The 2020 NBA draft is (finally) in the books. In the end, there were plenty of surprises, but far fewer trades than expected. How did every team in the first round fare? The Ringer’s draft expert Jonathan Tjarks dishes his pick-by-pick analysis.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards, G, Georgia
The Wolves took it all the way down to the wire, but eventually took the player who always made the most sense for them. The other two consensus top-three picks—LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman—don’t really fit next to Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. Edwards is an elite athlete with a better feel for the game than advertised and all the physical tools necessary to become an All-Star-caliber wing. But he will have to continue refining his jumper, shot selection, and defensive awareness to live up to this selection. Those are some big hurdles for a player being taken at no. 1 overall, but welcome to 2020. You can only pick from who is available.
2. Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman, C, Memphis
This is simultaneously the safest pick and biggest gamble at the top of the draft. Wiseman played only three games at Memphis, but most NBA teams were already familiar with his game from his high school days. He’s a massive 7-footer with elite athleticism and the ability to contribute right away. The question is whether he will be good enough to overcome the diminishing value of the center position. Quality big men are easy to find in the modern NBA. Wiseman has to be elite to be worth going this high. Golden State is the best situation for him, but they will need him to grow a lot on both ends of the floor.
3. Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball, G, Illawarra
LaMelo instantly gives the Hornets an identity, something they have never really had since the franchise’s revival. There’s no guarantee that he will pan out, but he has more upside than anyone they have ever drafted. He’s a 6-foot-7 point guard with elite passing ability who will be a triple-double threat from Day 1. The question is whether he will ever be a threat to make 3s, instead of just take them. Ball will likely be an inefficient offensive player for the first few years of his career, but there’s no one in Charlotte whom he’ll be taking shots away from. He will make everyone around him better. And people outside of North Carolina (and inside too) will actually watch them play.
4. Chicago Bulls: Patrick Williams, F, Florida State
The biggest riser in the NBA draft rose even higher than people in his camp expected. Williams was widely projected as a late first-round pick after coming off the bench in his one season at Florida State. The biggest question surrounding him is whether he projects as more of a combo big man or a wing who can play at the 3 and the 4. He’s a raw player with the size and strength to bang in the paint, but asking him to play full time on the perimeter might be tough at this stage of his career. If he can’t play as a wing, then playing him next to Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. might be difficult.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Isaac Okoro, F, Auburn
Okoro is a great fit next to Darius Garland and Collin Sexton in the sense that he can play defense and they can’t. He also doesn’t need to dominate the ball, which is a big plus next to their shot-happy backcourt. The question is whether he can develop his jumper enough to threaten defenses off the ball. The history of perimeter players taken in the lottery with his shooting percentages (29 percent from 3, 67 percent from the free throw line) is ugly. The good news is that if Okoro can become an elite shooter, he’d be as good as any player in this draft. That’s just a big if in a league where shooting has never been more important.
6. Atlanta Hawks: Onyeka Okongwu, F, USC
Okongwu could end up as a better defender than Wiseman because he’s more capable of guarding on the perimeter. He doesn’t have prototypical size for the center position, but he projects well with the way the game is trending. The question is how much value he can add to a Hawks team that already has Clint Capela and John Collins. Okongwu might end up developing enough offensively to moonlight as a power forward, but he’s currently better suited as the sole big man in a spread offense who can catch lobs at the rim. The problem is that’s the same role that Capela already fills. Having two guys for that spot is not an ideal way to build a team in 2020.
7. Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes, G, Ulm
This is a deep pull-up 3 from a new front office led by Troy Weaver. Hayes has the best combination of ballhandling, shooting, and passing ability in this draft. He could develop into an elite point guard. The question is whether he has athleticism to be a primary option in the NBA. Young point guards need room to make mistakes and develop, and he will get that on a rebuilding team. There will be nights when he coughs the ball up and struggles to finish against NBA defenses, but the opportunity cost for his development is almost nonexistent. He needs to work on that right hand, though. He’s a left-hander who only goes one way right now.
8. New York Knicks: Obi Toppin, F, Dayton
Toppin was the best player in college basketball last season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything at the next level. He’s an elite interior scorer with a good feel for the game. Few would dispute that. Here’s the issue: He’s simply not a good defensive player, which means that he needs to be paired with someone who can protect the rim and open up the floor for him on offense. But Mitchell Robinson, the best prospect on the Knicks’ roster, also needs floor spacing around him. Toppin will have to develop as a perimeter offensive player to make the pair fit. He has the ability to do that, but the excitement about him comes from the way he finishes around the rim, not the way he shoots 3s or takes guys off the dribble.
9. Washington Wizards: Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Avdija should be able to help right away for a team desperate to make the playoffs. He’s a combo forward with the ability to match up with multiple positions on defense and serve as a secondary playmaker on offense. The question is whether he can refine his jumper enough to thrive in an off-ball role next to Bradley Beal. Spacing up front could be tight between Avdija and Rui Hachimura, another combo forward who lives in the midrange. Avdija probably won’t become a star, but he’s smart and tough enough to carve out a long NBA career.
10. Phoenix Suns: Jalen Smith, F/C, Maryland
The Suns clearly don’t believe in draft ranges, that’s for sure. A year after shocking the NBA draft community by taking Cam Johnson at no. 11, they did it again with Smith, who was ranked no. 17 on The Ringer’s big board. There are more than a few similarities between the two players. Both are 3-and-D prospects with great size and big question marks surrounding every other part of their game. Shot-blocking centers with legitimate 3-point range aren’t quite as unusual as they used to be, but players like Smith are still fairly uncommon. The question is how much he can play as a power forward next to Deandre Ayton. Otherwise the Suns just used a top-10 pick on someone who can play only 15 minutes per game on their roster.
11. San Antonio Spurs: Devin Vassell, F, Florida State
The Spurs didn’t overthink this—and got it right. Vassell is the best 3-and-D prospect in this year’s draft and has more shot-creating talent than he showed in college. His ability to guard on the wing, play as a help-side defender, and be an efficient offensive player makes him a great fit next to San Antonio’s collection of young, ball-dominant guards. There’s very little chance that Vassell busts, and he has the chance to be a more valuable NBA player than a lot of the players taken ahead of him. The only concern is that predraft video where he bizarrely changed his shooting motion. Everyone in San Antonio just has to pretend that never happened.
12. Sacramento Kings: Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State
Haliburton makes a lot of sense for a new front office led by GM Monte McNair, who came over from Daryl Morey’s front office in Houston. He’s the perfect analytical selection—an uber-efficient scorer who never takes bad shots or turns the ball over, and who also racks up defensive stats. He doesn’t need to take a lot of shots to impact the game, which should make him a great fit next to De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Haliburton will need to continue putting weight on his frame, but he should still be able to immediately improve the Kings. He once played AAU ball in Wisconsin with Tyler Herro, and could end up as a similar steal in the late lottery.
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Kira Lewis Jr., G, Alabama
Some really talented guards have come off the board at the end of the lottery. Lewis is the fastest player in this draft and is the rare speed demon who comes into the NBA with a reliable 3-point shot. He’s the perfect complement to Lonzo Ball in that he can consistently get into the lane and create cracks in the defense that Ball can then exploit as a secondary playmaker. Both will be fantastic in the open court next to Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes, the two athletic big men drafted in last year’s lottery. The Pelicans will be flying next season.
14. Boston Celtics (from Memphis Grizzlies): Aaron Nesmith, G/F, Vanderbilt
The Celtics drafted for fit rather than upside, which makes sense given the current state of their team. Nesmith might be the best shooter in this draft, although his reputation comes almost entirely from his 14 games he played as a sophomore before fracturing his foot. He doesn’t really bring much other than shooting, but that’s all he will need to do on the Celtics, who expect to contend for an NBA Finals appearance. Boston has a bunch of players who can create shots, defend, and make plays. All they need their rookies to do is spot up from 3 and launch open shots. Nesmith is more than ready for that.
15. Orlando Magic: Cole Anthony, G, North Carolina
Anthony was considered a candidate to be the no. 1 overall pick coming out of high school, but an injury-marred campaign on a poorly constructed North Carolina team sunk his stock. He took a lot of bad shots, rarely passed the ball, and struggled to match up defensively with other elite point guards. But maybe that was just a worst-case scenario for a player whom everyone loved coming out of high school. Orlando must have spent a lot of time watching his film from the Nike EYBL. If he can regain his form from his younger years, this will be a massive steal. Maybe a team that has been stuck in the middle of the Eastern Conference for the last few years needed to swing for the fences in the middle of the first round.
16. Detroit Pistons (from Portland Trail Blazers via Rockets): Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington
Stewart was a highly decorated high school player who became an extremely efficient offensive player for an underachieving Washington team. But it’s hard to see the value of taking a traditional big man whose best skill is post scoring in the middle of the first round. Stewart doesn’t have great size for his position, needs to improve as a perimeter player on both ends of the floor, and spent his freshman season of college playing in the middle of a 2-3 zone. The odds are that he will have a productive NBA career, but you could say that about some of the big men taken in the second round, too.
17. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Brooklyn Nets via Timberwolves): Aleksej Pokusevski, G/F, Olympiacos B
This pick made too much sense not to happen. A Thunder team that is two years away from no longer obsessively trading for future draft picks took an 18-year-old who is at least two years away from being a productive NBA player. But what a talent he is. Pokusevski is a 7-foot, 200-pound guard who plays with the confidence of someone who has read all of the glowing internet scouting reports about him. It will take a long time for him to develop physically, and it’s unclear what role makes sense for him at the NBA level. The good news is that a team with a literal war chest of first-rounders has nothing to lose if this doesn’t pan out.
18. Dallas Mavericks: Josh Green, G/F, Arizona
Green slipped under the radar as the third option on a poorly coached Arizona team, but he could be a much better NBA player than he was in college. He’s an elite athlete with a good basketball IQ, and is the rare youngster with the physical tools and mind-set to play NBA-caliber defense early in his career, a must for any rookie hoping to get playing time under Rick Carlisle. Green’s ceiling at the next level will depend on his jumper, but he has a strong foundation to build on and already showed the ability to play off-ball in college. This is exactly the type of player the Mavs needed to put around Luka Doncic.
19. Detroit Pistons (from Philadelphia 76ers via Nets): Saddiq Bey, F, Villanova
This pick was part of a three-team trade that sent Luke Kennard to the Clippers and Landry Shamet to the Nets. Kennard’s offensive firepower could be great on a Clippers team that has the wing defense to protect him, while Shamet is an easy fit on any contender as a 3-and-D guard. The new regime in Detroit clearly didn’t value the players they inherited, so it’s not a huge surprise that they sent Kennard packing rather than give him an extension. Bey is a solid 3-and-D wing who should have a long career and help establish a culture in Detroit. Villanova players are rarely stars at the next level. But they don’t bust either.
20. Miami Heat: Precious Achiuwa, F/C, Memphis
Achiuwa benefited from the eligibility circus surrounding James Wiseman at Memphis, which allowed him to play his natural position. He was a versatile defender who could play all over the floor on offense, but like most big men, he’s more valuable as a center who can roll to the rim than a power forward who has to play on the perimeter. Achiuwa plays with a high motor that fits Miami’s culture. It’s also hard to grade the Heat’s draft picks poorly because they do such a good job with development.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (from Oklahoma City Thunder): Tyrese Maxey, G, Kentucky
This is a great combination of team fit and best player available for Philadelphia. Maxey is a combo guard who can play on and off the ball and defend at a high level. The only reason that he’s not a lottery pick is that he’s 6-foot-3 and won’t be a primary ball handler in the NBA. But playing next to Ben Simmons, he won’t have to be. He’ll be able to defend point guards while serving as a secondary playmaker. Don’t worry too much about him shooting 29 percent from 3. Shooting 83.3 percent from the free throw line is a better indicator of his potential from deep.
22. Denver Nuggets (from Houston Rockets): Zeke Nnaji, C, Arizona
Has the Mason Plumlee era in Denver come to an end? There’s no need to spend $13 million a year for someone to back up Nikola Jokic. Nnaji has more offensive skill than most rim-rolling big men in the NBA and should be able to give Jokic some much-needed breathers and catch lobs in limited minutes when they play together. It never hurts to have more athletes around the Nuggets’ All-Star center, either. NBA teams clearly think Sean Miller had more talent on his roster than Arizona’s up-and-down performance last season indicated. Do better, coach.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Utah Jazz via Knicks): Leandro Bolmaro, G/F, Barcelona
The Wolves must really believe in Ricky Rubio as a leader. They traded for their former point guard on draft night and then selected a young guard from his old European team. Bolmaro is 6-foot-7 and doesn’t have the same defensive chops as Rubio, but he’s smart and a good playmaker with a better jumper than his fellow Barcelona product. He will need to continue improving as a shooter because he doesn’t have the athleticism to build his game around attacking the rim at the NBA level.
24. Denver Nuggets (from Milwaukee Bucks via Pacers via Pelicans): RJ Hampton, G, New Zealand Breakers
This pick has changed hands a lot over the last week, but Hampton has to be thrilled to land with the Nuggets. They have been one of the best drafting organizations in the NBA over the last decade and have shown a willingness to develop young players and give them minutes even when competing for a title. Hampton is an elite athlete with great size (6-foot-5) for a combo guard. He won’t have to run point or be much of a playmaker in Denver, something he struggled with in his one season in Australia. If he can improve his jumper and apply his physical tools on defense then he will be a major steal.
25. New York Knicks (from Denver Nuggets via Thunder): Immanuel Quickley, G, Kentucky
Few projected Quickley as a first-round pick, but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that a Kentucky guard with a knockdown jumper went higher than expected after Tyler Herro’s success last season. The problem is that Quickley’s not the typical Kentucky guard when it comes to size or athleticism. There are a lot of 6-foot-3 shooting specialists floating around the college basketball world. But none of those guys are being taken in the first round. Getting Quickley drafted in the first round is a great feather in the cap for John Calipari.
26. Boston Celtics: Payton Pritchard, G, Oregon
A drinking game based on scouting clichés about Pritchard would send someone to the hospital. He’s a gritty player, a coach on the floor, a true winner, someone who isn’t afraid to put his body on the line, and a gym rat. Celtics fans will love him. But don’t let the jokes overshadow his game. Pritchard should instantly be an excellent backup point guard and has the confidence and skill to knock down shots in big playoff games.
27. Utah Jazz (from New York via Los Angeles Clippers): Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas
Forget about the Jazz going for a different look behind Rudy Gobert. Azubuike might be the second-biggest player in the NBA behind Boban Marjanovic. He’s an absolutely massive human who will demolish smaller players around the rim. But the odds of him surviving as a perimeter defender at the next level are nonexistent. Evaluating this pick comes down to philosophy. Should Utah double down on big men who can stick with the same defensive scheme as Gobert or go for more versatility on their second unit? You can guess my answer by my grade.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Los Angeles Lakers via Thunder): Jaden McDaniels, F, Washington
Sam Presti isn’t the only GM who loves long, athletic wings with raw offensive games and incredible physical tools. The biggest surprise of the night might be that the Thunder traded McDaniels instead of keeping him for themselves. He’s a 6-foot-9 wing who was seen as a lottery pick at this time last year before imploding over the second half of the NCAA season. His older brother, Jalen, exceeded expectations as a second-round pick last season. Jaden could do the same.
29. Toronto Raptors: Malachi Flynn, G, San Diego State
Never bet against Masai Ujiri in the draft. There’s always an experienced college point guard who has exceeded expectations toward the end of the first round, and Flynn checks every one of those boxes. He’s a well-rounded player with no holes in his game and the ability to contribute right away on both ends of the floor. The comparisons to Fred VanVleet might be a stretch, but they are also inevitable.
30. Memphis Grizzlies (from Milwaukee Bucks via Suns via Celtics): Desmond Bane, G/F, TCU
The Celtics were never going to keep all three first-round picks, so it’s no surprise they ended up trading this one to the Grizzlies. The result is the internet’s favorite player headed to the internet’s favorite team. Bane is an elite shooter who should be able to space the floor and get a steady diet of open shots playing off Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Justise Winslow. The question is whether he will be good enough on defense to be more than a bench player.