Ryan Hess takes a look at the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery and makes his predictions on the first 10 picks in the NBA Draft.
After being delayed three months, we finally were able to get the NBA draft lottery on Thursday. There were some shockers, like the Hornets landing the third pick and the Knicks sliding down to the eighth pick, but the rest of the draft lottery was predictable. While we’re not sure when the draft will be held yet, here are my predictions and the official odds for the top 10 picks in the draft.
#1: Minnesota Timberwolves – Anthony Edwards (SG, Georgia)
The Timberwolves were one of the worst teams in the league this season, but they have a lot of options now that they hold the first-overall pick. They will be heading into their first full season with the duo of real-life best friends Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, and it seems like a foregone conclusion that they will be drafting Anthony Edwards to add to the mix. Edwards had an extremely productive season at Georgia (despite some shooting inefficiencies and lack of defense) and has the potential to become a superstar in the NBA.
LaMelo Ball will be an attractive option too, but it’d be hard to pass on a scoring machine like Edwards. Between not being in a rush to contend and having Towns and Russell to play alongside, the Timberwolves are a fantastic landing spot for Edwards to develop and grow.
#2: Golden State Warriors – James Wiseman (C, Memphis)
Rumors of the Warriors trading their first-round pick go back to way before they secured the second-overall pick in the draft. The Warriors could definitely get a worthwhile deal for their pick, especially from the New York Knicks (who might as well be the physical embodiment of the word desperation), but they might be best suited keeping their pick and drafting James Wiseman.
Despite only playing three games at Memphis due to his legal battle with the NCAA, Wiseman is viewed as one of the best big men in this draft. Being able to plug Wiseman into their lineup alongside defensive specialist Draymond Green and the returning Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson would put Wiseman into the best possible situation. The Warriors thrived playing small ball during their years of domination and adding a potential franchise center in Wiseman could completely change the way the Warriors play.
#3: Charlotte Hornets – LaMelo Ball (PG, Illawarra Hawks)
The Hornets struck gold in the draft lottery, landing the third-overall pick despite being projected to pick eighth. To say the Hornets roster is thin would be an understatement, as they are severely lacking talent and depth on their roster. They have high hopes for their young core of Devonte’ Graham, Miles Bridges, and P.J. Washington, and have a couple solid veterans in Terry Rozier and Cody Zeller, but the rest of the roster is expendable (including former first-round pick Malik Monk).
Getting the eighth pick would have changed nothing for the Hornets but landing the third-overall pick changes everything. LaMelo is the only logical pick here, and he has the potential to turn into the franchise cornerstone the Hornets lost last season when Kemba Walker signed with Boston. Ball proved to be an elite passer and defender during his time in Australia and while his shot ability and selection needs to improve, Ball can do a little bit of everything.
I do think LaMelo will need to adjust to the pace of NBA games first, but being able to work with owner Michael Jordan on a team with zero expectations could help him immensely.
#4: Chicago Bulls – Deni Avdija (SF, Israel)
The Bulls are still looking for their chance to get back to relevancy after three straight seasons of missing the playoffs. They have a lot of young talent, headlined by Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter, Lauri Markkanen, and Coby White, but still need a little bit more to return to the playoffs. While drafting Avdija won’t automatically make them a playoff team, it will help the Bulls in more ways than one. While Avdija is a great shooter and passer, drafting him would grant the Bulls the ability to let Otto Porter Jr. and his $28 million salary to walk after next season. This would give the Bulls a lot more money for a free agency that could feature superstars like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George (all depending on their player options).
There are some knocks against Avdija, including his poor free throw shooting and lack of defense, but he looks to be a fantastic pure scorer that can create his own shots. Avdija and the Bulls look like a perfect match.
#5: Cleveland Cavaliers – Obi Toppin (PF, Dayton)
The Cavaliers are in an incredibly tough position and have been ever since LeBron James departed from the franchise for the second time in his career. They have two players oozing with potential in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland and two experienced players with big contracts in Kevin Love and Andre Drummond. After that the only other relevant players the Cavs have are Larry Nance Jr. and Cedi Osman but landing Obi Toppin would be a push in the right direction.
While Toppin is a few years older than the rest of the top-five picks, he is still one of the best players in the draft. Toppin might very well be the most well-rounded pick so far, as he has a very nice jump shot, he can finish at the rim with authority and rebound against any position, and has shown to be extremely athletic defending multiple positions. Although the Cavs probably won’t contend next season, the trio of Sexton, Garland, and Toppin gives them a great chance to contend very soon.
#6: Atlanta Hawks- Oneyka Okongwu (C, USC)
Far before the Hawks were given the sixth-overall pick in the draft their President, Travis Schlenk, said that the Hawks “were not going to draft a guy based on positional need.” While some have speculated that could mean drafting a guard like Killian Hayes to play with Trae Young, most experts believe the Hawks will be drafting a big man despite their acquisition of Clint Capela (who has three years left on his contract).
At times Okongwu has been overshadowed by James Wiseman as the best center in the draft, but Okongwu isn’t far off from Wiseman’s level. Okongwu is an excellent defender who can hold his own in the paint against anyone and has the potential to space the floor and knock down mid-range jumpers. Getting Okongwu with the sixth pick could be a steal for Atlanta.
#7: Detroit Pistons- Tyrese Haliburton (PG, Iowa State)
The Pistons might be in an even worse spot than the Cavaliers right now. Blake Griffin is the only star they have and he’s coming off a major injury, and on top of that they have no youth on their team outside of Luke Kennard. But the real kicker is the fact that the Pistons have no path to success right now or in the future and have to hope to add a franchise altering player with the seventh pick in the draft.
While he won’t be the star that Pistons fans want so bad, Tyrese Haliburton is NBA ready and can make an impact. Haliburton can shoot the ball consistently and might be as an elite of a passer as LaMelo is. While Haliburton won’t be the most attractive pick, selecting him to play with and learn from Derrick Rose is the best of a bad situation for the Pistons.
#8: New York Knicks – Killian Hayes (PG, France)
Ben Franklin once said that nothing can be certain, except death, taxes, and the Knicks getting screwed over in the draft lottery. Okay I may have made that up, but the lottery once again didn’t go the Knicks way and now they are drafting eighth-overall after yet another sluggish season. I do think the Knicks will trade up in an attempt to land one of the top prospects in the draft, especially with their interest in LaMelo Ball, but Killian Hayes wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize if they can’t get a deal done.
The Knicks played Dennis Smith Jr, Frank Ntilikina, and Elfrid Payton at point guard this season with mixed results. Hayes would immediately become the Knicks best point guard as he has proven to be a crafty dribbler and passer with a developing jump shot. The Knicks have struggled to find a franchise point guard for years, but Hayes could give them exactly what they’ve been looking for.
#9: Washington Wizards – Devin Vassell (SG, Florida State)
The Wizards are in one of the worst situations in the NBA and getting the ninth-overall pick isn’t helping them one bit. They have the worst contract in the league in John Wall, who hasn’t played since 2019, and will likely be forced to trade star Bradley Beal. On top of that they are seriously lacking talent, as after young guys like Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown, and Moritz Wagner, they don’t have much more talent. It looks more and more likely that the Wizards will wind up trading Beal (with a trade to the Nets looking incredibly probable), and Vassell could be his replacement in Washington.
While he won’t completely change the tides for the Wizards, Vassell is a very solid shooter and a strong defender who should have no problem adjusting to the NBA. Vassell won’t be a star, but there’s no doubt he can be a very strong starter that can contribute in multiple ways. Landing Vassell with the ninth pick would be a very nice steal for the Wizards, who have to be hoping that John Wall returns to his former all-star form when he returns from injury.
#10: Phoenix Suns- Isaac Okoro (SF, Auburn)
After going 8-0 in the bubble, the Suns are looking so different than they were three weeks ago. The Suns have a young team that looks close to being able to contend with Devin Booker entering his prime. On top of that the Suns have the tenth pick despite barely missing the playoffs and could land a top free agent with their cap space (despite the free agency market being weaker than usual). Okoro is the likeliest pick for the Suns, and he will be an absolute steal at tenth-overall.
Okoro is a fantastic defender and an extremely high energy guy that could develop into a very solid player in the NBA very soon. The only knock against Okoro is his inability to consistently knock down threes, but his defensive ability and being able to attack the rim will more than make up for that. Okoro is one of my favorite players in the draft and could end up being one of the better steals in recent memory