Predicting the top of the 2020 NBA Draft

LaMelo Ball
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of what happens with the remainder of the NBA season, the draft will eventually take place. COVID-19 is not going to change that.

The Golden State Warriors boasted a league-worst 15-50 record once the season was suspended. Most lottery simulations conclude that they will have the first pick. But don’t expect the five-time defending Eastern Conference champs to make that pick.

Meanwhile, the New York Knicks are looking to make a splash after existing in irrelevance over the past several seasons. Look for them to be big-time players come draft day.

It’s in this that we predict how the top of the 2020 NBA draft will unfold once it comes calling

Pick No. 1: Knicks trade up with Warriors to land star player with well-known last name.

  • Our simulation through Tankathon has Golden State earning the first pick in the 2020 NBA Draft with the Knicks falling all the way down to No. 6. As a result, the hard-luck Knicks are forced to move up in the annual event.
  • New York sends out the sixth pick, 27th pick (acquired from the Clippers), an unprotected future first-round pick and Julius Randle to the Warriors for the first selection.
  • In turn, New York adds star youngster LaMelo Ball to the mix. He’ll team up with R.J. Barrett and Mitchell Robinson to form an elite young trio in the Big Apple.

Pick No. 2: Cavaliers add a big man to go with their young star-studded backcourt.

  • Cleveland has to be happy with how young guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland have looked together in the backcourt. The two have a bright future with one another.
  • The Cavaliers now need to be thinking about adding a big man to the mix. While there’s a number of options with the second pick, former Memphis center James Wiseman makes the most sense.
  • Prior to a rift with the NCAA as a freshman this past season, Wiseman proved himself to be an elite big man. He has 20 and 10 capability. This would be the biggest near lock of the annual draft.

Pick No. 3: Timberwolves find a partner to team up with the recently-acquired D’Angelo Russell.

  • Minnesota likes what it has in Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell after acquiring the latter back in February for a package including Andrew Wiggins.
  • The Wolves’ ability to move on from Wiggins’ bloated contract sets up the possibility of adding assets in a trade-down scenario here, especially given that they yielded a valuable first-round pick to Golden State in said trade.
  • That’s until we realize former Georgia star Anthony Edwards is on the board at pick No. 3. He’s favored to be the first pick in the draft. Selecting him to team up with Russell and Towns would be an absolute boon for Minnesota.

Pick No. 4: Hawks go international to find a running partner for star guard Trae Young.

  • The acquisition of Clint Capela during February’s trade deadline was huge for general manager Travis Schlenk and Co. He had struggled finding the right mix with Young.
  • Now that the Hawks have two stud bigs in that of Capela and John Collins, they can target a wing to help Young on the perimeter.
  • It’s in this that I boldly predict that Atlanta decides on Deni Avdija from Israel. The 6-foot-8 forward is already seen as a plus-level passer and has an ability to stretch the court. He’d be a perfect fit with Young, Collins and Capela for the talented young Hawks.

Pick No. 5: Another blockbuster trade early in the draft. This time, between the Suns and Pistons.

  • Detroit moves the No. 5 overall pick to Phoenix as a way to get out from under Blake Griffin’s bloated contract. In return, the Pistons add Kelly Oubre and Ricky Rubio as well as the 10th overall pick from Phoenix.
  • For the Suns, a trade of this ilk makes sense. General manager James Jones has been looking for star power to team up with Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker. At the very least, Griffin would provide that if he can stay healthy.
  • As it relates to the fifth pick, the Suns are able to finally get that point guard of the future to team up with Booker in the backcourt. It comes in the form of talented former Iowa State star Tyrese Haliburton. He averaged 14.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and a robust 6.3 assists last season.

Pick No. 6: Warriors continue to add assets as a way to both build for the future and potentially bring in another star.

  • After moving down from No. 1 overall with the Knicks, Golden State once again trades down. This time, the Warriors send the sixth pick to the San Antonio Spurs for the No. 11 overall selection and a future first-round pick.
  • In turn, San Antonio’s rebuild finally starts by Gregg Popovich and Co. adding do-everything international guard Killian Hayes.
  • Hayes is a 6-foot-5 combo guard who showed out big time in Germany against solid international competition. He averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists last season.

Pick No. 7: The Chicago Bulls look to add to their perimeter game as a way to bolster a talented young roster.

  • Zach LaVine played more at small forward last season. Last year’s top pick, Coby White, is seen more as a point guard. At the very least, he’s not a traditional two.
  • Enter into the equation 6-foot-7 wing Devin Vassell from Florida State. The dude was absolutely legit for the Seminoles last season, averaging 15.9 points and 6.3 rebounds while showing a darn good mid-range game.
  • The combination of LaVine, White, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Vassell would be absolutely tremendous for Chicago moving forward.

Pick No. 8: The Charlotte Hornets have some nice young players on their roster. They now need to go big to complement a solid perimeter game.

  • Devonte’ Graham was among the most improved players in the NBA prior to the season being suspended. He teamed up with the recently-acquired Terry Rozier to form a solid backcourt combo.
  • The combination of forwards P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges have also made strides recently.
  • This will enable Charlotte to go best player available at a need position in that of Dayton’s Obi Toppin. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 22.8 points and 8.6 rebounds last season. He can contribute immediately and boasts an untapped ceiling.

Pick No. 9: It’s by now a foregone conclusion that injured point guard John Wall has no future in the nation’s capital. Look for Washington to find a replacement.

  • Right now, shooting guard Bradley Beal is the face of the Wizards. He was having a tremendous 2019-20 season before it was suspended.
  • Outside of that, Washington does not have a whole lot to write home about. It is lacking young talent at important positions.
  • Enter into the equation former North Carolina star point guard Cole Anthony. He’s a traditional one and a player that will complement what Beal does in a great way. Washington could not ask for a beter end result here.

Pick No. 10: Now that the Pistons are in complete rebuild mode, look for them to go upside with the pick acquired from Phoenix.

  • Trading Andre Drummond back in February and following the hypothetical Blake Griffin trade here, Detroit can afford to simply go best-player available at 10.
  • I am also expecting the Pistons to look for the highest-upside player on the board, no matter the position.
  • Given how the draft has played out, former USC forward/center Onyeka Okongwu makes the most sense. The teenager averaged 19.0 points and 10.2 rebounds last season. He flashed untapped potential in the process.

Pick No. 11: After trading down twice, Golden State finally makes a selection. It will simply go best-player available.

  • Now that the Warriors have added Julius Randle and two future first-round picks in a move down from No. 1, it’s finally time for the five-time defending Western Conference champs to make a pick.
  • R.J. Hampton. That’s the pick. The 6-foot-5 guard decided to head overseas and play in New Zealand instead of being one-and-done stateside.
  • Hampton would have likely been a top-five pick if he had decided to play college ball. He’s raw, super talented and boasts a tremendous amount of upside. This selection is more about the future than 2020-21. Hampton could also be used as trade bait for the Warriors to lure a star player down the road.

Bottom line

The 2020 NBA Draft is as unpredictable as any in recent history. There’s no consensus No. 1 overall player. The NCAA Tournament being canceled adds another layer to what will be an interesting annual event this summer.

I am personally expecting trades to be the name of the game here. Teams picking in the top end of the draft such as the Golden State Warriors have their eyes on much larger prizes. It’s going to shake things up big time.

Look for the top of this year’s NBA Draft to be as interesting as anything we’ve seen in the recent past. It’s going to be a blast.