The NBA Draft is just one night away. With so many amazing prospects, it was extremely difficult to differentiate many of the players from one another. Many believe the 2020 draft will be one of the most mundane in recent memory, but I think otherwise. While constructing this article, I realized there is a lot of talent in the back end of this year’s NBA draft, so I urge you all to read up until the 30th pick, and pay attention to the 2nd round. You never know, some true gems come from those later picks. With that being said, enjoy the inaugural NLJ NBA Mock Draft, written by myself and Rami Marinoff.
Before the keyboard warriors rip into this selection, let me say this; Anthony Edwards going to Minnesota is about fit. Yes, are James Wiseman and Lamelo Ball better prospects than Anthony-absolutely-but, Ball and Wiseman would disrupt the newly found combo of Russell and Towns. Unlike Ball, Edwards does have the ability to work off the ball. We did not see much of this at Georgia, but his raw basketball instincts allow him to find soft spots within the defense, explode, and will often find himself as a wide-open cutter in today’s NBA. It is going to be very important for his success to work without the ball, due to his lack of playmaking ability.
One thing I’d like to note, Edwards is by far the most creative and fluent shot-creators in the draft. His percentages are very “sus”, but he is only 18. He has a lot of room for growth, and his movement and the ability to get off the shots he takes are great signs. He also posses elite physical traits, and if he invests himself, he could become one of the league’s best perimeter defenders, and be the best defender from this year’s NBA draft.
Victor Oladipo (All-Star Season)
Golden State Warriors
Wiseman is such a perfect fit here. Granting an athletic center that can finish, protect the paint, and even stretch the floor a bit to Steph Curry’s offense makes the Warriors even more of a title threat. With an assumption that Wiseman does not even hit his ceiling (of a Karl Anthony Towns level scorer), he still will be the missing piece in the paint to complete this Warriors team. A solid comparison to me for James Wiseman is Chris Bosh. They both have unique interior defensive abilities, and Bosh grew his jumper in the league. However, Wiseman needs to find his place as a scorer, known for taking too many shots outside of the paint despite his intended role.
Hassan Whiteside (He already looks like him)
Point Guard, Australia (Illawarra Hawks)
It’s almost fitting that a franchise like Charlotte gets the most boom or bust prospect from this year’s NBA Draft. Without a doubt, Lamelo Ball has the highest ceiling of any player in the draft. His 6’7” frame with a 6’10” wingspan is unique as-is for a PG, now include some of the best passing instincts we’ve seen in a prospect within the last 10 years, it’s almost like he was made in a 2k lab. He also plays like a braindead 2k player at times as well. Regardless of the recklessness, Lamelos frame and play style is unique and exciting.
He can absolutely stroke it from deep, despite the horrendous percentages, and even with a frail frame only weighing 190 lbs, Lamelo is one of the best finishers in the draft. He always finds a way to succeed no matter where he is located. If-keyword if- Lamelo can put in the work, bulk up, and take NBA coaching, he could grow into something special. If not, Charlotte just wasted a pick on another Ball Is Life mixtape hooper (shout the Knicks and DSJ).
Forward, Israel (Maccabi Tel Aviv)
Advija is crafty, a monster on defense, and as good a playmaker as anyone in this draft. However, his lack of burst will hold him back as a finisher and driver in the NBA at first. Pairing a playmaking Advija with high volume scorers like Zach Lavine and Lauri Markannen can be dangerous. Advija is also just a 5 percent three-point boost from being the best player in this year’s NBA draft.
Obi Toppin is by far the most difficult top prospect to rate this draft cycle. He has such a diverse skill set, but he doesn’t necessarily do anything great. Toppin is an elite finisher due to his explosiveness and vertical, he can shoot well from 3 as well as from the mid-range, and he is a great playmaker from the high post off of the pick and roll. Toppin is a swiss army knife on offense, and will likely be a decent contributor on that end of the floor for a long time. Where Toppin falls short is defense. He struggles in the P&R, often getting lost or not switching, and cannot play zone to save his life. Evidently, that will be his shortcoming early on in his career.
The lack of “star power” in this draft hurt Cleveland. They could easily go with Killian Hayes, Tyrese Haliburton, or even Onyeka Okongwu; but considering Toppin is from Dayton (an Ohio-based college) and the Cavaliers’ front office being incompetent and often going safe, Toppin looks like to be a shoo-in at 5.
To me, Onyeka Okongwu has the most potential other than Edwards in the draft. He shows frightening tenacity on both sides of the rim and makes up for size with freakish athleticism and skill. Him and scorer John Collins, along with Trae Young, could put Atlanta in long term playoff contention.
Point Guard, France (Ratiopharm Ulm)
With Derrick Rose on the way out, Reggie Jackson no longer being on the roster, and a lack of playmaking on the Pistons, it only makes sense for Detriot to go with a PG at number 7. Evidently, Killian Hayes is who I had left as my best available prospect and PG. Killian is only 18 years old, he is a large PG at 6’5”, and can do just about everything. plus, he’s a lefty. He can defend at an elite level, is a great finisher, playmaker, and can score on all 3 levels. You don’t see many good 18-year-olds coming out of Europe. With those splits, Hayes could have star written all over him.
Mike Conley (w/ bounce)
New York Knicks
Point Guard, Iowa State
This is the best pick New York can make in this year’s NBA draft. Other than not being as high-volume a scorer as one would like, Haliburton really did not show any weaknesses this year. He had three steals per game, averaging 15/6/7 and shooting 42 percent from 3. He has all the makings for a consistent NBA Player.
Forward, Florida State
Patrick Williams is your late-rising young prospect of the year. Despite limited production at FSU, the 18-year-old Patrick Williams has suddenly shot up draft boards. If you take the time to watch Williams, you can see why he is such a tantalizing prospect. He has an NBA ready body despite only being 18, he possesses elite defensive instincts, and has one of the smoothest pull-up jump shots in the draft. With Devin Vassell and Isaac Okoro still on the board, it may be odd for Washington to pick Williams, but his playstyle fits perfectly with their current roster. Look for Williams to be the surprise player from this year’s NBA draft.
Derrick Jones Jr
Kira Lewis Jr.
Point Guard, Alabama
Kira Lewis Jr. has seen an abnormal rising in his stock lately. His speed alone will make him a solid NBA player, and he has the potential to be a perennial all-star. Putting his scoring and craftiness with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton gives Phoenix hope for the future. Even with the new addition of CP3, Lewis will be able to lead a young 2nd unit in Pheonix; plus, he’ll be privy to unique mentorship from the likes of Chris Paul.