2020 NBA Draft Lottery is set


In an article about the NBA Draft Lottery I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the New York Knickerbocker’s straightaway.


Photo Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone (except for those that cheer for the Nets) across the four boroughs of New York City prayed that they could somehow duplicate their luck from the 1985 NBA Draft and get the number one pick for someone like Patrick Ewing.

There are some teams in the NBA that only have the draft lottery to look forward to year in and year out. They spend 82 games partaking in a tankathon for at best a 14% chance to take a player who may or may not be a franchise-changing talent.

The Knicks are the epitome of that ideology. Bad ownership, bad management, and in this case lots of bad luck are to blame. After dreams of landing LaMelo Ball were dashed on Thursday night, it’s now up to the abysmal franchise to see what they can do with the 8th selection. 

But it’s not just the Knicks who are in this position. Teams like the Hornets, Kings, and Timberwolves are just as ineffectual within their front offices. They’re in their annual position of flailing and failing. Other teams like the Suns and Spurs have had struggles (the Suns for about a decade), but are hoping they can add a piece to squads that have momentum going into next season. 


Whoever it is that you root for, the draft offers hope. Below is the draft order and a mock draft of who I think each team should take.


1. Minnesota Timberwolves: 

Anthony Edwards SG, Georgia- 

This is one of those drafts where there isn’t a clear cut number one pick. It can be argued that Edwards, Ball, Wiseman, or even Toppin could go with that selection. If you’re the Timberwolves you have the luxury of going with the best fit. In this case, you can’t pass on the opportunity to pair Edwards with D’Angelo Russell. 

Photo Credit: CBS Sports

As I said, there is uncertainty with this pick. There’s been a lot of questions in terms of Edwards’ effort and consistency. Then again, you can’t question how enticing his skill-set is. The prospect from Georgia is oozing with an offensive arsenal that is electric. Edwards is strong, cunning, and can score in bursts. His 30% shooting from 3-point range leaves a lot to be desired, but if he can improve that aspect of his game he and Russell can be a star-studded backcourt for years to come. 



2. Golden State Warriors:

James Wiseman C, Memphis- 

More likely than not, this pick is getting shipped out via trade. The Warriors dynasty imploded with some of the worst luck you could imagine. KD and Klay went down with devastating injuries in the NBA Finals against the Raptors. In the 2019 offseason, Durant and his ruptured Achilles left town to play with Kyrie in Brooklyn, while Thompson buckled in for a long rehab on his surgically repaired knee. Then to add insult to the injuries, Steph Curry hurt his hand on October 19th and missed most of the season. Hence why they’re picking 2nd. 

Despite all of that, Golden State believes they can contend. They’re looking for pieces that are going to get them back to a championship level once the Splash Brothers return healthy, but if they have to hold onto the pick it should be Wiseman. His sample size of 20 points and 10 rebounds per game at Memphis under Penny Hardaway is extremely limited, but that in no way should be a deterrent. 

Wiseman’s 7’1 240 lb frame could stand to add some muscle, but that’s really his only downside. He runs the floor extremely well and is arguably the best athlete on the board. With his ingrained instincts, leaping ability, and 7’5 wingspan he can be a world-class shot-blocker and defender from day one. If he can refine his offense and add a 3-point shot, Wiseman can be another all-star for the Warriors and a cornerstone for when Steph and Klay call it a career and eventually ride off into the sunset towards the Naismith Hall-of-Fame.


3. Charlotte Hornets: 

Obi Toppin PF, Dayton- 

Being the GOAT on the court has not translated to being the GOAT in the front office for Michael Jordan. Far from it in fact. Jordan has whiffed on draft picks and free agents alike for years. Charlotte does have a couple of nice pieces in potential Most Improved Player Devonte’ Graham (which they lucked into) and Miles Bridges, but other than that the Hornets need an overhaul literally everywhere. 

Some will argue that LaMelo Ball will be long gone by the 3rd pick and should go here if he’s still available, but Jordan has been known to make strange selections in the past. Taking Toppin over Ball can be construed that way by some, but not me. Toppin might not be the better prospect than LaMelo, but he is the better overall fit in this instance. 

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

When Charlotte took Bridges out of Michigan State in the 2018 draft, they invested in a player who brought with him explosive athleticism, toughness, scoring, and swagger. Toppin, the consensus Player of the Year in college basketball last year exudes all of those same traits and then some. At Dayton, he scored 20 points per game, brought down 7 rebounds, provided 39% shooting from distance, and was responsible for dunk contest level slams almost every game. 

If the Hornets do draft Toppin, not only are they getting a power forward who can be a star out of the gate, they’d be establishing a clear-cut identity for the first time in ages. There would be an exciting brand of basketball to market to their loyal fanbase, but more than that they’d be making definitive strides towards getting to the playoffs.


4. Chicago Bulls:

LaMelo Ball PG, Australia-

The Bulls are in the midst of a massive overhaul. Widely detested by Chicago natives, the infamous GarPax (Gar Forman and John Paxson) front office was broken up, and the much-maligned tenure of coach Jim Boylen has mercifully come to an end. In steps Arturas Karnisovas, the architect of the current Denver Nuggets to see if he can get Chicago back to the level of the Derrick Rose days, if not the days of the dynasty Bulls.    

Those are the expectations of this franchise by their fanbase. The Bulls are of course nowhere near that level currently, but they do have plenty of young talent in place. Zach Lavine is one of the brightest young stars in the league. He scores 25 points a night, grabs 5 rebounds, and dishes out 4 assists. He does all that while shooting 38% from beyond the arc. We all know he is the best dunker in basketball too. 

By his side are a trio of number 7 draft picks. Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr, and Coby White. All three have tremendous upside, but none have developed into that next star for Chicago. White can hit 7 three’s in a quarter, and Markkanen sometimes looks like a mix of Porzingis and Anthony Davis, but they have just been flashes of brilliance. 

Photo Credit: Fear The Sword

That’s where LaMelo Ball comes in. Some people will never get the 5’10 kid with the dyed blonde pile of hair from Chino Hills out of their head shooting halfcourt prayers and cherry-picking in AAU. Others only hear Lavar’s booming voice and louder antics where he’s concerned. That’s too bad, really, because Ball has become a player who can have a Luka Doncic type impact on a franchise. 

If the Bulls are lucky enough to snag Ball here, they absolutely have to do so. The 5’10 tweener is now 6’7 and coming off a stint of international basketball where he starred in Australia for the NBL’s Illawarra Hawks. His percentages aren’t going to wow anyone. Ball only shot 37% from the floor and 25% from 3 there in 12 games, but if you’re Chicago you overlook that knowing he can improve on those numbers. Especially in a modern NBA where there’s zero defense played, and too much space and freedom given at the best of times. 

Where Ball will excel from the outset is making Chicago’s offense free-flowing and versatile. He averaged 8 assists and 8 rebounds, so the Bulls will easily be able to get out in transition when he gets a defensive rebound. They will also be able to spread the floor effectively with their bevy of shooters because of his vision and moxie in transition. While he does that, I’d also bet on his shooting and scoring coming along faster than anticipated.


5. Cleveland Cavaliers

Onyeka Okongwu C, USC-

No one expected the post-Lebron rendition of the Cavs to do much, and that has definitely been the case since James opted to join the Lakers 2 seasons ago. For some reason, they decided to overpay Kevin Love while still having inflated salaries like Tristan Thompson and Andre Drummond on their roster. 

Their drafts haven’t been much better thought out either. In back to back lotteries, they went with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Both guards are similar in that they are smallish for the NBA and they both need the ball in their hands a lot to be effective. In a way, they cancel each other out. 

Right now the Cavaliers need to concentrate on making their overpaid, aging frontcourt much younger. That’s where Okongwu comes in. To give you an idea of how ridiculously talented the aforementioned Chino Hills team was, Onyeka was high school teammates with the Ball Brothers there at Chino Hills High School in Chino, California

Beyond that, Cleveland would be getting an upside pick, but one that can produce while he develops. Okongwu is only 6’9, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as a center in the league right now. He’s physical enough to hold his own in the post, but his almost 3 blocks and almost 9 rebounds a game at USC are what really makes him stand out. That and he shot nearly 63% from the floor for the Trojans while tallying 16 points per contest.

His jumper isn’t there yet, but if you’re Cleveland you know Sexton and Garland will be doing the brunt of the shooting for better or worse. At least with Okongwu, there will be someone on the floor who can get it done without the ball in his hands.


6. Atlanta Hawks: 

Deni Avdija Wing, Maccabi Tel Aviv- 

The Hawks have Trae Young, so there’s that. Young is an undeniable star and premiere shooter in a league full of guys who can fill it up. Beyond that, they have John Collins (Who has been the subject of many, many trade rumors) and Clint Capela who got dumped by the Rockets so they could start PJ Tucker at center. 

Needless to say, Atlanta desperately needs to add some talent next to Young. The first international player off the board is the guy to fill that gap. Avdija is a 6’9 Serbian who is as multifaceted as it gets. He’s drawing Doncic comparisons, but that’s mostly due to a lack of imagination and a need for people to lump players into neat little packages. 

Avdija is savvy like Luka (I’ll give him that) and he can take over a game with a brash set of skills. However, Avdija isn’t the shooter Doncic is. Not close. Not yet. That being said, he is the type of player you drool over because of his length, handle, IQ, and athleticism. With he and Young together, they can start their steep climb towards getting out of the top half of the lottery. 

7. Detroit Pistons:

Tyrese Haliburton PG, Iowa State- 

Detroit might have the most dubious future out of any team in the NBA. Blake Griffen has been injury-riddled since being traded from the Clippers, and he might not ever return to form while he plays for the Pistons. You also have Derrick Rose who has been a revelation while rejuvenating his career in Motown, but he has been extremely injury-prone. As a franchise, all you can do is hope he doesn’t suffer another debilitating setback. 

Then you have Christian Wood to think about. Wood has turned himself into one of the best young bigs in the league. Over his last 12 games to finish out the season he averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds, on 56% shooting. The young, do-it-all center out of UNLV is due to earn a major payday and he will be highly coveted in free agency. If the Pistons are smart, they will be the ones to cut him the biggest check. 

The next smart thing to do if you’re Detroit is to find your point guard of the future. Tyrese Haliburton is that floor general. You won’t ever confuse Haliburton for Ja Morant or Trae Young, but that doesn’t matter. Albeit a tad unorthodox, Haliburton is smart and steady. He does shoot the 3 at 41% for those wondering, so he can be a knockdown shooter in the league for sure. If he can bulk up that slight frame of his, he can use his intelligence and hyper-competitive nature to be a mainstay in the NBA for many years.


8. New York Knicks:

Cole Anthony PG, North Carolina- 

Ah, the lowly Knicks. Owner James Dolan would rather have his former players arrested at The Garden or get into pissing contests with super-fan Spike Lee about what entrance to use. Those are his focuses, rather than fielding a team that is worthy of the city of New York it seems. 

When you look at their roster from top to bottom, there’s really nothing of value anywhere on it. Sure, Julius Randle can get you 20 points and 10 rebounds a night, but the guys behind him like RJ Barrett and Kevin Knox are anything but sure things. The lone bright spot could be center Mitchell Robinson, but he’s not someone you build around necessarily. 

So where do you go at number 8 when there’s no quick fix? Cole Anthony, for no other reason than the Knicks are abysmal at the point guard spot. The fact of the matter is they absolutely need him. Dennis Smith Jr is going to be playing in China before long, and Frank Ntilikina was a reach of a pick back when Phil Jackson was ruining the franchise. 

Photo Credit: The Spun

Anthony, of course, was injured for long stretches at UNC for Roy Williams, but you need only look at how the Tarheels crumbled without the 6’3 guard to see the kind of value he brings to the court. Anthony averaged 18 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4 assists while at Chapel Hill, but more than that his big-play ability, monster athleticism, and his showmanship can give Madison Square Garden something to cheer about. It also gives the Knicks someone who can run the show and get their young core involved without having Barrett be ball-dominant. 

Anthony won’t get the Knicks out of the lottery, but he can be a piece to actually build with to make sure they aren’t still there 5 years from now.


9. Washington Wizards: 

Killian Hayes SG, Ulm-

The Wizards haven’t been the same since they lost John Wall to an Achilles injury back in 2018. Despite Bradley Beal becoming one of the best guards in the world, they have found themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs ever since. Reports and indicators suggest that Wall is back to his old self and that his return will give Washington one of the best backcourts in the league once more. With that being the case, that doesn’t mean the Wizards will shy away from adding even more scoring to their lineup. 

Hayes might be the most capable guard in this draft class when it comes to creating his own offense. The 6’5 French lefty played overseas in Germany last season at point guard, but that doesn’t mean he would come in to supplant Wall. The player Hayes idolizes most and is looking to emulate is Manu Ginobili. With the Spurs, Ginobili did handle the ball quite a bit, but he flourished most as a secondary scorer to Tim Duncan. Hayes can come right in and be that subsidiary scorer the Wizards need to elevate themselves back into playoff contention.


10. Phoenix Suns:

Isaac Okoro Wing, Auburn-

When the Suns went 8-0 in the bubble in Orlando, it was the first time they’d been in the limelight since Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion were playing run-n-gun basketball in the desert a lifetime ago. With Devin Booker demonstrating he is an unstoppable force, the fans in Phoenix now have optimism that the playoffs can soon be attainable.  

In the last draft, Phoenix went 3 and D with former Villanova Wildcat, Mikal Bridges. He turned out to be an excellent complementary piece to Booker. The Suns center spot is locked down with Deandre Ayton, so as the Hornets mentioned above, it behooves them to draft for a match and fit. 

Okoro can lock down the 1-4 positions defensively. His footwork is next level, and his length, athleticism, and body type make him ready to come in and match Bridges as a true to form two-way player. His offense will need work, but for a team that is ready to make a playoff push, Okoro can fill a niche for a team that could use his help here and now.


11. San Antonio Spurs:

Devin Vassell Wing, Florida State-

The last time the Spurs were in the lottery they landed, Tim Duncan. They didn’t miss the playoffs again until this season after that. Vassell is by no means a Hall of Famer like Duncan, but he can come in and alleviate a player like Rudy Gay’s minutes and be a successor. With the young nucleus of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker taking over in San Antonio, Vassell is a similarly talented player who can help the Spurs get younger and better simultaneously.


12. Sacramento Kings: 

Tyrese Maxey Combo Guard, Kentucky

Photo Credit: Boston Globe

The Kings find themselves at a crossroads after relieving Vlade Divac of his GM duties. Sacramento hasn’t been relevant since Divac wore a Kings’ jersey, and they might be on the verge of blowing up a roster that badly needs the demolition. 

Buddy Hield has been a good shooter, but he and lightning-quick Dee’Aaron Fox haven’t been able to get the Kings over the hump in the loaded Western Conference as a tandem. In the NBA imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so Maxey coming in alongside Fox like how Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plays next to Chris Paul could be worth a try.


13. New Orleans Pelicans: 

Saddiq Bey Wing, Villanova- 

The anointed one, Zion Williamson, and his minute restriction cost Alvin Gentry his job and the team a playoff spot. Presumably, Williamson will play a lot more basketball next season, and shooters are always welcome in the NBA. Bey shot 45% from 3 at Nova, so he will get a long look from someone in the lottery.


14. Boston Celtics: 

Jalen Smith C, Maryland-

Danny Ainge is always finagling his way into the NBA Lottery somehow, someway. This time he used the Memphis Grizzlies to get there. At this point in the proceedings, there is value, it just takes some digging to find it. In the case of the Celtics, they don’t have a lot of weaknesses, but a glaring one they do have is at the center spot. Smith is another upside pick, but the 6’10 Terrapin could be the most naturally gifted scorer at his position in this draft. His 15 points and 10 rebounds per game came on 53% shooting from the floor and 36% from beyond the arc.

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-Jeff Waddilove – Franchise Sports Media


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