NBA Power Rankings: The way, way too early offseason edition
Of course the Lakers start on top, but after that things get unpredictable. 1. Lakers (52-19 last season). LeBron James and Anthony Davis won the Lakers one title, and as long as those two are on the roster L.A. is a contender for another. This summer, Davis will opt-out then re-sign, but the challenge is the roster around Davis and LeBron. Markieff Morris and Dwight Howard are free agents; meanwhile, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo will opt out looking for the bigger payday. Kyle Kuzma is extension eligible.
As expected, the 2020 NBA draft will be conducted virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic that upended the ’19-20 season and continues to prevent large-scale gatherings. The NBA and ESPN issued a joint press release Thursday confirming that this year’s draft broadcast will air on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 7:00 p.m. ET. © Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports The 2020 NBA Draft will be held virtually.
The plan is for NBA commissioner Adam Silver and deputy commissioner Mark Tatum to appear live at ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Conn., where they’ll reveal this year’s draft picks. As usual, Silver will announce the first-round selections, while Tatum will handle the second round.
Pacers hire Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as head coach
Bjorkgren served under reigning NBA Coach of the Year Nick Nurse in Toronto as assistant coach the past two seasons and helped them win the 2019 NBA Finals. He also worked as player development coordinator and assistant coach of the Phoenix Suns for two seasons from 2015-17 and then signed on with Toronto as an advanced scout during the 2017-18 campaign. Bjorkgren, 45, was an assistant under Nurse when the Iowa Energy won the 2010-11 NBA G League championship.
Although there won’t be a traditional “green room” for top prospects, a number of draftees will appear virtually, according to Thursday’s announcement
The NBA also conducted its August draft lottery virtually, while other leagues – including the WNBA and NFL – have completed virtual drafts already this year. So while this format is unusual for the NBA, it’s not entirely without precedent.
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1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
NBA Comparison: Dion Waiters on a no-sugar, no-edibles dietMy hunch is that Edwards ends up developing into the player that the Cavs hoped they were drafting back when they selected Waiters with the no. 4 overall pick in 2012 NBA Draft. Edwards has a similar high-release point on his jumper and is comfortable taking and making contested shots. And like Waiters, the 6-foot-5 freshman out of Georgia has the talent to catch fire and completely dominate games for stretches of time with his scoring, playmaking and open court athleticism. Edwards must improve his consistency, his defensive fundamentals and motor. He's not an ideal top-three pick in a typical draft, but he at least has All-NBA-level talent and a prototypical NBA body. If the T'Wolves are unable to trade down, he's the best fit in Minnesota alongside Karl Anthony-Towns and D'Angelo Russell.
2. Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman, C, Memphis
NBA Comparison: DeAndre JordanTaking into consideration his raw package of athletic ability and skill, and combining that with the fact that teams only have three college games and a bunch of high school tape to work with, Wiseman enters this draft as one of the biggest question marks of the 2020 draft. He's got the potential to be DeAndre Jordan or Tyson Chandler with a jump shot - a player who can carry the backend of an elite defense and be a devastating roll man on offense. At the same time, he could also end up being Hassan Whiteside - a vastly talented player who will put up good rebounding and block shot stats, but ultimately has an adverse impact on winning. Lots of NBA insiders are saying the Warriors love Wiseman at no. 2 if they decide to keep the pick.
3. Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawara
NBA Comparison: A taller version of D'Angelo RussellAs far as talent goes, Ball is at the very top of the draft board - he's got the same type of playmaking abilities and elite vision as his brother Lonzo, plus he's a couple of inches taller and seems to be mature enough to handle the pressure that comes with being a top pick, having been in the spotlight since he was in ninth grade. Unfortunately, LaMelo has the same shooting concerns as his brother because of his juvenile, push-shot form. It'll be interesting to see if he rebuilds his jumper or merely makes smaller adjustments like Ja Morant has with his shot. He'll also need to improve his atrocious effort on defense is he wants to be a winning player. For those reasons, I find it hard to believe that the T'Wolves or Warriors would select Ball. Thus, it makes more sense for the Hornets to take a huge swing on Ball at no. 3.
4. Chicago Bulls: Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State
NBA Comparison: Malcolm BrogdonIn the era of positionless basketball, we've seen a number of unorthodox, two-way guards like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Malcolm Brogdon have success almost immediately in the league. I'd expect Haliburton to be the same. As off-tempo as his shot and playing style look, the guy produces at a high level - he averaged 15.2 ppg., 6.5 apg., 5.9 rpg. with 50-42-82 shooting splits in his sophomore season at Iowa State. The Bulls appear to have reached their peak with Zach LaVine as their go-to guy, so it wouldn't be surprising if they moved him this offseason or in the near future. Haliburton would be a perfect fit next to the Bulls' first round pick from last season (Coby White) as he should be an above-average defender against point guards and two-guards in the NBA.
6. Atlanta Hawks: R.J. Hampton, G, NZ Breakers
NBA Comparison: Corey BrewerIt'll be interesting to see how the Hawks approach this pick. Do they try to trade it in an attempt to put a more competitive, playoff-ready team around Trae Young? Do they stay at no. 6 and draft a wing ready to contribute immediately like they did last year with Deandre Hunter? Or do they swing for the fences and draft a boom-bust kind of prospect like they did last year with Cam Reddish? As anxious as Young is to win, the reality is that the Hawks are still a year or two away from that, so why not go with a player with a ton of potential like RJ Hampton? Hampton has no jumper whatsoever at this point, but he'll immediately been one of the fastest end-to-end players in the league. He'll also be one of the youngest players in the league, so he'll have plenty of room to grow into the type of uber-athletic shooting guard that can make the Hawks a nightmare to guard in the future.
7. Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes, PG, Raiopharm Ulm
NBA Comparison: A bigger, left-handed CJ McCollumHayes' tape sure does pop - he's an shifty lefty who can get to the rim, run through passing lanes and do all the step-backs and space-creating dribble moves that all the lead guards in today's league have in their bags. While he isn't as explosive as a Russell Westbrook, he appears to have the ability to decelerate and change speed and directions to beat defenders à la CJ McCollum. The next steps in his development are to improve his long distance shooting (29.4 percent from three) and right hand. If he's able to do so, he could end up being the best player in this draft. The Pistons would be an ideal fit if he were to fall to pick no. 7.
8. New York Knicks: Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn
NBA Comparison: Josh RichardsonOkoro projects to be an elite wing defender at the next level, and I'm sure that's music to Tom Thibodeau's ears here at pick no. 8. Standing 6-foot-6 and weighing a stout 225 pounds, he should be able to defend the league's best wings without getting overpowered, but also switch onto guards or big men in a pinch. His jump shot is is definitely a work in progress, but his finishing around the rim and aggressive playing style will help to make up for those shooting shortcomings in his early years. If he ever develops a reliable three-point stroke, he'll be an elite three-and-D player.
9. Washington Wizards: Onyeka Okongwu, PF, USC
NBA Comparison: Wendell Carter Jr. As we just saw in the NBA playoffs, having a big man with Bam Adebayo-like skills is becoming more and more important. Not only do today's bigs have to be versatile enough to protect the rim and switch onto wings on defense, they have to be skilled enough to execute dribble-handoffs out of the high post and attack the rim off a dribble or two when teams overplay the shooters. In a perfect world, Okongwu could very well develop into a Bam-like player, but it's more likely that he ends up being closer to Wendell Carter Jr., who possesses the same basic skill set as Adebayo, but is about 80 percent as good as Adebayo at all those skills. Okongwu's range appears to be anywhere from pick no. 4 through 10, so if he's still on the board at no. 9 for the Wizards, expect them to grab the skilled, young big out of USC.
10. Phoenix Suns: Patrick Williams, F, Florida State
NBA Comparison: Montrezl Harrell with the potential to have a more well-rounded gameWilliams is someone who you could really see rising late in the draft process. He's an explosive, high energy forward who found a way to contribute in a variety of ways for a very good, very experienced Florida State squad as a freshman. At the very least, he'll be a great player to bring off the bench to crash the boards on both ends and run the court hard, making impact plays all over. If he has a bigger skill set that he was able to show in his one year at FSU, then he could be a steal at this point in the draft. With an intriguing trade piece at forward in Kelly Oubre Jr., it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Suns to snag Williams at no. 10 as a potential long-term replacement at the four.
12. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Nesmith, G/F, Vanderbilt
NBA Comparison: Buddy HieldModern basketball values the ability to knock down three-point shots as much as any skill. And for that reason alone, Nesmith should be a lottery pick as he can absolutely make it rain from deep. In 14 games last season, Nesmith literally shot 52.2 percent from three on more than six attempts per game. 52 percent!! That's completely insane. The way he plays immediately draws comparisons to Buddy Hield, who, ironically, appears to want out of Sacramento (he's been ignoring coach Luke Walton's calls and texts all offseason). Nesmith would be an ideal replacement for Hield and a great wing player to have next to speedster De'Aaron Fox.
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford
NBA Comparison: Seth CurryTerry is an interesting prospect. On one hand, he's got an extremely slight frame for an NBA player (6-foot-2, 174 pounds) and will routinely get picked on switches late in games or in the playoffs. But on the other hand, he's got a Curry family skill set - complete with the lightening quick release and unlimited range. After witnessing the gravity of Steph Curry first-hand while he was the GM of a Cavs team that had to face the Warriors in the Finals every year, don't be surprised if David Griffin looks to surround Zion Williamson with as many elite floor spacers as possible, and Terry might be the best one in this draft.
14. Boston Celtics (via Grizzlies): Devin Vassell, SG, Florida State
NBA Comparison: A defensive-minded Jeremy LambVassell jumps off the tape with his defensive effort and slashing ability on offense. He's got a prototypical body of an NBA shooting guard and enough athleticism to translate to the league. While his offensive numbers last season weren't eye-popping (12.7 ppg., 5.1 rpg. with 49-42-74 shooting splits), he averaged an impressive 2.4 combined blocks and steals per game. Any team drafting Vassell is making a play for the future as it will likely take him a few seasons to develop into a solid offensive player, but until then, he'll get some minutes as a energetic defender off the bench.
15. Orlando Magic: Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
NBA Comparison: Trey BurkeAfter a disappointing season in Chapel Hill, Anthony will try to regain some of his draft stock footing during the workout and interview process. Considering his NBA pedigree (his father is Greg Anthony) and high school ranking (No. 2 overall in ESPN's 2019 Top 100), I'd expect him to be on the rise come draft night. Anthony probably won't be a point guard that runs a team's offense for 35 minutes a night, but rather, a sixth man that comes off the bench and tries to drop 20 every night and force the issue on offense. He makes sense as a backup to the mercurial Markelle Fultz.
16. Portland Trail Blazers: Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova
NBA Comparison: Jae CrowderBey projects to be a solid three-and-D player in the NBA. He's a good defender and has good size (6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan). And despite having an unorthodox looking shot, he shot an impressive 45.1 percent from three on 5.6 three-point attempts per game as a sophomore with Villanova last season. He should have a place in the NBA for a long time. A wing-needy team like the Blazers should look to plug-and-play him immediately in their main rotation.
18. Dallas Mavericks: Precious Achiuwa, PF, Memphis
NBA Comparison: Montrezl HarrellAchiuwa is a mega-athlete whose best skill at this point is his energy on both ends of the court. He's an aggressive cutter and rim-runner on offense and finishes almost everything above the rim with an emphatic slam. On defense, he can contest shots at the rim but also has the quickness to defend on the perimeter. He'll need to develop more parts of his game to become an impact player, but he certainly has a very high ceiling if he does. If he's available for the Mavericks at no. 18, the lure of Luka Doncic to Achiuwa alley-oops would certainly be tempting.
19. Brooklyn Nets (via 76ers): Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
NBA Comparison: Shorter Jrue HolidayFor any team in need of a short-term backup point guard and a long-term point guard of the future, Kira Lewis Jr. might be the guy. The sophomore point guard out of Alabama averaged an impressive 18.5 ppg., 5.2 apg. and 4.8 rpg. with 46-37-80 shooting splits last season. He has some very impressive speed and body control on drives as well. He could be a logical replacement for Spencer Dinwiddie should the Nets look to package Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert in a deal for a superstar.
20. Miami Heat: Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
NBA Comparison: Collin SextonCould Maxey be the next Tyler Herro or Devin Booker out of Kentucky - a super-talented player hiding in plain sight because he was ultimately not utilized very much at UK due to Coach Cal's immense talent pool? Or is he a decent shot-maker better suited as a third or fourth guard on a good team? If it's the former, then he could be the third hidden gem from UK for the Miami Heat. If it's the latter, then he should still get some run with the Heat's second unit and help keep the pressure on other team's defenses when Dragic and Herro hit the bench.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (via Thunder): Josh Green, SG, Arizona
NBA Comparison: Danuel HouseAs long as he can consistently hit three-pointers (36.1 percent from three in college), Green should end up being a nice three-and-D wing in the NBA. He's 6-foot-6 and a pretty decent athlete. He has a good feel for the game and is the type of wing who can attack hard closeouts. He also projects to be a good defender once he gets a few years under his belt. Contenders can never have enough good wing players, so it'd be surprising to see him fall much further than the 76ers at pick no. 21.
22. Denver Nuggets (via Rockets): Aleksej Pokusevski, F, Olympiacos
NBA Comparison: Dragon BenderPokusevski is easily the biggest question mark in the first round this year. With an frame similar to Bol Bol's, the 7-foot, 201-pound, 18-year-old Serbian could go in the lottery or he could go in the mid-twenties depending on the amount of risk teams are willing to take. If he could add some muscle and get his surprisingly versatile game to translate to the NBA, he could be the steal of the draft. Consider me a skeptic, however, if you watch some of Pokusevski's highlights, the competition often looks like it's low-level high school basketball. Maybe the Nuggets are feeling themselves after stealing Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol in the past two drafts and take Pokusevski if he slides this far.
23. Utah Jazz: Jaden McDaniels, SF, Washington
NBA Comparison: Jeff GreenNBA front offices should thank their lucky stars that McDaniels underwhelmed in college. Otherwise, he'd be a top-10 pick, and probably end up with a poorly-run organization like the Knicks or Kings, and get lost in the weeds. At 6-foot-9, McDaniels can do it all - he's athletic, he is skilled with the ball in his hands, and he can shoot it from three. He can be the best player on the court for short blips. He's just very inconsistent. Fortunately for McDaniels, guys like Jeff Green will always have a place in the league - Green's heading into season number 13!! I'd expect the Jazz to trade Rudy Gobert this offseason and do a mini rebuild around Donovan Mitchell, so that means they should be taking higher risk-higher reward players in the draft like McDaniels.
24. Milwaukee Bucks (via Pacers): Desmond Bane, SG, TCU
NBA Comparison: Norman PowellBane is the rare senior in the first round mix, meaning he'll be virtually ignored by teams looking for high upside sleepers, yet coveted by contenders looking for ready-made rookie contributors. Bane should be able to play minutes for the Bucks immediately as a three-and-D wing off the bench with his excellent three-point shooting (44.2 percent last season) and mature defensive game.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Nuggets): Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL
NBA Comparison: George HillMaledon would be a nice value pick at no. 25 for the soon-to-be-rebuilding Thunder as he was viewed as a high lottery pick before he injured his shoulder last fall. Maledon is a decent-sized point guard (6-foot-4 with a rangy wingspan) who can play on or off the ball on offense and projects to be a solid defender in the NBA. Hailing from the same town in France as Tony Parker, Maledon definitely has some of the same nice touch from mid-range and around the rim as Parker once did. He'd give the Thunder another big, savvy guard to play next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for years to come.
26. Boston Celtics: Killian Tillie, F, Gonzaga
NBA Comparison: Kelly OlynykTillie, who stands 6-foot-10 and weighs 220 pounds, is a savvy big man out of Gonzaga that has enough NBA skills to make him intriguing to a team like the Celtics here towards the end of the first round. He can shoot from deep (40 percent from three last season), and he's a crafty player, especially around the rim. He was athletic enough and strong enough to punish opponents in college, but do those attributes translate to the NBA? If they do, Tillie can be a rotation player in the NBA.
27. New York Knicks (via Clippers): Malachi Flynn, PG, San Diego State
NBA Comparison: Shabazz NapierFlynn is a lightening quick guard who can blow past defenders at will and create enough space to score all over the court despite standing only 6-foot-1. He has all of the moves around the basket - eurosteps, wrong-hand finishes, floaters - and projects to be a nice heat check player off the bench in the NBA. He'll have trouble on defense due to his slight stature, but he can at least make up for it by using his quickness to force turnovers on the perimeter. The Knicks can use a lot of things (per usual), but scoring will be a priority. Flynn should be able to help on that front within a year or two.
28. Los Angeles Lakers: Payton Pritchard, PG, Oregon
NBA Comparison: Fred VanVleetIf the Lakers don't trade this pick, they'll be searching for a player who can contribute right away. Enter Pritchard - a four-year point guard out of Oregon who developed into a big-time scorer in his senior year, averaging 20.5 ppg., 5.5 apg., and 4.3 rpg. with impressive 47-42-82 shooting splits. Although he's athletically limited and only stands at 6-foot-2, he knows how to use his low center of gravity to his advantage on drives à la Fred VanVleet. His steady play and knockdown shooting ability would work nicely off the bench for the Lakers, especially if they lose Rajon Rondo to free agency after his strong post season.
29. Toronto Raptors: Robert Woodard II, Mississippi State
NBA Comparison: The Morris TwinsWoodard, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound sophomore out of Mississippi State, comes ready-made to contribute in the NBA as a three-and-D wing who can probably defend most big men in the post due to his strength. He's a good vertical athlete and can finish around the rim with the best of them. Moreover, he shot an impressive 42.9 percent from three last season on only 70 attempts, so it'll be interesting to see if he starts to fire from the perimeter with more confidence once he carves out a niche on a team. The Raptors always seem to find three-and-D steals late in the draft, I wouldn't be shocked if Woodard is the latest.
30. Boston Celtics (via Bucks): Leandro Bolmaro, G, Barcelona
NBA Comparison: Tomáš SatoranskýBolmaro is a herky-jerky, playmaking guard out of Argentina who plays with a ton of flare - check out some of his passes in this highlight!! Does that remind you at all of a particular Spurs legend from Argentina? Though he has good size for a guard (6-foot-7), he's not quite as athletic as Argentina's most famous player, Manu Ginobili. And he hasn't learned to shoot like him yet either. Still, with the last pick of the first round, the Celtics might as well take a swing on a big guard with some solid upside that they can stash overseas until he's ready to contribute.
Deandre Ayton gets crazy new back tattoo .
Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, averaged 18.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game in 38 games this season. The 6-foot-11 center has the makeup to be one of the best players in the league for years to come.Subscribe to Yardbarker's Morning Bark, the most comprehensive newsletter in sports. Customize your email to get the latest news on your favorite sports, teams and schools. Emailed daily.