Welcome to the inaugural Holy Backboard NBA Mock Draft!
[DUSTIN]: It’s an odd feeling talking draft in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, but here we are and I am excited for some legitimate NBA action. I’ve really done a complete 180 on this draft class. Pre-pandemic, I wanted nothing to do with the 2020 NBA Draft. It was (and still is) time to win-now for the Trail Blazers, and I was all about moving the No. 16 pick for a veteran to add to Portland’s rotation. However, the pandemic has thrown a wrench into NBA finances across the league and having young players on cost-controlled contracts for the next three-to-five years is increasing in importance. Also, it doesn’t help that the vast majority of teams would also like to trade for proven players. The value of trading out of the draft just simply isn’t there.
I’ve also used my time in quarantine to study the prospects, especially those projected to be selected around the middle of the first round, and get familiar with what they bring to the table. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not a superstar draft. With that said, it is a draft filled with solid, NBA-level talent of players ready to step-in and help teams win-now.
[SAGE]: This draft is very light on players with star potential, but what this draft does have is players that have very high basketball IQ and know their roles. Since March, I’ve tried to identify players who will have value and continue improving their games.
[DUSTIN]: Sage will be selecting the odd numbered picks, while I will be making selections for even numbered picks.
Without further ado, Sage is on the clock for the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Mock Draft.
#1. Minnesota Timberwolves
LaMelo Ball, PG, lawarra Hawks/USA, 6’7”, 19
THE PLAYER: LaMelo has the highest potential in the draft. If he reaches the ceiling on his potential, he’d be one of the best primary playmakers in the league. With the draft class not having much star potential, taking a chance on LaMelo is a good bet. If he hits a low-end outcome, he will still have all the playmaking utility, but teams won’t respect the shot because of how inconsistent it is. Whoever drafts him will have to make him unlearn bad defensive habits because right now, he’s a guy you should hide defensively because of lack of strength, and he never had to play defense in his life.
THE FIT: Minnesota has been making an effort to make their star Karl Anthony Towns happy. In this draft, it’s time to improve his quality of life with LaMelo Ball. The Timberwolves run a lot of Pick and Rolls and Dribble handoffs involving KAT. With Ball, you got a guy who could be a great partner and be a massive factor in keeping KAT in Minnesota for the long haul
#2. Golden State Warriors
James Wiseman, C, Memphis, 7’1”, 19
THE PLAYER: Wiseman is arguably the draft’s greatest unknown. Aftering playing only three games at the University of Memphis, because the NCAA is well … corrupt, the amount of tape on Wiseman playing high-level competition is minimal. Regardless, he’s a modern NBA center who is lean and agile. He runs the floor like a gazelle and has impressive leaping ability for a player of his size. His game is still quite raw, but it’s easy to envision Wiseman progressing into a plus shot blocker and rebounder who is always a threat on the receiving end of an alley-oop.
THE FIT: Make no mistake about it, if the Warriors can trade this pick, they will. I still feel like Deni Avdija is the better fit, but if Golden State is forced to stand pat, they will take what they believe the highest ceiling player is in Wiseman. Landing in the Bay Area is the best case scenario for a player like Wiseman who is a couple years away from truly contributing. With the bulk of the shots coming from the Splash Brothers, Wiseman will earn his playing time rebounding and defending and who better to learn from than former DPOY, Draymond Green.
#3. Charlotte Hornets
Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia , 6’5”, 19
THE PLAYER: Klutch Sports’ newest representative Anthony Edwards has the potential to be a volume scorer on a playoff team. He can hit tough shots since he is a taller guard; he will play multiple positions. Excellent off-ball cutter with the athletic ability to dunk it off one or two feet, and a player who draws fouls at a solid rate. Defensively, he has the size and strength to be a point of attack defender but hasn’t shown consistency.
THE FIT: Mitch Kupchak runs to the podium to draft Anthony Edwards.
The Hornets have used so much draft and monetary assets to find that lead guard; that’s why Killan Hayes isn’t the pick at three. It is good that the Hornets have Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham to run the team because Charlotte wouldn’t want to have everything run through a rookie in Anthony Edwards. With Edwards’ ability to be a splasher, he could be a devastating off-ball guard for the Hornets, who would finally have some entertaining players to watch develop after an incredibly long time of being forgettable and irrelevant.
#4. Chicago Bulls
Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm/France, 6’5”, 19
THE PLAYER: Hayes is a smooth lefty point guard with size and skill that has him atop many draft boards despite not gaining much momentum to crack the Top 3. At 6’5”, his ability to see over and read the defense gives him a natural advantage over most point guards, but it’s his improving jump shot, especially off of the step-back, which could cement Hayes as an All-Star down the line. He’s not day one ready but playing professionally overseas the past two seasons gives him a leg up on the other lead guard prospects in this draft.
THE FIT: This is where the draft starts to move, and Chicago desperately needs help everywhere. The Bulls have missed the playoffs the past three years and thanks to the Jimmy Butler trade in 2017, 2020 will mark their fourth-straight year selecting in the lottery. Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. have shown flashes but neither is worthy of being dubbed a franchise cornerstone, making the likes of Obi Toppin and Onyeka Okongwu potential picks at No. 4. Coby White is coming off of a solid rookie campaign, but he projects more Jason Terry than Jason Kidd. Chicago has a lot of mouths to feed on offense and Hayes is the best point available. And when you factor in his size at 6’5”, which gives him the ability to play spot minutes at the two alongside White, it starts adding up why Hayes is the perfect pick to land in the Windy City.
Deni Avdija, SF/PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv/Israel, 6’8”, 19
THE PLAYER: Player comparisons say he could be the next Luka or Danilo Gallinari, but that’s incredibly ambitious. Personally, I think that’s lazy, and they are just looking for another European player to compare with Deni. What Avdija is as a player is a wing that has incredible vision with his playmaking, good handles for a player his size, and is an excellent cutter with his quick first step. Defensively, he can read what the offense is doing and get in the right position to make the play, and is also a three-position defender.
THE FIT: The Cavaliers were a horrific defensive team last year. Cleveland had a defensive rating of 115.4, the second-worst mark of the league, and 4.5 points worse than the league average. I think they do have potential defensively with Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Kevin Porter Jr.
Deni can add to their defensive potential by protecting the rim with weak side help or being there to be a Point of Attack defender on a switch.
#6. Atlanta Hawks
Isaac Okoro, SG, Auburn, 6’6”, 19
THE PLAYER: Arguably the best perimeter defender in this class, Okoro earns his reputation on the defensive end of the floor. He’s an incredible athlete who excels at slashing to the basket and finishing in the paint. What worries most front offices is the lack of a consistent jump shot as Okoro just a chilly 28.6% from downtown in his lone season at Auburn, on 2.5 attempts per game. From his footwork to shot mechanics, Okoro needs to tighten up on his jump shot fundamentals before he can truly be thought of as a 3 & D rotation player.
THE FIT: Defense, defense, defense. For a team that allowed a league-worst 119.7 points per game, Atlanta will be looking for a player who can help bolster the defense as well as mask some of Trey Young’s deficiencies on that end of the court. I flirted with the idea of adding Onyeka Okongwu, another defensive-minded player, but with Clint Capela only 26 and under contract through the 2023 NBA season, I believe Atlanta will go for a player who has a chance to start sooner rather than later. Landing in his home state of Georgia would be ideal for Okoro, who lacks the ability to make plays and create for himself. With Young and John Collins taking the lion’s share of shots, Okoro will be free to roam the floor for putback buckets and fast break highlights while he waits for the rest of his game to mature.
#7. Detroit Pistons
Devin Vassell, SG/SF, Florida State, 6’7”, 20
THE PLAYER: With Issac Okoro getting picked right before Devin, it’s time for the other elite wing defender to be selected. As a defensive prospect, Vassell is more of the off-ball defender, stalking the passing lanes, digging down on cutters, and uses his length to contest shots for the help side. His motor is non-stop defensively, and when he is on the ball, he will beat the offensive player to the spot and frustrate the player. Offensively, he is a knockdown shooter and has some moves to counter the defenders late close with a consistent one dribble pull.
THE FIT: A big weakness for Detroit for a long time has been the lack of a wing presence that could score and defend, and with the pick of Devin Vassell, they finally find their guy that can defend and provide some much-needed athleticism. With Detroit being a bottom third defensive team, having a guy like Vassell who is a fantastic team defender with an excellent work ethic that communicates well, will be a great player for the Detroit Pistons to select.
#8. New York Knicks
Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton, 6’9”, 22
THE PLAYER: In a draft filled with potential and unknown talent, Toppin, college basketball’s Most Outstanding Player, is ready to plug and play right away. Toppin, an incredibly bouncy big, had Dayton on the verge of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before the pandemic hit. Had he been able to showcase himself in the Tournament, one could easily envision Toppin moving into the Top 3 as GM’s and Governors love to fall in love with the darlings of the dance.
Offensively, Toppin is one of the safest bets in the draft and is a threat to posterize his defender at all times. On the other hand, he’ll need to work to become just an average defender and when you factor in his age (22) and the agility of modern bigs, it’s going to be an uphill climb for Toppin to become reliable on that end of the floor.
THE FIT: Knicks fans would actually be happy on draft day for once? Crazy thought, I know. And while New York is littered with power forwards, no one player on their roster should deter them from selecting the best player available. If one team needs to take top-end talent, it’s the Knicks. Toppin’s highlight dunks combined with the energy of Madison Square Garden (post-pandemic) would be must-see TV. Mitchell Robinson might even be able to hide some of Toppin’s deficiencies on the defensive end as well. New York hasn’t had much to celebrate over the past two decades, so landing one of the draft’s biggest names, after taking a nosedive on lottery night, would be a huge success for a franchise looking to become relevant once again.
#9. Washington Wizards
Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC, 6’10”, 19
THE PLAYER: As the tug of war of not drafting Obi Toppin is now over, thanks to Dustin, we can now move on to talking about some exciting players like Onyeka Okongwu. Onyeka has the best chance of becoming a very good player out of anyone in the draft. The floor is very high, and his ceiling is very high as well. Offensively, Onyeka is a high-energy big man who is an excellent rim runner that can finish around the rim with momentum-changing dunks. Defensively, he’s a scheme versatile big who excels in drop coverage, switching, hedging, and recovering; Onyeka can do it all defensively.
THE FIT: The Wizards have been an atrocious defense for years now, especially against opposing centers. They allowed the 4th-most fantasy points against centers last year. Those types of position-based stats aren’t a clear indicator since smaller players can defend different positions, but for centers, they defend each other. The Wizards have two stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal, who both play in the backcourt, are getting older, and dealing with injuries. Onyeka can make life easier for them by blocking shots at the rim and become one of the core players of the next generation for the Wizards.
#10. Phoenix Suns
Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State, 6’5”, 20
THE PLAYER: Haliburton, who saw his Sophomore season cut short due to a fractured wrist back in February, is a big lead guard who uses his height (6’5”) and length (7’0” reach) to his advantage. On the offensive end, he excels in executing the pick and roll. While he shot a blistering 41.9% from distance in his last season at Iowa State, including 5.6 attempts per game, he’ll need to improve not only the quickness of his jump shot but form as well if he wants it to translate to the next level. Defensively, he has the potential to be a nightmare on that end of the court with his awareness and athleticism.
THE FIT: Does the fit get any better? James Jones and the Phoenix front office would be salivating if Haliburton falls to No. 10. His size and defensive potential make him a perfect fit next to Devin Booker in the backcourt and while he progresses on his jumper, he’ll have plenty of options to defer to in the Valley of the Sun. Having Ricky Rubio under contract for two more seasons allows Phoenix to bring Haliburton along without slowing down their momentum acquired from this summer’s bubble in Orlando.
#11. San Antonio Spurs
Patrick Williams, PF, Florida State, 6’8”, 19
THE PLAYER: The second FSU prospect to be drafted in the lottery in this mock draft, Patrick Williams, is the youngest American in the draft. Patrick has some lateral movement issues, which is a huge factor for him dropping to the Spurs. If they can add some fluidity in his hips, which could add to his lateral quickness and make him able to defend small forwards in the NBA. Offensively, he is a 3 & D power forward who will attack the rim if they close out too aggressively. San Antonio could use him as a secondary playmaker running pick and rolls with LaMarcus Aldridge, because he has shown decent dribbling and passing at Florida State – a school well-known for pigeon-holding players to specific roles. Defensively, he’ll be a strong team defender with a very high defensive IQ who rotates well.
THE FIT: Williams could go to the Spurs and instantly become one of the best three-point shooters on the team. As someone who can do multiple things offensively, he can help the Spurs in numerous ways with playmaking, off-ball cutting, and spot-up shooting. Williams will be in a good situation with Coach Pop as his coach and older vets to help him along the way.
#12. Sacramento Kings
Aleksej Pokuševski, PF/C, Olympiacos B (Greece)/Serbia, 7’0”, 18
THE PLAYER: The ultimate boom or bust prospect. Pokuševski is a couple of years away from contributing at the NBA level, so any team that selects him must have a long-term plan in place. A franchise that practices patience with a player of Poku’s skill could pay off in spades. At 7’0”, Poku has the ability to not only handle the ball coast-to-coast but initiate and run an offense. He’s an unselfish player with incredible vision for a player of his height. To top it all off, he projects as a knock-down shooter as he matures and adds strength to his frame. Speaking of strength, Poku is rail-thin, weighing in at just 200 lbs. Any team that drafts him will likely use his rookie year as a redshirt, getting him acquainted with the weight room, and putting a smart strength plan in place.
THE FIT: Conventional wisdom would have the Kings drafting one of the available shooting guards at this spot with Bogdan Bogdanović’s free agency looming and a disconnect between the organization and Buddy Hield. But when have the Kings ever drafted with conventional wisdom? Even with new management in the front office, the Kings could throw the draft’s first curveball in selecting Pokuševski. It would be tempting for a team who hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006 to go after a safer, more ready-to-win player, but Sacramento is nowhere near contention and should play the long-game. With his ability to shoot and pass, Poku projects nicely alongside former lottery pick, Marvin Bagley.
PS – This mock draft was written before The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor. 😉
#13. New Orleans Pelicans
Tyrese Maxey, G, Kentucky, 6’3”, 20
THE PLAYER: Tyrese Maxey fits in any NBA scheme but what fits best with this prospect is having him play with a lead playmaker like Zion Williamson or Brandon Ingram. He had a very tough year shooting the ball in college because of the Kentucky team and lack of spacing, but I believe in his shot because of previous shooting numbers before Kentucky. Defensively, he is a point of attack that teams are trying to find with great feet, hips, and hands; he’s going to lock up opposing defenders.
THE FIT: David Griffin has a choice to make between Maxey and Kira Lewis Jr. I think he would go with Maxey, because all this talk about trading Jrue Holiday and/or Lonzo Ball is set up to make Ingram and Zion take on bigger roles in the offense. New Orleans will enter camp with a guy that can lock up opposing lead guards and be a perfect release valve for Ingram and Zion.
#14. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies)
Saddiq Bey, SF/PF, Villanova, 6’8”, 21
THE PLAYER: The most NBA-ready player in this entire draft. While Bey does not have the ceiling of some of his counterparts, he projects as a rotational player right off the bat with a chance to have a lengthy career (think Nick Collison). Bey brings to the table a consistent outside jump shot that saw him shoot 45.1% from downtown, on 5.6 attempts per game, during his Sophomore campaign at Villanova – up from 37.4% his Freshman season. Most importantly, he doesn’t play outside of his skill-set and brings the energy on a nightly basis. As like most players who come from Jay Wright’s system, Bey is a heady defender who’s IQ on that end of the floor will keep him on the court to close games out.
THE FIT: We’re not predicting trades for this mock draft, but it feels highly unlikely the Celtics keep all three of their first round draft picks. If Bey is available at No. 14, look for a team to move up and select the talented forward who can succeed in any system given his two-way talents. This feels eerily similar to 2019’s NBA Draft when Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke slipped and Memphis wisely swooped in and found gold in the middle of the first round.
#15. Orlando Magic
Kira Lewis Jr, PG, Alabama, 6’3”, 19
THE PLAYER: The speedster out of Alabama, Kira Lewis has the potential to be a significant playmaking hub of an offense. His motor doesn’t stop offensively or defensively. Offensively, he can be the lead guard for a team, who is able to set up his teammates with easy buckets but can also progress into an off-ball player due to his shooting abilities. Lastly, with his speed, he can become a reliable scorer for any team.
Defensively he will be a point of attack defender, because he isn’t strong enough to defend players bigger than him. Lewis projects as a smart team defender and could force turnovers if given freedom to utilize his natural instincts.
THE FIT: The Orlando Magic need someone that can get buckets and set up others for easy scoring opportunities. With Jonathan Issac out for the foreseeable future, there is an opening in the starting lineup. I think the Magic need to have a dynamic player, so I would start and run a lineup of Lewis, Markelle Fultz, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, and Nikola Vucevic. In the modern NBA, teams need to have a lineup of players that can defend, play-make for each other, and put points on the board.
#16. Portland Trail Blazers
Aaron Nesmith, SG, Vanderbilt, 6’6”, 21
THE PLAYER: In my opinion, the best shooting prospect in the draft hands down. Nesmith has a prototypical size for a two-guard at 6’6” (6’10” wingspan) who can absolutely fill it up. The Vandy marksman shot an incredible 52.2% from distance, on a healthy 8.2 attempts per game. The caveat is the sample size is small as Nesmith was limited to just 14 games after suffering a right foot injury. What makes Nesmith special as a shooter is the bevvy of ways in which he’s able to get shots off. Whether it’s off the bounce, running off of screens, or via catch-and-shoot, Nesmith is a nightmare for opposing defenders to keep track of.
THE FIT: For those who have listened to our draft preview episode, you all know Nesmith is a polarizing prospect between the two of us. If Sage was selecting here at No. 16, he’d likely go with TCU’s Desmond Bane. Personally, I’m all in on Nesmith, sample size be damned. Portland needs more shooting. We all saw the impact Gary Trent’s emergence in the bubble had on the offense. Having a young sharpshooter in the wings is important insurance for Trent’s upcoming free agency in 2021 and Rodney Hood’s rehabilitation progress.
#17. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn Nets)
Desmond Bane, SG/SF, TCU, 6’6”, 22
THE PLAYER: Desmond Bane, the team-first player out of TCU, is a plug and play player for any NBA team. In my opinion, Desmond is the best shooter in the draft because he played the entire year and has a large sample size for us to see his shooting skill. He can shoot off the bounce, movement, and catch and shoot. Desmond also is the best passing non-point guard in the draft. In his time at TCU, he was running pick and roll finding the right player at the right time.
Defensively, he is a brilliant team defender and communicator. He is an active defender because he is so strong that it’s tough for a screen to separate him from his man.
THE FIT: Minnesota has offensive players that have no desire to play defense as well as defensive players who can’t shoot which leads to poor spacing on the court. Desmond is a player that can bridge the gap and can play both ends of the floor. Bane is the type of player that will help the entire core of the Timberwolves. His shooting ability will open the floor for D’Angelo Russell and LaMelo Ball, provides a release valve on their drives, could potentially play the pick and roll with Karl-Anthony Towns, and also become a high percentage shooter so teams can’t sag of the screen.
#18. Dallas Mavericks
RJ Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers/USA, 6’5”, 19
THE PLAYER: Hampton, the former blue-chip prospect from Little Elm, Texas, spurned the collegiate ranks to play professionally overseas in New Zealand. He’s a tremendous athlete, who can finish around the basket, and has upside through the roof. While he’s not a knock-down shooter at this stage of his career (29.5% from 3 and 40.7% overall last season with the Breakers), his form suggests there’s room to grow into a reliable threat from the perimeter. Listed at 6’5”, Hampton shows up small on film. He must become best friends with the weight room and show a willingness to become a plus-defender if he’s ever to reach his maximum abilities.
THE FIT: If the draft board looks like this when Dallas is on the clock, expect the Mavericks to at least inquire about moving back. Guards Maxey, Nesmith, and Bane would all be wonderful selections for Dallas, but with all off the board, it’s time to go with the best player available. Although the Mavericks made the leap to the postseason last year, there’s still no rush to compete for a championship given the youth of Luka Dončić, so Dallas can afford to swing for the fences and play the waiting game while Hampton develops.
#19. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers)
Jalen Smith, C, Maryland, 6’10”, 20
THE PLAYER: Jalen Smith is one of the safest big men in the draft. He has a rare combination of shooting and rim protection. Smith is a good shooter and has the potential to grow into a great shooting big man as he has the ability to catch and shoot and even shown flashes of connecting on movement threes. His shooting will keep teams interested in him in the league for a long time.
Defensively, he’s a rim protector that is intelligent and has a high motor. It’s uncertain at this time how his lack of footspeed and slow hip turns will affect his ability to play defense in the league.
THE FIT: The Nets are trying to find players to make life easier for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Right now, their big man rotations are nothing but rim runners. Drafting Smith will give the team more space to work and the pick-and-pop potential of having a big that can stretch the floor.
#20. Miami Heat
Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford, 6’3”, 20
THE PLAYER: Terry is a modern-day point guard who keeps defenses honest with his court vision and ability to score in a plethora of ways. While his passing is a work in progress, Terry’s ability to shoot from distance and finish marvelously around the rim are his calling cards currently. Like so many of these prospects, do not expect an immediate impact from Terry primarily due to his lack of strength. At 160 lbs., Terry simply is not strong enough to defend, rebound, or even finish at the NBA level.
THE FIT: Assuming the Heat keep this pick, Terry fits in nicely with what Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley have brewing down in South Beach. It’s no secret the Heat love their shooters and, add to the fact Goran Dragić is 34 and a free agent this offseason, it would behoove the Heat to look for his replacement in the form of Tyrell Terry.
#21. Philadelphia 76ers
Cole Anthony, PG/SG, UNC, 6’3”, 20
THE PLAYER: Last year Cole Anthony was in a tier all his own, but as we get ready for the NBA draft, no one has fallen more than Anthony. Part of this stems from a partly torn meniscus in his right knee, and this season’s Carolina team being one of the worst in a while. Many of Anthony’s weaknesses got exposed this year, but the one skill that shined the brightest was his pull-up ability. To best utilize him, a team will want to have another playmaker on the floor so Cole can focus on getting buckets in bunches. Due to how small he is, he can only defend guards. With his competitiveness and quickness, he will become a positive defender in the league.
THE FIT: Daryl Morey will run-up to the podium to draft Cole Anthony. He is a perfect fit for the 76ers, who need some shooting on this team since Ben Simmons just isn’t going to. When Philly was most successful, they had knockdown shooters that could provide spacing for the Philadelphia stars. Anthony will be another vital shooter, so the defense can’t just clog the paint.
#22. Denver Nuggets (via Houston Rockets)
Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis, 6’9”, 21
THE PLAYER: Five years down the road Achiuwa could either be out of the league or looked at as one of the Top 5 best players from the Class of 2020. It’s easy to see why scouts are intrigued by his game, as Achiuwa has incredible athleticism and agility for a player of his size (6’9” with a 7’2” wingspan), can hold his own with the dribble, and has a motor unmatched by any in this draft class. Right now Achiuwa projects as a high-energy performer off of the bench, gobbling up rebounds, and scoring off of putbacks. If he’s able to turn into a consistent catch-and-shooter threat from the perimeter, watch out.
THE FIT: The slide stops in the Mile High City for Achiuwa, and in typical Nuggets fashion they don’t think twice about taking a player many have going in the late lottery. With Mason Plumlee, Paul Millsap, and Jerami Grant all set to hit free agency this month, Denver will look to keep the front-court cupboards full. Denver struck gold once before on a high-energy forward in Kenneth Faried; they just might do it again.
#23. Utah Jazz
Isaiah Joe, SG/SF, Arkansas, 6’5”, 21
THE PLAYER: Isaiah Joe is an aggressive scorer and defender out of Arkansas. Offensively, he is a floor-spacing wing that has the potential to become a movement shooter if the right training staff can get him used to running off of screens. He has the potential to create space for himself in order to shake his defender and launch from distance.
Defensively, he’s a very good off-ball defender and can get himself in trouble with being overly aggressive. He has a thin frame and, if he’s going to defend at his position, he must get a lot stronger.
THE FIT: Utah has most of its rotation set. You have to assume Mike Conley is going to take that last year of his contract. When I think of what the Jazz need in order to take that next step, it’s either a backup center or another 3 & D wing to challenge Royce O’Neal. I keep seeing Derrick Favors going back to Utah rumors, so Isaiah Joe to the Jazz it is.
#24. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers)
Jaden McDaniels, SF/PF, Washington, 6’10”, 20
THE PLAYER: McDaniels, the former 5* star recruit, had a forgettable Freshman campaign at the University of Washington. The versatile 6’10” forward is oozing with potential and certainly looks the part of a future NBA All-Star. However, McDaniels was never able to make a significant impact with the Huskies and his production was inconsistent the entire season. Watching him live was especially telling, as McDaniels would go long stretches without the viewer knowing he was even on the floor. He’s incredibly raw and, honestly, does not have a single NBA skill at the moment. Yet, at pick No. 24, McDaniels is the type of risk that’s worth taking, because, five years from now, we could be talking about one of the all-time steals of the draft.
THE FIT: Milwaukee is in an extremely precarious position. Not only was the team with the league’s best record bounced from the Conference Semis by the Heat, but the Bucks are staring down Giannis Antetokounmpo’s unrestricted free agency next summer. The pressure is on for the Bucks to win it all, or at least get the NBA Finals. Unfortunately for them, there is no prospect on the board that helps them win right away. They would have loved to have seen a player like Desmond Bane be available, but he’s been long gone. The Bucks can be patient with a player like McDaniels and this is a franchise familiar with rolling the dice on a high-upside prospect in the past; it would make a lot of sense for them to go that route again.
#25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver Nuggets)
Grant Riller, PG/SG, Charleston, 6’1”, 23
THE PLAYER: Would you rather shoot for the stars or take a safe, boring pick that will probably fail since we are at pick 25 in this mock. Grant Riller played at Charleston, where the competition he faced wasn’t up to par. What makes Riller different from other prospects is he is one of the few in this draft that can create for himself. He’s got a super quick first step that will allow him to blow by defenders. He can score at all three levels but is at his best when he is attacking the basket.
Defensively, he needs work, but when you pick this late in the first, you’re not looking for a complete player.
THE FIT: Oklahoma City is in a weird position this late in the draft. They overperformed last year and made the playoffs. The rebuild is likely underway with Chris Paul trade rumors swirling. With this pick, the Thunder take a chance on a player that can be a microwave offensively.
#26. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks)
Josh Green, SG, Arizona, 6’6”, 20
THE PLAYER: Green is one of the premier perimeter defenders in this draft class. At 6’6” and 215 lbs, he has prototypical size for a shooting guard and his elite athleticism makes him an intriguing prospect. On the other side of the floor is where he’ll need to improve if he’s to carve out a spot in a team’s rotation. Aside from wide-open three-point looks, Green is limited in his current offensive abilities. A team that pushes the pace and generates transition opportunities is best suited for a player like Green who is one of the class’ best finishers on the break.
THE FIT: It’s very unlikely the Celtics keep this pick as they have three in the first round. However, if they do, Green would be not only fantastic value but a perfect player to groom under Brad Stevens’ system. Green is one of the best perimeter defenders in this class and who better to learn from than Marcus Smart? Speaking of Smart, the perennial All-Defensive guard is under contract for two more years, at which time Green could be ready to take over his spot.
#27. New York Knicks (via Los Angeles Clippers)
Leandro Bolmaro, PG/SG, FC Barcelona Lassa/Argentina, 6’7”, 19
THE PLAYER: Leandro Bolmaro can make every pass in the book with a vision so excellent that he passes his teammates open. He utilizes change of speed dribbling to get where he wants, as we have seen with taller playmakers. Bolmaro can play off-ball, but if you want Leandro at his best, you have him run the offense from the point. Defensively, he is an aggressive point of attack defender who beats the offensive player to spots. He needs to improve his jump shot if he wants to be a rotation player or better in the NBA.
THE FIT: This year’s fit for the Knicks is to stay in FC Barcelona and work on his jump shot. Oh yes, our first draft and stash!!! If he irons out that jump shot, he can be a guy that can lead the offense for the Knicks and play some aggressive on-ball defense for a team – two useful skills being a creator and stopping other creators defensively.
#28. Los Angeles Lakers (Proposed trade would send this pick to Oklahoma City)
Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL/France, 6’5”, 19
THE PLAYER: Standing at 6’5” with a 6’10” wingspan, Maledon possesses incredible physical attributes as a point guard. In contrast to today’s score-first point guards, Maledon is a throwback, a floor general who looks to get his teammates involved first and foremost, before picking and choosing his spots to attack.
THE FIT: The Lakers are in a similar position as the Bucks a few picks earlier and would prefer a player to help LeBron James and Anthony Davis win right now. Alas, no win-now piece is available this late in the first round, so the Lakers look for a future floor general to groom under James and Coach Frank Vogel, especially considering the uncertain future of free agent, and current starting point guard, Rajon Rondo.
Ed Note: This mock draft was completed before the rumored Lakers/Thunder trade.
#29. Toronto Raptors
Xavier Tillman, Center, Michigan State, 6’8”, 21
THE PLAYER: Salute to Dustin for letting me get this pick. Xavier Tillman is my favorite player in this draft class. Tillman is a high IQ basketball player, with a very nice skill set of high leverage basketball. He’s a high-level passer that can find players off the roll as well as a great screen setter that creates separation on pick and roll.
Tillman is a smart team defender who gets into the passing lanes for steals and rotates to help the penetrating ball handler. Also, he’s a great post defender, who may not be the most athletic or the tallest, but one who uses his strength, excellent anticipatory skills, and research on his matchup to learn their tendencies. Lastly, Tillman can protect the rim by anticipating what’s going to happen.
THE FIT: Xavier Tillman’s fit on the Raptors is fantastic. With Marc Gasol going back home, the Raptors need a bigger center. Toronto has an excellent training staff that develops players at a high level, and if they can get Xavier to shooting at a that level, you’ve got something special in Tillman.
#30. Boston Celtics
Daniel Oturu, C, Minnesota, 6’10”, 21
THE PLAYER: Oturu is one of the draft’s most slept-on prospects. The Sophomore from Minnesota was a double-double machine (18 to be exact) en route to averages of 20.1 points (up from10.8) and 11.3 rebounds (up from 7.3). He’s incredibly fluid for a player of his size and has shown not only a nice touch from outside but confidence to let it fly. On defense, he’s equally menacing. His 7’3” wingspan allows him to grow into a true rim protector. Honestly, I’m not sure why he’s not being talked about more as a mid-first round pick.
THE FIT: If the Celtics keep this pick (where have we heard that before?), they should be looking for a long-term solution at the center position. Enes Kanter has been rumored to be on the market and Daniel Thies came out of nowhere to start nearly all of Boston’s games in the 2019-20 season. Did we mention that Theis, and his team-friendly deal, becomes a free agent after this season? Oturu is exactly what the Celtics need in a center, playing alongside Jayson Tatum in the front-court. He’ll protect the rim, rebound, and has the potential to become a floor-spacer.
Cover photo via CBS Sports