We’re four weeks and change away from the 2020 NBA Draft. That much we know for certain.
Beyond that? Well, as has been the case for awhile now, seemingly everything else is in flux. There were multiple reports Friday that the league told the Board of Governors in a conference call that they’re targeting Christmas — or the days just before it — for the start of the 2020-21 season.
There remains plenty to be figured out before then. What will the salary cap and luxury tax look like. When will free agency start? How many games will next season be? What will the travel look like? When might fans be allowed into buildings for games? And how many at a time? Will players agree to any or all of this?
Next Friday is looming large, as Oct. 30 was the date the league and the Players Association had settled upon to have many of these things figured out. It’ll be interesting to see if that’s the case.
That’s why this year’s draft could be so important. If the cap and tax are lower, if fewer free agents are opting out in hopes of securing a better payday in a year, if teams are more reluctant to spend on veterans given the hit they’ve taken to their bottom lines this year, importing talent on a relatively cheap rookie contract could suddenly hold more appeal than it otherwise might.
So, then, let’s take our first look at what might transpire with the Utah Jazz and the league’s other 29 teams on Nov. 18 from the ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn., with The Salt Lake Tribune NBA Mock Draft 1.0.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: LaMelo Ball, Illawarra Hawks
The Wolves are said to be not enamored of many of the top choices and hoping to trade and land some immediate veteran help. Whether they keep him or not, Ball seems a likely choice to be the guy, as many teams seem to think he has the most potential.
2. Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman, Memphis
Probably another team that would prefer to acquire a more win-now piece. The Warriors seem to be all over the map, as they’re notorious for using reporters to spread false info. So let’s just go with what’s logical: They could use a rim-running, rim-protecting center.
3. Charlotte Hornets: Anthony Edwards, Georgia
Look at Charlotte’s track record of lottery picks: It’s notoriously awful, with only Kemba Walker standing out as better than a rotation piece. The Hornets need to come out of this with a star, and while the high-scoring wing certainly has efficiency issues, he could be that.
4. Chicago Bulls: Deni Avdija, Maccabi Tel Aviv
The Bulls could use a star, too, considering none of Zach LaVine, Coby White, Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter Jr. appear to be a franchise guy. But is Avdija? He’s a great playmaker, skilled in the pick-and-roll, and a strong finisher. Thing is, he’s not a great shooter.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Obi Toppin, Dayton
Considering their historically wretched defense, you’d think they’d maybe invest in a wing with some stopping capability. Toppin does nothing to address that, but his penchant for highlight-reel plays has made him the low-key darling of decision-makers around the league.
6. Atlanta Hawks: Isaac Okoro, Auburn
Speaking of wings with some stopping capability, that’s precisely what Atlanta would be getting in Okoro. And heaven knows they can use it, given their own shortcomings on that end. He’s also valued for his smart passing and high IQ, though his shooting is in need of fine-tuning.
7. Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes, Ulm
Detroit’s been a rudderless franchise for a minute now, but the 18-year-old point guard out of France could be the one to change that. He’s a dynamic initiator and shot-creator, an improving step-back 3-point shooter, and a physical presence on the defensive end.
8. New York Knicks: Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State
If the Cyclones point guard is available here, New York brass should make the pick in record time. What he lacks in physical explosiveness he makes up for with heady court vision and deep shooting range. Plus, at 6-foot-5, he’s got positional flexibility.
9. Washington Wizards: Onyeka Okongwu, USC
While the Wizards have a decent young big man in Thomas Bryant, his talents are in scoring the ball. The Trojans freshman has some skill on that side, especially as a Bam Adebayo-style passer, but his best trait is his ability to defend pick-and-rolls and block shots.
10. Phoenix Suns: Devin Vassell, Florida State
What’s the biggest need for the emerging Suns? A long-term replacement at PG for Ricky Rubio? An athletic four to pair with DeAndre Ayton? I say you can’t have too many 3-and-D wings these days. His 6-10 wingspan has helped make him an elite defender.
11. San Antonio Spurs: Saddiq Bey, Villanova
There are a lot of Patrick Williams projections here, given his alleged similarities to one Kawhi Leonard. But Bey feels like he has many of the same traits and comes with less risk. A good scorer off the dribble who can make an impact with his effort on the other end.
12. Sacramento Kings: Patrick Williams, Florida State
Those aforementioned Kawhi comparisons do him no favors, as he’s actually poor in lateral movement right now. Still, there’s potential there. The ‘Noles bench player flashed skills as an off-the-bounce scorer and a willing passer, though he’s very turnover-prone right now.
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Kira Lewis, Alabama
New Orleans already plays with great pace, and is said to be looking for guys who can amp that up further. Lewis brings speed and acceleration to the table, and is a solid enough distributor that he could give the Pels some good backup minutes for Lonzo Ball from the outset.
14. Boston Celtics: Precious Achiuwa, Memphis
While Daniel Theis and Robert Williams did their scrappy best against Bam Adebayo in the East finals, they were simply physically overmatched. Achiuwa could fill that hole as a mobile, athletic big that has both length and strength. He’s also a great lob threat offensively.
15. Orlando Magic: Tyrell Terry, Stanford
While the temptation is there to simply plug in the lankiest forward with the longest wingspan, per Orlando’s modus operandi, let’s instead give them something they don’t have much of, like, say, 3-point shooting. While Terry is tiny, his shooting stroke is among the best here.
16. Portland Trail Blazers: Jalen Smith, Maryland
Hassan Whiteside is likely gone. Zach Collins is pretty unreliable and underwhelming. And who knows about Melo’s return? So, the Blazers can use another big to pair with Jusuf Nurkic. Smith is great at both rolling to the rim and popping out to shoot 3s.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves: Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt
Minnesota’s a bit weak on the wings, and certainly could use another shooter to complement Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. Before getting hurt, Nesmith made a case for being the best shooter in the college ranks, hitting 52% of his 3s with the Commodores.
18. Dallas Mavericks: Desmond Bane, TCU
The Mavs were undone by the Clippers as a result of not having enough wings with size to capably guard their L.A. counterparts. Bane, a physical 6-6, 22-year-old will solve that issue. Doesn’t hurt either that he’s a 43% shooter beyond the arc over four seasons.
19. Brooklyn Nets: R.J. Hampton, New Zealand Breakers
The former top recruit struggled a bit in the Australian league, especially with his outside shooting, but he’s got great size and an incredibly quick first step. Learning from Steve Nash, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant could help him unlock his potential.
20. Miami Heat: Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky
Doesn’t Maxey just feel like a Miami player? He’s tough, he’s feisty, he’s got an ornery streak and a defensive presence, though his suspect outside shooting caused his stock to drop. Pretty much makes him a 6-3 version of Jimmy Butler, doesn’t it?
21. Philadelphia 76ers: Cole Anthony, North Carolina
While Philly would ideally add a bona fide floor-spacer in the mold of of Nesmith or Bane, the Tar Heel point guard isn’t a bad fallback plan. While his decision-making is suspect, he’s a good athlete and a solid shooter who’s quite skilled at filling it up in a hurry.
22. Denver Nuggets: Jaden McDaniels, Washington
Denver already had great success taking one lanky, highly-skilled forward with serious question marks; could it work a second time? McDaniels has size, shooting, playmaking, versatility … but he’s also incredibly immature, foul-prone, inefficient, and a bit lazy.
23. Utah Jazz: Josh Green, Arizona
Dennis Lindsey said he’s on the lookout for anyone who can defend their position well without compromising spacing. Green has the size at 6-6, 210 to defend wings, but the quickness and agility to switch onto guards. His offense needs more work, but he’s solid at spot-up 3s.
24. Milwaukee Bucks: Malachi Flynn, San Diego State
The junior’s stock is allegedly on the rise — despite a lack of size, athleticism and verticality — because his advanced playmaking, his pull-up jumpers, his spot-up deep-ball shooting, and feisty defensive effort could make him a plug-and-play option off the bench.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Aleksej Pokusevski, Olympiacos B
While playing in a secondary league in Greece makes him a risk, he’s enticing plenty of front offices with his guard skills in a 7-foot frame. He’s way too slight now, and will require patience, but his dribble skills and shooting stroke have some execs drooling.
26. Boston Celtics: Jahmi’us Ramsey, Texas Tech
One other thing that stood out from the Miami series: With Kemba Walker hurt, Jayson Tatum was the only guy who could hit from deep with any regularity. Ramsey, who shot 42.6% on 3s last year, could get a role if he can prove he can defend at the NBA level.
27. New York Knicks: Tyler Bey, Colorado
Though the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year was primarily an interior defender in college, he’ll be looked at to shore up the Knicks’ perimeter defense. At 6-7 (with a 7-1 wingspan), he has the build and tenacity to do that. A solid and smart low-ceiling, high-floor option.
28. Los Angeles Lakers: Isaiah Stewart, Washington
The defending champs have a lot of potential ways they could go, given the number of players they could lose. With Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris both free agents, the tough, throwback, rebounding-focused big with developing 3-point ability could be a good investment.
29. Toronto Raptors: Theo Maledon, ASVEL
Fred VanVleet is a free agent. Kyle Lowry isn’t getting any younger. So now might be a good time for Toronto to take a look at a potential floor leader for the future. The Frenchman has a story build and improving shot, but needs to compensate for not being explosive.
30. Boston Celtics: Leandro Bolmaro, Barcelona B
It seems doubtful that an Eastern Conference finalist will put three first-round rookies on its roster. If the C’s keep this pick, they could avoid that issue with a draft-and-stash of the Argentine point forward. The slick playmaker has committed to stay in Spain for now.