NBA Draft Preview: predicting every first-round pick, potential trades and where LaMelo Ball will land

photo: NBA.com

By Tom Doyle

BRISTOL, CT —  The NBA playoffs are over, and teams are now deep into the evaluation process and finalizing their decisions of who to pick on this year’s draft.

The draft is set to take place at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, and unlike last year, this year’s draft class is full of uncertainty.  No one knows who is going to be drafted first overall.  

There is no Zion Williamson or Anthony Davis, both obvious top picks, this year. The most likely scenario is that the first three picks should be LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman in some order. 

The Minnesota Timberwolves pick first.  They traded Andrew Wiggins and a 2021 first round pick for D’Angelo Russel last season.  If they draft point guard LaMelo Ball from the Australian National Basketball League, it could clog their back court and make them a smaller team.  So, will it be Anthony Edwards? 

The Georgia product is a 6-5 shooting guard with extreme athleticism, and is the most NBA-ready player in this draft.  He is also a piece the Wolves could use at shooting guard.  The only set pieces they have this year are at point guard and center, in D’Angelo Russel and Karl-Anthony Towns, respectively.    

The Golden State Warriors have the number two pick in the draft.  Here is where the draft gets fun.  Golden State is coming off of a season where it was ravaged with injuries, and missed Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for almost the entire year. 

This came off a year in which the Warriors saw their two-time NBA finals MVP Kevin Durant leave for the Brooklyn Nets.  Now, they have former first overall pick Andrew Wiggins filling in at small forward with Curry and Thompson still in the back court.  

Three-time all-star Draymond Green and Kevon Looney will presumably start in the front court.  So, where does a number two overall pick fit in with this star-studded starting five?   

Expect a lot of trades.  In three straight drafts, a top five pick was traded.  Markelle Fultz was traded for Jayson Tatum in 2017, Luka Doncic was traded for Trae Young in 2018 and Deandre Hunter was traded for multiple first round picks in 2019. 

Could Minnesota trade the pick and get a proven all-star in Bradley Beal?  He has been brought up repeatedly, but it seems the Washington Wizards want to hold onto Beal after he led the Eastern Conference in scoring. 

The Nets could move Caris Levert or Spencer Dinwiddie in a deal to pair another player with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.  They have their eyes on James Harden.  Harden wants to be traded to Philadelphia or Brooklyn, according to ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.   

The Denver Nuggets could be looking to move on from Gary Harris and Bol Bol.  Expect the Denver Nuggets to make a little noise during the draft.

After Michael Porter Jr. emerged in the playoffs, Harris fell out of the lineup, and with Will Barton expected to be back next year, Harris is trade-able.  

ESPN reported that the Los Angeles Clippers may be trying to move Lou Williams this week as well, and Dallas is interested. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder are the team with the most assets in the draft.  They have accumulated an abundance of draft picks after trading Paul George, Russel Westbrook and Chris Paul.  They have the draft capitol to move up in the draft and pair a young player with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.   

With severe flaws in the top three prospects, expect one of the top three teams to trade down.  There is value in picks 5-10.  The Warriors could trade down for an asset and a pick with several teams that have been rumored to want to move up in the draft.  

“Moving up is definitely an option,” said Detroit Pistons General Manager Troy Weaver. 

The Warriors could swap picks with Detroit’s seventh pick and bring in a veteran such as Derrick Rose and another pick.  This could free up the point guard spot for Detroit to use on Ball and fill a sixth man role the Warriors are lacking.   

Here is my 2020 NBA Mock Draft: 

[Name, Position, University/Country, Age] 

  1. Minnesota: Anthony Edwards, G, Georgia, 18 
  1. Golden State: James Wiseman, C, Memphis, 18 
  1. Charlotte: Lamelo Ball, G, Australia, 19 
  1. Chicago: Deni Avdija, G, Israel, 19 
  1. Cleveland: Obi Toppin, F, Dayton, 22 
  1. Atlanta: Issac Okoro, F, Auburn, 19 
  1. Detroit: Onyeka Okongwu, F, USC, 19 
  1. New York: Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State, 20  
  1. Washington: Killian Hayes, G, France, 18 
  1. Phoenix: Devin Vassell, G, Florida State, 20 
  1. San Antonio: Patrick Williams, F, Florida State, 19 
  1. Sacramento: Kira Lewis Jr., G, Alabama, 19 
  1. New Orleans: RJ Hampton, G, New Zealand, 19 
  1. Boston: Jalen Smith, F, Maryland, 20 
  1. Orlando: Tyrese Maxey, G, Kentucky, 19 
  1. Houston: Cole Anthony, G, North Carolina, 20 
  1. Minnesota: Tyrell Terry, G, Stanford, 19 
  1. Dallas: Saddiq Bey, F, Villanova, 21 
  1. Brooklyn: Precious Achiuwa, F, Memphis, 21 
  1. Miami: Isaiah Stewart, F, Washington, 19 
  1. Philadelphia: Aaron Nesmith, G, Vanderbilt, 20 
  1. Denver: Desmond Bane, G, TCU, 22 
  1. Utah: Jaden McDaniels, G, Washington, 20 
  1. New Orleans: Josh Green, F, Arizona, 20 
  1. Oklahoma City: Aleksej Pokusevski, G, Serbia, 18 
  1. Boston: Leandro Bolmaro, G, Barcelona, 20  
  1. New York: Nico Mannion, G, Arizona, 19 
  1. Oklahoma City: Immanuel Quickley, G, Kentucky, 21 
  1. Toronto: Malachi Flynn, G, San Diego St., 22 
  1. Boston: Xaiver Tillman Sr., F, Michigan St., 21 

Before you hit the panic button…

By: Isaiah Blakely 

The sports world tends to hit the “panic button” early on in the season, no matter the sport.

This year the Golden State Warriors were questioned early on when they were in third place almost 25 games into the season.

Super Bowl Champion New England was behind the Miami in the division going into Week 5 and there were questions being asked about they would fare this season.

Well the Warriors just clinched the one-seed in the NBA’s Western Conference again and the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl.

The new team to be questioned is the defending champion Boston Red Sox who are 5-9 are and near the bottom of the AL East. With a slow start comes immediate questions of what’s wrong with the team.

What if there’s nothing really wrong with the Red Sox, or the Patriots or the Warriors? Great teams figure it out. Sure the Red Sox have holes especially in their bullpen, but can we hold off on asking questions about what’s wrong with a team this early in the season?

On this date last year the Red Sox were having a hot start at 8-1. But there were some other teams that were playing great baseball in April as well. The Toronto Blue Jays (6-4), Los Angeles Angels (7-3), New York Mets (7-1), Pittsburgh Pirates (7-2) and Arizona Diamondbacks (7-2).

None of those teams made the playoffs and they all started with a .600 winning percentage or better. In the Pirates and Diamondbacks cases they were top of the division halfway through May and still missed the playoffs.

Today we live in a world of instant results because of technology. But when it comes to sports, people including myself, need to relax and let the process play out.

That’s what playing a professional sport is…. A long process starting in the offseason with a goal to win a championship.

People just ignore the process and are quick to tear down a player and or a team.

The Patriots are a prime example. Tom Brady has been “declining” according to several talking heads on networks such as ESPN and Fox Sports 1 for years. That declining quarterback has led the Patriots to the Super Bowl four of the last five years including winning three.

People are also too quick to crown teams.

This year’s Los Angeles Lakers for a lot of people including myself were an easy playoff team. Halfway through December they were a game out of third place. Then poor play and injuries derailed their season. In reality though, a team made up of guys not known for their defense or their ability to shoot the three very well should have never been considered a high seed. But we all bought into the LeBron James hype and were all very wrong as the Lakers didn’t even eclipse 40 wins this year.

Even in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres were top of league and on a 10-game win streak in late November. It appeared this was going to be the year the Sabres finally return to the playoffs. Instead the only thing that returned was dysfunction and poor play. That led the Sabres to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference with 76 points.

Early season performances aren’t completely pointless but it’s not always an indicator of a team’s future success. At this point it’s getting ridiculous. Media people are just making knee-jerk reactions to get the most views or clicks on an article.

If a surprise team is over-performing, you have to take a look at how its winning and decide whether you believe that’s a realistic and sustainable way to be successful.

It’s rare that a talented group, especially a defending champion, has such a big problem the next year that can’t be fixed over the course of a season. That’s what makes a team great, its ability to adjust and overcome adversity.

I’m not saying no more “hot takes”. I enjoy the “Monday Morning Quarterback” type takes just like everyone else. But before we hit the panic button on the Red Sox in April or question if the Patriots dynasty is over hold off another week and save the panicking for everyone else.