The 2020 NBA Draft, at least the lottery portion of it, stuck close to the script and followed the consensus projection in numerous mock drafts. As expected, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Anthony Edwards with the #1 pick. Edwards, a shooting guard from Georgia, became the 11th straight one-and-done collegiate player to get selected #1 in the NBA Draft.
Despite rampant speculation and rumors, teams did not make a last-minute trade to move up in the draft to grab a player. For the last few weeks, teams like the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, and Detroit Pistons were all mentioned in various NBA draft trade rumors.
No one made a bold trade to acquire a big man or LaMelo Ball. The Golden State Warriors took James Wiseman with the #2 pick, and the Charlotte Hornets grabbed Ball with the #3 pick. LaMelo joins his brother Lonzo as the only two brothers picked in the top 3 of the NBA Draft. Say whatever you want about the unorthodox and brash LaVar Ball, but two of his wunderkinder were drafted #2 and #3 in the NBA Draft. His middle son, LiAngelo, could have joined his brothers on the big stage if it weren’t for a brush with the law. One son going in the top 3 might be considered good fortune, but two sons is outright impressive.
With the last pick in the two-round NBA Draft, the New Orleans Pelicans drafted sharpshooter Sam Merrill from Utah State at #60.
The Top 5
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards (Georgia) … Very few teams in the SEC could slow down the 6-foot-3 shooting guard. He led all freshmen in scoring with 19.1 ppg. Edwards became the first hoops star from Georgia to become the #1 pick in the NBA Draft.
2. Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman (Memphis) … Wiseman, a 7-foot center, was clearly the top big man in the NBA Draft. Wiseman’s addition might be overshadowed by the word on the street that Klay Thompson blew out his Achilles while rehabbing a knee injury.
3. Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks/Australia) … LaMelo has been living under a microscope for the last decade, and finally got his moment of glory. His father, LaVar, often talked smacked with Michael Jordan (Charlotte team owner), and the ex-NFL player said he’d beat his royal Airness in a one-on-one game.
4. Chicago Bulls: Patrick Williams (FSU) … Williams, a 6-foot-8 forward, saw his draft stock rise significantly in recent weeks. Williams became the first player in the modern era to get drafted with a scoring average below double digits. But the Bulls didn’t draft him for his scoring ability, per se. They loved all his other attributes, especially his willingness to become a role player.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Isaac Okoro (Auburn) … The 6-foot-6 swingman drew accolades as one of the top defenders in the draft class. If you are going to thrive in a Bruce Pearl system at Auburn, you have to be able to score and play defense.
Rounding Out the Top 10
6. Atlanta Hawks: Onyeka Okongwu (USC) … If the Pac-12 got more love and air time, then Olomgwu might have gone in the Top 5. Okongwu, a 6-foot-9 power forward, averaged 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds as a frosh at USC and earned a spot on the All Pac-12 team.
7. Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes (Ratiopharm/Germany) … The French kid with the American father stayed in Europe even though he really wanted to play college ball and participate in March Madness. The gamble paid off. The Pistons selected Hayes, a 6-foot-5 point guard, with the #7 pick.
8. New York Knicks: Obi Toppin (Dayton) … The Knicks could have screwed up the draft, but they made a wise move and picked a local kid from NYC. Obi Toppin, a 6-foot-9 power forward, unleashed numerous bong-rattling dunks during his time with the high-octane Dayton Flyers. Perhaps if March Madness wasn’t canceled due to the pandemic, more people would have seen Toppin on a big stage and his draft stock would have risen into the Top 5. The Knicks were desperate for a point guard, but they snagged the best possible player available.
9. Washington Wizards: Deni Avdija (Maccabi Tel Aviv/Israel) … The Wiz took a flier on the 6-foot-9 Israeli kid. Avdija isn’t someone who you can plug and play immediately. He’s a true raw talent, but if he gets the proper tutelage, he could develop into a perimeter scorer.
10. Phoenix Suns: Jalen Smith (Maryland) … The 6-foot-10 power forward has guard-like abilities and a 7-foot-3 wingspan, which is one of the reasons he tore up the Big Ten last season averaging 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game as a sophomore.
11-25: Haliburton and Cole
11. San Antonio Spurs: Devin Vassell (FSU) … The 6-foot-7 small forward averaged only 12.7 points on an FSU squad that played almost a dozen players per game. On almost every other team, he’d average in the high teens. Vassell is lanky (which is just a scout term for “super skinny and we gotta get the kid in the weight room”), but he’s a wiz off the pick-and-roll.
12. Sacramento Kings: Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State) … Depending on who you talk to, the Kings orchestrated the steal of the 2020 NBA Draft. Haliburton, a 6-foot-5 point guard, was on the shortlist of possible players headed to the Knicks. He averaged 15.2 points, 6.5 assists, and six rebounds per game for the Cyclones before his season was cut short with a wrist injury.
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama) … Lewis rose to the top of the SEC as the conference’s best point guard, averaging 18.5 points and 5.2 assists per game.
14. Boston Celtics: Aaron Nesmith (Vanderbilt) … You don’t see a lot of Vandy players getting drafted into the pro ranks, but Nesmith is unique. The 6-foot-6 swingman has a sweet jumper. If he didn’t injure his foot, he could’ve gone in the top 10.
15. Orlando Magic: Cole Anthony (North Carolina) … Cole Anthony is one of the few incoming rookies who can start right away and hold his own. Anthony’s draft stock would’ve been a tad higher if he didn’t miss most of the season with a knee injury.
16-20: Precious and Bey
16. Portland Trail Blazers: Isaiah Stewart (Washington) … Stewart, one of the more efficient scorers in the nation, played center for the Huskies at 6-foot-9 due to his ginormous wingspan of 7-foot-4.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves: Aleksej Pokusevski (Olympiacos/Greece) … Like most Serbian players in the NBA, he’s got a sweet jumper for a 7-footer. Pokusevski was one of the numerous players dealt to the OKC Thunder.
18. Dallas Mavericks: Josh Green (Arizona) … The Mavs acquired a high-volume shooter. Green was born in Australia, but moved to the US to pursue high school ball.
19. Brooklyn Nets: Saddiq Bey (Villanova) … A stellar shooter for a 6-foot-8 swingman. He nailed 45% of his treys for Nova while averaging 16.1 ppg for Jay Wright. Bey ended the night with the Pistons, via a trade.
20. Miami Heat: Precious Achiuwa (Memphis) … The 6-foot-9 power forward earned nods as one of the most athletic players in the draft. One scout said that if he focused on football, he would’ve been a dominant tight end. Scouts also loved Achiuwa’s defense and his ability to put the clamp down on shorter and taller opponents.
Late First Round
21. Philadelphia 76ers: Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky) … It was no surprise to see a one-and-done Kentucky player get drafted. Maxey was the floor general for Coach Calipari’s UK squad.
22. Denver Nuggets: Zeke Nnaji (Arizona) … The 6-foot-11 big man earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors while averaging 16.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
23. New York Knicks: Leandro Bolmaro (FC Barcelona/Spain) … The Knicks didn’t hold on to Bolmaro, the top prospect from Argentina, before trading him to the Timberwolves for Immanuel Quickley.
24. Milwaukee Bucks: RJ Hampton (New Zealand Breakers) … One of the top high school point guard recruits in the nation, Hampton decided to play his gap year down under in Australia instead of toiling with a one-and-done NCAA season. Hampton ended the evening heading to the Denver Nuggets in a trade.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Immanuel Quickley (Kentucky) … The Thunder shipped him to the Knicks, who finally drafted a shooting guard to fill their point guard needs.
26. Boston Celtics: Payton Pritchard (Oregon) … The Celtics drafted a rare senior. The 6-foot-2 sharpshooter lacks size, but the Pac-12 Player of the Year can light it up.
27. Utah Jazz: Udoka Azubuike (Kansas) … The Jazz drafted one of the most efficient scorers in the NCAA last season with the 7-foot Azubuike. Scouts gush that he has a 7-foot-7 wingspan.
28. LA Lakers: Jaden McDaniels (Washington) … The 6-foot-10 small forward got shipped out to the Timberwolves.
29. Toronto Raptors: Malachi Flynn (San Diego State) … Flynn was a scoring machine last season with SDSU, after spending two seasons with Washington State. Flynn knocked down numerous buzzer beaters, which made him a cult hero in San Diego.
30. Boston Celtics: Desmond Bane (TCU) … The Celtics shipped the 6-foot-6 Bane to the Grizzlies.
Chip Off the Old Block
NBA Draft night didn’t end without a few father/son duos. Out of the 60 players picked in the draft, three of them had fathers who played in the NBA.
Greg Anthony, a former UNLV star and ex-New York Knicks point guard and his son, Cole Anthony, became the first father/son tandem picked in the Top 15 of the NBA Draft. The Knicks were interested in Anthony, but passed him over with the #8 pick. They hoped he would be available later in the round, but the Orlando Magic drafted him with the #15 pick.
Kenyon Martin’s son KJ (aka Kenyon Martin, Jr.) was selected by the Sacramento Kings. Kenyon Martin first made a name for himself with the Cincinnati Bearcats in the NCAA before becoming a stalwart with the New Jersey Nets. KJ followed in Kenyon’s footsteps and also attended Cincy for college.
Pace Mannion and his son Nico were both drafted by the Golden State Warriors. After the Warriors drafted Pace in 1983, he played a short stint in the NBA before heading overseas to play in Italy. Nico Manning lit up the Pac-12 last season as a star guard with the Arizona Wildcats. The Warriors drafted Nico in the middle of the second round.
Brendan Bailey, the son of Thurl Bailey, didn’t end up drafted. He’s expected to latch on to a team as an undrafted free agent.