One of the first sporting events since the beginning of the pandemic was the NFL draft in mid-April. For sports fans, it was a glorious return to some type of normality. Now, seven months later, fans get to enjoy an event that usually takes place well before the school year: the NBA draft. As a result of not qualifying for the seeding games and playoffs that took place in Orlando, the teams picking at the top of the draft have had since March to scout this current crop of top prospects. It’s a good thing, too; the media consensus is that this draft lacks a can’t-miss prospect, in the vein of Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zion Williamson. Indeed, this draft is reminiscent of the 2013 draft, in which infamous bust Anthony Bennett out of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas was selected with the number one pick. Even in such a chaotic draft, however, teams were able to find superstars later in the 2013 draft, such as Giannis Antetokoumpo (15th pick), C.J McCollum (10th) and Rudy Gobert (27th pick).
The Argus sat down to watch the top ten picks of the 2020 NBA draft to see if any teams could find diamonds in the rough.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards, guard, University of Georgia
A promising young team—already possessing Karl-Anthony Towns—only got better with the addition of Anthony Edwards; only, that is, if they can maximize the mercurial young talent. Edwards projects as an explosive scorer with athleticism off the charts. He has an incredible first step and has a promising body type defensively. From his time at UGA, it was clear Edwards was destined for a top pick. The major question with Edwards, however, is his commitment to the game. He didn’t bring consistent effort during his freshman year, sometimes disappearing on the court when he was needed most. He’s not an elite shooter and has poor defensive instincts, limiting his immediate upside for a team that likely wants to make the playoffs. Minnesota has seen a prospect like this before; Andrew Wiggins, the number one pick in 2014, similarly entered the league as a prospect with incredible measurables but questionable effort. Hopefully, Edwards will continue to blossom as a shooter and help elevate the Timberwolves into a playoff team.
Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman, center, University of Memphis
A difficult draft day for the Warriors that saw Klay Thompson leave the court with an injury ended with the drafting of promising center James Wiseman. Wiseman stands at an imposing 7 foot 1 inch with a 7 foot 4 inch wingspan. He joins a Warriors team that is ready to climb back to the top of the Western Conference and will surely be looking to him to be an impact player right away. Wiseman should add a needed presence in the paint for the Warriors with the ability to score, rebound, and block shots. His above-average jumper should help him integrate into the Warriors system, which utilizes the three-pointer more than any team. The question on Wiseman is whether a big man is important enough in the modern NBA to validate such a high draft pick.
Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball, guard, Illawarra Hawks (Australia)
The brother of the number two pick in the 2017 Draft (New Orleans’ Lonzo Ball), LaMelo is a tantalizing prospect with similar upsides—and concerns—like his sibling. Ball is a gifted passer, with unbelievable vision and playmaking ability as a 6 foot 7 inch guard. His size also gives him tremendous potential as a rebounder and defender, with the capability to put up a triple-double any given night. His two largest flaws, however, could be crippling to his development as a player. Ball has a completely broken jump shot, making him a poor fit to lead an offense in 2020. He also, at the moment, is a poor decision-maker: a social media star from a young age, Ball has a tendency to jack up wild shots and make ill-advised passes. It may not be the best idea for Charlotte to hand the keys to the offense to Ball right away: while he has the potential to be the hands-down best player in this draft, it will take a strong infrastructure to maximize his talent (and to keep his father from sparking more media firestorms).
Chicago Bulls: Patrick Williams, forward, Florida State University
Every year, a player leaps up the draft board late based on impressive workouts and superb physical measurements. This year, it was Patrick Williams. As a freshman, Williams didn’t have a huge role on Florida State; regardless, he put up impressive numbers off the bench, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Sixth Man of the Year award. He can defend multiple positions and is a skilled finisher who is capable of using either hand at the rim. A hard-working player, Chicago knows they’ll be getting a talent who can make an immediate impact even as a rookie. His biggest upside, however, might be his biggest downside: Williams is still incredibly raw offensively, with a slow-release and unreliable handle. With the right coaching, however, Williams could easily contribute to a Bulls team that hopes to be on the rise sooner rather than later.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Isaac Okoro, forward, Auburn University
With the Cavs in NBA purgatory, they clearly were looking to swing for the fences in picking Okoro. With top-level athleticism, Okoro projects to slot in alongside Colin Sexton and Darius Garland as part of the Cavaliers rebuilding process. He is not the most polished shooter in the draft, but he’s selfless on the court and perhaps the best defender in the draft. At Auburn, he averaged 12.9 points per goal (PPG) shooting less than 30% from downtown. If he develops a consistent jump shot, he could be a star for a long time in the league.
Atlanta Hawks: Onyeka Okongwu, center, University of Southern California
Atlanta desperately wants to reach the playoffs next season, and Okungwu may help him do just that. He’s a versatile big with superb defensive instincts, quick feet and good positioning. On offense, he’s drawn comparisons to Miami Heat star big man Bam Adebayo; he’s a skilled passer with soft hands and great touch, making him a good option as both a playmaker and finisher when Atlanta wants to get an easy bucket. The big risk with Okongwu is his size; at only 6 foot 9 inches, he’ll have trouble matching up against elite Eastern Conference centers like Joel Embiid. The best-case scenario for Okongwu is for the NBA to continue to trend downwards in size, allowing him to remain in his natural position at center.
Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes, guard, Ratiopharm Ulm (France)
With Hayes, the Pistons have their point guard of the future. At 6 foot 5 inches, he has the size to be a dominant point guard. Hayes took the unconventional route the NBA playing in France rather than the NCAA which is becoming increasingly common. Without explosive athleticism, Hayes uses his elite basketball IQ and passing ability to flash on the court. Hayes joins a Pistons team that is currently in the middle of the league and perhaps could be a multiyear rebuilding process. This is perfect for Hayes, who needs time to refine his offensive game. Like many of the prospects thus far, he needs to develop his perimeter shooting ability to be truly great.
New York Knicks: Obi Toppin, forward, University of Dayton
Toppin is a great story; as a late bloomer who grew six inches after his junior year of high school, he received no Division I offers as a graduating senior. Now, however, Toppin has proved himself as one of the best players in college basketball, winning the Wooden Award last year. Toppin is a phenomenal dunker, capable of absolutely detonating at the rim when he has a full head of steam. Rarely for a player of his profile, Toppin also possesses upside as a shooter. Above all, he’s known as a high-character player who should be capable of handling the bright lights as Madison Square Garden. Toppin’s biggest weakness at the moment is defense; he has stiff hips and isn’t great moving side to side. If New York can find competent guard play, however, Toppin presents immediate promise as a mobile rim runner.
Washington Wizards: Deni Avdija, forward, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)
Avdija slipped a bit tonight but the young forward has perhaps more upside than anyone in this draft class. With all teams looking to find the next Luka Doncic, Avdija could be anywhere from the next great international talent to Dragon Bender. Playing at Maccabi, he averaged only four PPG but standing at 6 foot 9 inches with advanced shooting ability and strong passing skills, he will complement John Wall and Bradley Beal on the underperforming Washington Wizards. Avdija is exceptional in that he is the highest-drafted Israeli prospect in NBA history and carries a unique weight on his shoulders. Wizards fans should not expect an immediate all-star but rather a prospect who could potentially be a transformative talent.
Phoenix Suns: Jalen Smith, forward, University of Maryland
The Suns hoped to use this pick to continue to build around star guard Devin Booker, former number one pick DeAndre Ayton, and newly acquired future Hall of Fame guard Chris Paul. Hopefully for Phoenix, they’ve found such a piece in Jalen Smith, a 6 foot 10 inches power forward with an excellent range from three. With a built frame and great strength, Smith nonetheless looks to be a talented shooter with good offensive instincts. Smith is slow on defense, and not a superb passer; luckily for him, however, he doesn’t have to be. With Ayton protecting the rim and Paul and Booker handling the playmaking duties, all Smith needs to do to fit into a Phoenix team with high aspirations is to play within a comfortable, defined role.
John Vernaglia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Drew Kushnir can be reached at email@example.com