draft predictions

NBA Draft 2020: Predictions for Deni Avdija, Onyeka Okongwu, Tyrell Terry, More

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated PressThe 2020 NBA draft will take place nearly five months later than expected and at a different location, but it’s finally going down Nov. 18.The draft was originally scheduled to be held in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Connecticut, will be the…

Southern California forward Onyeka Okongwu (21) is defended by Arizona State forward Romello White during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The 2020 NBA draft will take place nearly five months later than expected and at a different location, but it’s finally going down Nov. 18.

The draft was originally scheduled to be held in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Connecticut, will be the broadcast home for the proceedings while teams take part in the draft through videoconferencing.

This year’s draft seems like more of a crapshoot than ever, especially with an adjusted combine process and most prospects’ seasons ending a whole eight months prior to the draft taking place.

However, the show will go on. Here’s a guess for the first-round selections as well as some write-ups on four projected player/team fits.

2020 Mock Draft

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Illawarra Hawks PG LaMelo Ball

2. Golden State Warriors: Georgia SG Anthony Edwards

3. Charlotte Hornets: USC C Onyeka Okongwu

4. Chicago Bulls: Maccabi Tel Aviv SF Deni Avdija

5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Memphis C James Wiseman

6. Atlanta Hawks: Ratiopharm Ulm G Killian Hayes

7. Detroit Pistons: Dayton PF Obi Toppin

8. New York Knicks: Iowa State G Tyrese Haliburton

9. Washington Wizards: Florida State F Devin Vassell

10. Phoenix Suns: Auburn F Isaac Okoro

11. San Antonio Spurs: Florida State F Patrick Williams

12. Sacramento Kings: Olympiacos B F Aleksej Pokusevski

13. New Orleans Pelicans: Kentucky G Tyrese Maxey

14. Boston Celtics: UNC G Cole Anthony

15. Orlando Magic: New Zealand Breakers G R.J. Hampton

16. Portland Trail Blazers: Vanderbilt F Aaron Nesmith

17. Minnesota Timberwolves: Villanova F Saddiq Bey

18. Dallas Mavericks: Memphis C Precious Achiuwa

19. Brooklyn Nets: Alabama G Kira Lewis Jr.

20. Miami Heat: Arizona G/F Josh Green

21. Philadelphia 76ers: Stanford G Tyrell Terry

22. Denver Nuggets: TCU G Desmond Bane

23. Utah Jazz: Mississippi State F Robert Woodard II

24. Milwaukee Bucks: Barcelona G Leandro Bolmaro

25. Oklahoma City Thunder: ASVEL G Theo Maledon

26. Boston Celtics: Maryland C Jalen Smith

27. New York Knicks: San Diego State G Malachi Flynn

28. Los Angeles Lakers: Arizona G Nico Mannion

29. Toronto Raptors: Michigan State PG Cassius Winston

30. Boston Celtics: Washington F Jaden McDaniels

3. Charlotte Hornets: USC C Onyeka Okongwu

USC center Onyeka Okongwu finished the 2019-20 season with the 10th-highest player efficiency rating in men’s Division I hoops, according to Sports Reference. He scored 16.2 points on 61.6 percent shooting in his lone season as a Trojan.

That would be a welcome sight for the Hornets, who finished third-to-last in the NBA in ESPN’s offensive efficiency and last in field-goal percentage. They aren’t much better on defense, finishing tied for 23rd overall in efficiency.

Okongwu is a player who can get it done on both ends, as The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor noted in part:

Does the little things: He hustles, screens well, rebounds all over the floor, and makes clutch plays. Excellent pick-and-roll defender. He’s mobile and versatile, able to drop, switch, or hedge. When he’s protecting the rim in either pick-and-roll or help situations, his positioning, timing, and instincts lead to effective shot alterations. He’s usually in the right spot, which is rare for a player his age.”

Charlotte has some question marks down low. Bismack Biyombo and Willy Hernangomez are free agents, and Cody Zeller will be one after next season.

Okongwu could easily slide in and fill a frontcourt void as Charlotte continues its rebuild following the end of the Kemba Walker era last year. He could start as the Hornets center from day one.

4. Chicago Bulls: Maccabi Tel Aviv SF Deni Avdija

The Chicago Bulls have major questions marks at small forward. Veteran Otto Porter Jr. can pick up his $28.49 million player option if he so chooses, but he’d be a free agent after the 2020-21 season.

Chicago has a core to build around with guards Coby White and Zach LaVine and a frontcourt of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. if it so chooses.

Regardless of whether or not new executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas wants to keep that quartet or try to move some pieces, the Bulls need a long-term answer at small forward.

Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic provided insight into why an Avdija/Bulls partnership could work:

“He’s been the constant name pegged to the Bulls at No. 4 in each mock draft by our own Sam Vecenie. And it’s completely understandable as to why.

Avdija has a skill set every team is attracted to. He’s a playmaking forward who has a good positional size, savvy and feel. When Karnisovas and [general manager Marc] Eversley talk about versatile players who posses high basketball IQs, Avdija might as well be the poster boy. His youth adds even more intrigue, suggesting he’s mature beyond his years given the way he sees the floor and can serve as a second facilitator.

The 6’9″ 19-year-old ranks as the highest small forward on numerous big boards, including those of Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman and ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. He should carve a spot in the Bulls rotation immediately, if not as a starter.

8. New York Knicks: Iowa State G Tyrese Haliburton

It’s as simple as this for the New York Knicks, who haven’t won an NBA championship since Richard Nixon was president.

New York simply needs to take the player with the highest ceiling in this draft, preferably one who can fill in at point guard and put an end to the revolving door of floor generals the team has seemingly had since Walt “Clyde” Frazier called plays for the 1972-73 Knicks championship team.

The legendary Frazier has called Knicks games for parts of five decades in retirement as a color commentator, so you know it’s been a while since New York has seen true success.

Enter Tyrese Haliburton, who Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer called a “genius playmaker who can be a major building block of a contending team.” The Knicks aren’t a contender, but they do need a genius playmaker alongside building block shooting guard RJ Barrett, the third overall pick in the 2019 draft.

O’Connor even mocked Haliburton to the Knicks, writing: “The Knicks could go a lot of directions with this pick, but there’s been some noise that they’ll target a shot creator. Haliburton makes logical sense since he’s such a savvy player and could play alongside any veteran New York might also acquire, such as Chris Paul.”

Haliburton, a 6’5″ guard with a 6’8″ wingspan, stuffed the stat sheet with 15.2 points, 6.5 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game for Iowa State as a sophomore last season. He also shot 50.4 percent from the field, 82.2 percent from the free-throw line and 41.9 percent from three-point range.

If the draft shakes out like it does above, then Haliburton is the play for the Knicks. Auburn’s Isaac Okoro is also a solid option considering his lockdown defense and the Knicks’ need to improve on that end, but Haliburton fills a backcourt gap that must be filled ASAP.

21. Philadelphia 76ers: Stanford G Tyrell Terry

The Sixers shot 26.4 percent from three-point range when the Boston Celtics swept them in their first-round playoff series. For context, that figure ranked last among the 16 postseason teams, and every other team shot 32.8 percent or better.

That figure extended a trend from their previous two postseasons, when the 76ers shot 33.8 percent in 2017-2018 (12th in the postseason) and 33.1 percent in the 2018-19 playoffs (11th).

Philadelphia needs significant help from beyond the arc to take the next step and get past the Eastern Conference semifinals, which it hasn’t done since reaching the 2001 NBA Finals.

Enter 6’2″ Stanford guard Tyrell Terry, who hit 40.8 percent of his three-pointers during his one season in school. The ex-Cardinal scored 14.6 points on 44.1 percent shooting, and he could be a great fit in Philly.

“The former Stanford Cardinal has the long-range shooting touch the Sixers covet,” Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote last month. “The point guard could also serve as an additional ball-handler the team needs. Perhaps that’s why some mock drafts have the Sixers selecting him 21st overall on Nov. 18.”

Terry also told reporters in a media Zoom call that he had “great communication” with the 76ers during a predraft talk.

Plenty of signs point toward Terry landing in Philadelphia, although it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a team pick him up in the top 20 either.

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