2020 Post-NBA Draft Analysis: Picks 1-15

by Josh Cohen

1. Anthony Edwards | Minnesota Timberwolves

Even though many had LaMelo Ball or James Wiseman at the top of their draft boards, Edwards fits much better in Minnesota around Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder, who averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists in his one year at the University of Georgia, should bring more offensive firepower to a team that thrived on that end of the floor after acquiring Russell from the Warriors. What will be key for Edwards, a dynamic scorer, is for him to use his physical tools and apply them on the defensive side, where he generally struggled in college.

2. James Wiseman | Golden State Warriors

The word all offseason was that Golden State needed to complement its star-studded backcourt with a versatile frontcourt player. The Warriors landed the most talented one in this draft, getting the 7-foot-1, 235-pound Wiseman second overall in the draft. Klay Thompson’s status after reportedly injuring his right leg during a scrimmage in Southern California will determine whether Golden State jumps back into championship contention this season or not. Wiseman, who only played in three games for the Memphis Tigers before withdrawing from the school, could be utilized in different ways. Early on, his impact will likely be greater on the defensive end, where he has the tools to be an elite rim protector despite not necessarily possessing the lateral quickness to defend in space when he gets switched onto speedsters in pick-and-roll. Over time, though, he has enough upside offensively to blossom into a prolific scorer, especially if the Warriors decide to run sets through him in the post or while facing the basket.

3. LaMelo Ball | Charlotte Hornets

There’s some extra buzz – no pun intended – in Charlotte with the arrival of Ball, a 6-foot-7, flashy point guard. The big questions on Ball, who last season played professionally in Australia for the Illawarra Hawks, is whether he will become a consistent outside shooter and a more stout pick-and-roll defender, his two glaring weaknesses. Other than that, the instincts, vision and pizzazz he possesses should allow him to shine in a stylistically-pleasing offensive configuration that suits his strengths. Unlike his older brother, Lonzo, LaMelo has the ability to drive downhill out of the pick-and-roll and finish near the basket, critical for NBA guards to do at a high level.

4. Patrick Williams | Chicago Bulls

Probably the biggest surprise of the draft was Williams going to the Bulls with the fourth overall pick. So, you’re probably wondering, why did the 6-foot-8, 225-pounder get picked much higher than originally projected? Some think his physical profile matches up with what’s trending in the NBA. He has Kawhi Leonard-capabilities, although he’s definitely far, far away from playing at that kind of level. Effectively guarding positions one through four is something he should be able to do right away, which will certainly benefit Chicago under new head coach Billy Donovan. He also fills a void, as the Bulls didn’t previously have a switchable forward with the type of two-way potential he has.

5. Isaac Okoro | Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs had the NBA’s worst defensive rating in 2019-20, so selecting Okoro, arguably the best defender in this draft, seems on paper like a smart decision. At minimum, the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder should be a stifling on-ball defender. Guarding the other team’s best player is what Okoro is going to be asked to do on a nightly basis. The big question, though, on the former Auburn standout is whether he can develop a 3-point shot. That was certainly absent in college, as he made just 28.6 percent of his tries from beyond the arc with the Tigers. The only way he can live up to top five draft pick expectations is for him to consistently knock down his spot-up threes when his new Cleveland teammates, Darius Garland and Collin Sexton specifically, get into the paint and kick the ball out to him.

6. Onyeka Okongwu | Atlanta Hawks

One could argue that the most important big man characteristic in the NBA today is being able to switch in pick-and-roll and keep opposing guards in front of them. The more mismatches available for an opponent to exploit, the likelier it is for a team to struggle defensively. Okongwu, like we’ve seen with All-Stars Anthony Davis and Bam Adebayo, can slide his feet and contain speedsters when they look to attack the paint. Now, let’s be real here, Okongwu, Atlanta’s sixth overall draft pick, doesn’t have Davis or Adebayo’s offensive repertoires. He can’t score like Davis and he can’t pass like Adebayo. But his defensive impact could be similar. It is a little ambiguous how Okongwu will mesh with Clint Capela, who the Hawks acquired at the trade deadline last season.

7. Killian Hayes | Detroit Pistons

An intriguing young duo to keep an eye on is in Detroit. Hayes, the Pistons’ seventh overall draft pick, now joins forces with fellow Frenchman Sekou Doumbouya, Detroit’s first round selection a year ago. Hayes, while still learning the point guard position, has some James Harden-ish qualities. While limited athletically, the 6-foot-5 Hayes has some nifty footwork, making him arguably the craftiest point guard in this draft. He has a fairly reliable step-back jumper, which is a Harden staple. Now, of course, that’s not to suggest Hayes, who was born in Lakeland, Florida, will reach that level. But, the tools are there for him to be an elite playmaker in this league. Developing a right-hand will be key, although all lefties can get back left whenever they have to (just ask Manu Ginobili and Goran Dragic). Hayes is probably the second best passer in this draft after LaMelo Ball.

8. Obi Toppin | New York Knicks

It was 10 years ago when Amar’e Stoudemire was the top box office attraction at Madison Square Garden after the Knicks signed him to a big contract. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long because of injuries. New York, however, now brings a player that has a similar skillset to the Garden in Toppin, the 2019-20 NCAA Player of the Year. The 6-foot-9, 220-pounder is a dunking machine. He will bring a ton of excitement just with his athleticism and style. The big question, though, is whether he can overcome his deficiencies on defense. Toppin does not possess the lateral foot speed or technique to switch, concerning with what it takes for power forwards to be elite in the NBA today. The Knicks will need to find a steady, pass-first point guard to complement Toppin, who is terrific at finishing when rolling to the hoop.

9. Deni Avdija | Washington Wizards

Is Avdija going to be the next great point forward in the NBA? That’s what many observers think, as his vision, instincts and playmaking are off the charts. A player the 6-foot-9 Israeli compares to is former Orlando Magic great Hedo Turkoglu. It’s unknown whether Avdija, just 19 years old, can develop into a premier scorer, though. Unlike Luka Doncic, who some have compared him to, Avdija doesn’t have outstanding footwork or balance, which makes it tougher for him to create his own shots or make difficult ones (like step-back jumpers). He runs the pick-and-roll well, which Turkoglu was amazing at, but he’s definitely more effective passing out of them than scoring. His outside shooting is a work in progress, too, as he didn’t shoot it well from distance for Maccabi Tel Aviv this past season. But, his versatility is so unique that Washington can plug him into any role and he will make it work. He’s excellent in transition (will often grab rebound and push the ball); he’s comfortable spotting up on the perimeter when he’s playing off the ball; he can post up against smaller defenders; defensively he’s tough and fearless (kind of like Dario Saric).

10. Jalen Smith | Phoenix Suns

This was one of the more surprising picks in the lottery. Will a Deandre Ayton/Smith frontcourt work? It might, considering Smith became more of a floor spacer in his sophomore year at Maryland. He drilled nearly 37 percent of his 3-point tries, a 10 percent improvement from the prior season. Smith is also more of a rim protector than Ayton. However, neither move their feet that well on the perimeter, which could create some defensive liabilities. What should help both of them, though, is having newly acquired Chris Paul feed them the rock. A starting lineup of Paul, Devin Booker, Cam Johnson, Smith and Ayton is an intriguing one, as that group is versatile and balanced enough to help the Suns snap their playoff drought this season.

11. Devin Vassell | San Antonio Spurs

A 3-and-D complementary piece or a potential down-the-road superstar? At minimum, Vassell should be able to space the floor for the Spurs, who chose him 11th overall. He buried 41.7 percent of his 3-point tries in his two college seasons at Florida State combined. He also will be among the best team defenders from this draft. Very few at his age have the instincts and anticipation that he has, which allows him to telegraph passes and disrupt the flow of the other team’s offense. Some, however, think he has more to offer once he adds more muscle to his frame. Right now, he doesn’t possess much offensive creativity, and rarely does he ever initiate contact on his drives. That could change playing under Gregg Popovich, who helped Kawhi Leonard transform into the player he is today.

12. Tyrese Haliburton | Sacramento Kings

Some thought Haliburton, a 6-foot-5, 175-pound versatile guard, should have been picked higher. That’s fair considering the impact he could make with his 7-foot wingspan. But, it is important to acknowledge that he’s not much of a downhill driver nor does he operate that well in pick-and-roll action. In Sacramento, where the ball is mostly in De’Aaron Fox’s hands, Haliburton will likely play off the ball more, which suits his strengths. He’s a very good spot-up 3-point shooter, even though the jumper looks quite awkward. And then on defense, he will be able to guard multiple positions, a prerequisite for good defensive players in the NBA.

13. Kira Lewis Jr. | New Orleans Pelicans

Expect the Pelicans with new head coach Stan Van Gundy to be one of the fastest teams in the NBA this season and for years ahead. Selecting Lewis Jr., the speedster out of Alabama, solidified that, as he, Zion Williamson and Lonzo Ball together will be entertaining to watch. The big question for New Orleans, though, is do they have enough floor spacing to give Williamson enough room to operate? Lewis is a decent outside shooter, making 36.6 percent of his 3-point tries this past season. Ball made some strides in this area, but that will have to improve even more. While Jaxson Hayes is an excellent rim-runner and has the tools to switch on defense, he doesn’t space the floor, which New Orleans will need from a big man playing alongside Zion.

14. Aaron Nesmith | Boston Celtics

The Celtics landed the best pure shooter in this draft. Nesmith buried 52.2 percent of his 115 3-point attempts during his sophomore campaign at Vanderbilt before suffering a season-ending foot injury in January. How, assuming he is healthy, will he fit alongside Boston’s other wings – notably Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown? The 6-foot-6 Nesmith will give Brad Stevens another offensive dimension, and that is running more off-ball action to create more 3-point looks. Nesmith has a lightning quick release and doesn’t need much space to square up and launch. Still, Boston needs to address its frontcourt situation. As we saw in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami, the Celtics don’t have a big to match up with guys like Bam Adebayo.

15. Cole Anthony | Orlando Magic

One of the most interesting young backcourts moving forward is going to be in Orlando. Markelle Fultz, one of the NBA’s most improved players last season, and Anthony, the Magic’s 15th overall pick this year, have the potential to do some serious damage together. Both are excellent pick-and-roll players, which will give head coach Steve Clifford an opportunity to get very creative. Anthony, the son of former NBA player and current NBA TV and TNT analyst Greg Anthony, is a dynamic scorer with a great touch from nearly anywhere on the court. Although very erratic during his one and only season at UNC, the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder is incredibly confident. Some have compared him to Denver Nuggets superstar Jamal Murray, which if that turns out to be accurate, the Magic will have landed themselves a gem in the middle of the first round.

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