The Utah Jazz started draft day with an early morning trade on Wednesday, moving the 23rd pick to the New York Knicks in exchange for the 27th and 38th picks.
After eight months of uncertainty and the league facing challenges unlike anything we’ve ever seen, the 2020-21 season is right around the corner. The trade moratorium lifted on Monday and the draft is the next event in what is already shaping up to be a wild and fast-paced offseason.
Here is how I see the first round of the 2020 draft playing out, with the caveat of knowing some of this could end up wildly different once draft-night trades start to shift the draft order. This is both a mix of what I think teams will do and what I think they should do.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves — Anthony Edwards, guard
There’s been a lot of talk of the Wolves taking either Edwards or LaMelo Ball here, but neither of them really offer what Minnesota needs. It feels like the more likely scenario is that they end up trading down to find someone who complements Karl-Anthony Towns and can offer some defense on the wing.
2. Golden State Warriors — James Wiseman, center
This one seems pretty cut and dry with the Warriors needing some help at the center position and Wiseman widely considered the safest bet with a ton of defensive upside.
3. Charlotte Hornets — LaMelo Ball, guard
This is another spot where a trade could be possible. But, above all else the Hornets need some flashy star-level talent and Ball could be the start of turning things around in Charlotte. With his above average playmaking ability he could end up being a nice draw for other players to consider going to Charlotte.
4. Chicago Bulls — Tyrese Haliburton, guard
The Bulls would probably love to move up in the draft and take Ball, but even if it’s not possible they still need a high level playmaker and Haliburton seems to be the next best bet with that skill set.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers — Deni Avdija, guard/forward
Avdija is a two-way small forward who has a ton of potential to be a playmaker with more size than some of the smaller guards on a team, and he fits right into what the Cavaliers need.
6. Atlanta Hawks — Killian Hayes, guard
The Hawks need someone who can come in and run the team when Trae Young isn’t playing. On top of that Hayes would bring some defense to the position which the Hawks are severely lacking right now.
7. Detroit Pistons — Patrick Williams, forward
Multiple outlets have reported that the Pistons have shown strong interest in Williams and may have even promised him their pick. He still have some offensive room to grow but he gives the Pistons a defensive rotation piece that could last them for years.
8. New York Knicks — Obi Toppin, forward
Not only is Toppin a CAA client (the ties with CAA and the Knicks are ridiculous these days) but he’s also one of the most skilled offensive players in the draft. The Knicks could be looking to deal this pick or move in a defensive direction but Toppin would be a good pick no matter what.
9. Washington Wizards — Onyeka Okongwu, forward/center
The Wizards need someone to complement the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal and they need a center that is going to carry them forward. Okongwu could end up going higher on the board with his rising draft stock, but the Wizards would definitely take him if he’s left at No. 9.
10. Phoenix Suns — Devin Vassell, guard/forward
The Suns traded Monday to acquire Chris Paul and in that trade they lost some wing depth so getting in someone young and capable like Vassell to fill in a need would feel like the right thing to do.
11. San Antonio Spurs — Saddiq Bey, forward
With a team full of young guards, a multi-positional player like Bey who can add shooting and space to the frontcourt seems like just the kind of player that the Spurs would covet.
12. Sacramento Kings — Isaac Okoro, guard/forward
The Kings have been on the prowl for some perimeter defense and physicality to add to their roster. Okoro checks every box here with size, quickness and the ability to guard wings as well as larger NBA power forwards.
13. New Orleans Pelicans — Aaron Nesmith, guard/forward
The best shooter in the draft would be hard for the Pelicans to pass up when envisioning him playing on the outside with Zion Williamson on the inside. There’s a chance that the Suns could go with Nesmith and possible that Vassell could drop down to this position but either way I think both teams would be happy.
14. Boston Celtics (via Memphis) — Precious Achiuwa, forward/center
The Celtics don’t need scoring from the perimeter, they have that covered in a number of ways, but they could definitely use a physical force that can play quickly off the block.
15. Orlando Magic — Tyrese Maxey, guard
The Magic could be facing losing some players in free agency and already need someone that can play pick-and-roll and complement Markelle Fultz. Maxey would be a great pick just outside the lottery if he happens to fall to them.
16. Houston Rockets (via Portland) — Kira Lewis, guard
There’s a chance that the Rockets could be losing both James Harden and Russell Westbrook in the near future with reports that both players want out. That said, the Rockets could be in rebuilding mode soon and Lewis is a player whose draft stock is rising and potential upside is off the charts.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn) — Jaden McDaniels, forward
McDaniels offers a lot of raw talent that could be developed and kept waiting in the wings for the Wolves to use at the forward of the future.
18. Dallas Mavericks — Josh Green, guard
There are a lot of two-way wings in this draft and Green is among the best especially on the defensive side. The Mavericks have quietly shown interest in Green and know that if they don’t take him, he’ll be gone quickly.
19. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia) — RJ Hampton, guard
He’s worked out for the Nets and has a connection with general manager Sean Marks, a native of New Zealand, where Hampton played rather than going the college route. There’s also a possibility that the Nets could be losing guards like Joe Harris in free agency and even more if they end up trading for Harden.
20. Miami Heat — Jalen Smith, forward/center
I think that everyone, including the Miami Heat, are interested in the pairing of Smith and Bam Adebayo. Smith is a big that can play on the perimeter which would give some protection to Miami with impending free agency and some contracts that are running out.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (via OKC) — Desmond Bane, guard
The Sixers need playmaking and speed, but more than anything they need a shooter that can play alongside Ben Simmons and also provide backup help at the guard position. Bane fits the bill.
22. Denver Nuggets (via Houston) — Aleksej Pokusevski, forward
Possibly a sleeper in this draft, Pokusevski has a ridiculous amount of upside and is possibly the most skilled big in the draft. He’s raw and would require some developing, but for anyone that takes him it could end up being a huge steal.
23. New York Knicks (via Utah Jazz) — Malachi Flynn, guard
The Knicks traded with the Jazz on Wednesday morning to move up from 27. If they take a big with their earlier pick, then it would make sense for them to go for a playmaker here. Flynn has been rising on draft boards and gaining a lot of chatter in recent weeks; getting him at 27 was starting to look like it might be difficult, so maybe that’s the reason they were looking to move up.
24. New Orleans Pelicans (via Indiana) — Tyrell Terry, guard
This pick is reportedly heading to New Orleans as part of the trade with Milwaukee for Jrue Holiday, but hasn’t been made official. No matter the team, getting some more shooting on board with Terry would be a great choice.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver) — Zeke Nnaji, forward
An effective and efficient two-way big Nnaji could be some protection for the Thunder if Steven Adams ends up leaving.
26. Boston Celtics — Leandro Bolmaro, guard/forward
There’s a lot of noise suggesting that the Celtics will either package some picks or look to stash a player overseas and Bolmaro would be the wise choice here if they can’t come up with a package to send the pick elsewhere.
27. Utah Jazz (via Los Angeles Clippers) — Tyler Bey, guard/forward
More and more over the last week I’ve been feeling like a couple of the guys the Jazz have been looking at or closely linked to (i.e. Green and Bane) will be off the board by the time the Jazz pick. There are still going to be a lot of good players at the tail end of the first round and Bey could very well be one of them. Trading here might have been a way for the Jazz to get their guy and also an extra asset.
Bey is one of the best defensive wings in the draft and he would be a great fit and rotational player for the Jazz. I originally had them taking Bey at 23 and still think it could happen. Maybe if I beat this drum loud enough it will actually come to fruition.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Los Angeles Lakers) — Robert Woodard II, guard/forward
Woodard is a great defender with a ton of offensive upside and at this point in the draft upside with some skill is great.
29. Toronto Raptors — Theo Maledon, guard
Getting a player on the development path and planning for a day when Kyle Lowry won’t be around would be a good plan for the Raptors.
30. Boston Celtics — Isaiah Stewart, center
Again, I wouldn’t count on the Celtics ending up with this pick, which could end up in a package sent elsewhere, but Stewart should be a first-round pick.
38. Utah Jazz (via New York) — Paul Reed
The Jazz traded the 23rd pick to to the Knicks and in return was able to turn one pick into two. They could be creating more assets for a larger trade package that could take them higher in the draft or completely out of the draft, or they could legitimately be looking to make a second selection on Wednesday. If they do end up making another pick, Paul Reed is a good player who I’ve written about before that would be really useful and a nice second-round pickup.