The NBA draft is here, way off schedule. Due to the pandemic, we won’t be getting our usual experience, and it won’t be at the usual time. Each year, the NBA draft is one of my absolute favorite events in the sports calendar. From the elaborate and instantly dated suits, to the dramatic reactions, to the awkward last-man-left, to the clingy girlfriends, to the constant talk of wingspan, to the Knicks being the Knicks, every year seems to follow a script that is a blast. This year, there is no live feed, so we are going to miss out on a lot of the fun. Still, there are some things we will be looking for. So I am going to make 10 unlikely predictions for the 2020 draft. Let’s see if any of it happens.
The First Pick: Anthony Edwards. This is a boring choice, but I don’t think the Wolves will get much for the No. 1 pick this year. Since they will likely make the selection, a wing is probably the best fit for them. This is, of course, a terrible pick. Edwards is on record not really liking basketball (this is a basketball draft), he is notoriously a player who has not made his teams better, and he regularly makes poor decisions on the court. It’s the T-Wolves though, and they don’t value things like caring or intensity. Just ask Jimmy Butler.
What the Hell are the Knicks going to do: They will find a way to get LaMelo Ball. Speaking of players who lack focus and intensity, LaMelo Ball is a player who could slip past the first 2 picks. I think if he makes it to three, the Knicks will trade up. He is the perfect James Dolan player. Flashy, famous and terrible at defense. He also can’t shoot. There are three things you need to be a great NBA player. Playmaking, defense and shooting. He can do one of these. We already have the perfect template for how this will go with his brother, who is the exact same player. I am sure his dad is around behind the scenes making sure he bad mouths the small market teams that might try to take him to make sure he lands in a major market.
Are the Warriors going to make a major trade? No, they aren’t. The problem with them trading out of two, is that there is nobody exciting to get at 2. My guess is they value the pick more than most teams. The only way I see them giving up this pick is if a star player is available, and who would make a star player available for the mediocre options this year. They also could really use an effective big. For years they have been plugging the gap with mediocre players. I see them going with either Wiseman or Okongwu. Draymond Green needs reduced minutes and this would provide it.
Most obvious pick: Deni Avdija - Bulls. The Bulls recently promoted a European scouting director to a VP position. Arturas Karnisovas oversaw the European scouting department, and there is no doubt he is familiar with Deni’s work. Here is the other thing, the Bulls can afford to make a developmental pick. They are nowhere near contention.
What about Obi Toppin? He is headed to the Cavs. This is super obvious. They need to replace Kevin Love. They have Drummond locked in. They just drafted two guards. And it is VERY clear they do not care about defense. Obi Toppin is a terrible defender, but he can do something most players in this draft can’t, the hardest thing to do in basketball, score.
Who is a good late lottery sleeper? Devin Vassell. Vassell has the shooting and defense to get onto the court right away. He also is known to work very hard, so I think his weaknesses with ball handling can be fixed. Ball handling is actually one of the easiest things to fix, it’s mostly just practice. Effort and shooting are two of the hardest things to teach. I could see him becoming a little bit lesser version of Klay Thompson in the right situation. Honorable mention for Killian Hays, who is one of the few players who has star upside in this draft.
Which long armed, bad shooting prospect will the Magic take? Patrick Williams, if he slips. Vassell and Nesmith are also options if they slip too.
Which pick is the MOST likely to be traded? The Nets pick at 19. I see no reason why they would make this pick. It’s too early for a stash pick, too late for a useful rotation player. I think they would rather save the money.
Likely second rounder I think has star upside: Elijah Hughes. He scored almost 20 a game in the ACC on a slow moving, inefficient Syracuse offense. He has the size, skill and hard working acumen to become elite. I could see him becoming an Eddie Jones or Kevin Martin style player.
What is the hot new thing that analysts will not stop talking amount: Versatility. Thanks to players like Bam Adebayo, Nikola Jokic, Draymond Green, Ben Simmons, and Kawhi Leonard, versatility has become an NBA buzzword. Team see units like Boston or Miami and they are starting to value the same position-less balance. Any player that even remotely fits this description will be called a “versatile” player who can fit in today’s “positionless” game. Bonus points for wingspan now being defined by Plus-number. Instead of saying a 6’10” player has a 7’1” wingspan they will just say the wingspan is “plus 3”