players. Even at 6’9”, Avdija can play like a point guard, and even play both at the three (SF) or four (SG). With his great passing skills and ability to move the floor, shooters like Zach Lavine and Colby White will have better looks. Although his shot is inconsistent, Avdija can open up the floor even more with an improved one. While Avdija will probably come off the bench, he will give the team more opportunities to score in other rotations besides the starting line up.
5. Isaac Okoro, SG/SF, Auburn University – Cleveland Cavaliers:*
There’s a lot of talk about the Cavaliers drafting Obi Toppin but Cleveland does not need another big man defender. What they need is an elite wing defender- a role they have failed to fulfill since the departure of LeBron James. Okoro knows how to use his speed and size against defenders and also knows how to effectively defend both on and off the ball. Offensively, he is an explosive wing player at the rim and is hard to stop from scoring in transition. Okoro will give the Cavaliers the versatility they need.
6. Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State – Atlanta Hawks
While Atlanta might be tempted to draft Okongwu, Atlanta’s number one priority should be help for Trae Young. By drafting Haliburton, the Hawks will be able to accomplish this. Young is by far the highest scorer on the Hawks (averages 29.6 points per game), whereas only one other player, John Collins, averages around 20 points per game. Haliburton can fix this lack of scoring and give Young a break considering he shot 40% from the three point line last season at Iowa State. Haliburton has a high basketball IQ, has excellent court vision, and can effectively pass the ball without turning it over (his assist to turnover ratio is 3.5:1). Haliburton could also be reliable as a backup point guard for Young. Giving Young a dynamic partner in the backcourt to make effective plays would improve the Hawk’s offense tremendously.
7. Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany) – Detroit Pistons
The Pistons need to rebuild their team, and this starts with drafting a skillful point guard who can lead the players. Hayes’s experience in leading a competitive team overseas could carry over in Detroit. This pick would also solidify the backcourt, where Detroit needs a lot of help in. Hayes would contribute a lot of skills such as range, court vision, and can effectively move and score in transition. Hayes knows how to get his teammates involved by effectively running a pick and roll or dishing out to a perimeter shooter after driving to the basket. He would also learn from former MVP and current Pistons point guard, Derrick Rose as he enters the final year of his contract. Overall, Hayes can make his teammates better. Looking into the future, the Pistons have no franchise point guard, but drafting and grooming Hayes into one will give them a lot of success.
8. Devin Vassell, SG, Florida State University – New York Knicks
The glaring issues in the current roster for the Knicks is defense and perimeter shooting, considering they nearly ranked last in both categories during the 2019-2020 season. Vassell could easily remedy this issue. At Florida State University, Vasell shot 41% from the three point line and he can consistently pull up and shoot from midrange. He also knows how to create enough space between him and his defender, but aside from his perimeter shooting he can also effectively drive to the basket to score. New York’s current Center, Mitchell Robinson did not do a good job at recovering rebounds last season. As a defender, Vassell uses his strength and can efficiently rebound the ball for a wing defender. If the Knicks draft Vassell, they will be on track to improve their defensive and offensive ratings.
9. Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, University of Southern California – Washington Wizards*
The Washington Wizards also lack a solid defense and desperately need coverage in the paint. By drafting Okongwu, the Wizards will be receiving one of the best defenders from this draft class. At the University of Southern California, he averaged 8.1 rebounds, and proved his ability to protect the rim. Not only is Okongwu a solid defender in the paint, but also he can easily switch his defender. On defense he is smart and usually stays out of foul trouble which will help him stay off the bench. He is also a well rounded shooter and his ability to run an effective pick and roll in combination with a healthy John Wall will help the Wizards with their scoring. With Okongwu on the Wizards, the team will improve their defense and see a lot more blocked or contested shots in the paint.
10. Kira Lewis, PG, University of Alabama – Phoenix Suns
In the trade to acquire Chris Paul, the Suns lost Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, and Jalen Lecque. While Jerome and Lecque were not as critical to the team, Oubre Jr and Rubio were. Since the Suns are losing a couple of their top scorers, and they desperately need to help Booker with scoring and passing. Lewis offers the Suns a solid shot with a quick release, and does not need a lot of space to shoot. Booker and Lewis on the court together will take a lot of pressure from the defense off of Booker. At the same time, the Suns would have a reliable shooter when Booker is on the bench. A critical part of the Sun’s offense is ball movement, and Lewis’s quickness will help keep a momentum going. His ability to close in the defense and dish the ball away to an open teammate will also contribute to this ball movement. While the Suns already have Paul as their point guard, he is 34-years-old and reaching the end of his career. If a veteran like Paul takes Lewis under his wing and mentors him, the Suns can be confident that they will have an impressive franchise point guard in the future.
*While these projections are based on the best fit, the Washington Wizards will need to trade down to the fifth pick with the Cleveland Cavaliers. This would then move Cleveland to the ninth pick where Okoro would definitely be available*