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There isn’t a consensus ranking of prospects for the 2020 NBA draft, and teams are bound to target surprise names that may not align with media projections.
Sometimes, reporters and fans put too much stock into team needs when predicting the draft. Certain teams may look past roster logjams if they’re able to peg a best player available.
Other front offices may be willing to reach for a player who seems like a puzzle-piece fit, particularly this year, when it’s tougher to confidently identify the best prospect available.
We’ve highlighted a player each lottery franchise could unexpectedly select, especially if the obvious options were already off the board.
Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes joins “The Full 48 with Howard Beck” to discuss the resumption of the NBA season and how he’d like to see it happen, the campus/bubble scenario, coronavirus health concerns, the Sacramento Kings season, Marvin Bagley’s injury status, and Kobe Bryant. He also weighs in on a possible NBA schedule shift, mid-game trades, and playing in empty arenas.
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LaMelo Ball’s fit with the Golden State Warriors seems to get overlooked based on the idea that the team already has Stephen Curry. But Golden State could actually have good use for Ball, arguably the draft’s top prospect.
Regardless of who Golden State takes—a guard, wing or big—he won’t be anything more than a fourth or fifth option behind Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green. So the rookie’s immediate fit isn’t so critical.
Looking down the road as Curry nears 35 and inevitably starts to slow down, Golden State could have LaMelo ready to take over full time in his early 20s.
But even over the next few seasons, coach Steve Kerr may want to use him more off the ball. The Warriors could optimize LaMelo, an elite passer, handling between shooters Curry and Thompson on the wings.
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The Cleveland Cavaliers need a star, but it will be difficult to get one from this year’s draft. The NBA’s worst defensive team may want to seek out Isaac Okoro, even if it’s earlier than they’d like, based on his ability to toughen up the team’s identity and give the lineup a stopper between Collin Sexton and Kevin Love.
At 6’6″, 225 pounds, he’s physically built to guard bigs and quick enough to pester wings with the IQ and effort levels to maximize his defensive potential. Offensively, he shot 60.3 percent inside the arc at Auburn, taking mostly good shots and scoring efficiently off drives, cuts, post-ups and the occasional spot-up three.
And while he wasn’t given many opportunities to create, the eye test says he’s a far better passer than his 2.0 assists per game suggests—a valued skill in an offense run by Sexton and Darius Garland.
His ceiling doesn’t scream All-Star, but Okoro is just the type of low-maintenance, high-impact supporting player Cleveland could use. He’d plug right in as the starter at small forward.
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After drafting Jarrett Culver and acquiring D’Angelo Russell, the Minnesota Timberwolves drafting Tyrese Haliburton may raise eyebrows, but it shouldn’t. The team should value Haliburton’s translatable strengths based on the current roster.
The Wolves need shooting, defense and efficiency to help bring more stability to a franchise that’s had its ups and downs. Minnesota could easily move Culver to small forward and play Russell with Haliburton, an elite passer who also ranked in the 99th percentile out of spot-ups, thanks to his accurate catch-and-shoot three-ball.
They’re both versatile enough to play on and off the ball, while Culver has the size and defensive tools to guard bigger wings.
While Russell brings more creativity and scoring, Haliburton adds the ball-moving and high-IQ play, as well as terrific team defense and instincts for playmaking (2.5 steals per game).
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The Atlanta Hawks’ acquisition of Clint Capela may suggest the team won’t be looking at bigs in the draft. But he’s also dealt with injuries over the years, including one that limited him to 39 games in 2019-20. And at this stage of his career, he’s not getting any better offensively.
For the Hawks, it’s worth thinking about Onyeka Okongwu, the No. 1 center on our board who offers Capela’s finishing and shot-blocking as well as a whole other level of scoring upside.
To start, Atlanta can bring Okongwu off the bench for energy and athleticism that translates to easy baskets, second-chance points and rim protection. But he also ranked in the 94th percentile on post-ups while shooting 15-of-35 on half-court jumpers and 72.0 percent on free throws.
With his shot creation and touch inside, plus the defensive versatility to anchor the paint, guard pick-and-rolls and switch around the perimeter, he’s a fit next to John Collins, as well as a potential long-term upgrade over Capela.
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Cole Anthony’s allure has faded over the past season. But he might be just right for a Detroit Pistons team that needs an additional source of scoring firepower from its backcourt.
Playing for a Pistons team that ranked No. 9 in three-point percentage would be a nice change for Anthony, who struggled without spacing on a North Carolina squad that shot 30.4 percent from deep as a team.
But he still managed to rank in the 92nd percentile out of isolation, a reflection of both his shot-creation and shot-making skills. Alongside Blake Griffin, assuming he’s healthy, Anthony should be able to improve on his pick-and-roll efficiency, and it wouldn’t hurt to play alongside another star player in general.
Used to dominating the ball in high school and college, he’d also have the same freedom down the road in Detroit. In the short term, Derrick Rose wouldn’t be a bad mentor to start his career under.
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New York Knicks draft talk has mostly focused on point guards like LaMelo Ball, Cole Anthony, Tyrese Haliburton and Killian Hayes. But depending on where the team picks, small forward Devin Vassell deserves serious consideration as well.
It’s worth thinking about whether this Knicks roster that lacks stars and shooters will give any rookie point guard a suitable setting to develop. Vassell, No. 5 on Bleacher Report’s big board, checks the right boxes for New York with his athleticism (94th percentile in transition), career 41.7 percent three-ball and spectacular defensive tools and awareness for guarding the perimeter and making plays.
He possesses a three-and-D floor but also sneaky upside after making significant improvement to his pull-up game.
Unless the Knicks can get Ball, they may be wise to pass on second-tier point guards and secure a cornerstone who shoots and defends next to RJ Barrett.
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The Chicago Bulls did just draft a ball-handler in Coby White, who was blowing up before the NBA season shut down. But it’s still worth thinking about Killian Hayes, potentially a better prospect and fit alongside Zach LaVine.
Ranked No. 3 in EuroCup in assists, Hayes differs from White due to his superior passing skills and facilitating instincts. He could play to his strengths in Chicago, focusing on creating for teammates. The Bulls could groom White into one of the league’s most potent sixth men with his streak scoring and shot-making abilities.
Hayes is further behind as a shooter, but he’s the better facilitator and finisher compared to White, who struggled with touch shots and layups around the basket. Meanwhile, Hayes, 18 years old, made a notable jump this past season with his shot creation and jumper. He has the chance to be the draft’s most well-rounded guard and help a team like Chicago rise from No. 27 in offensive efficiency.
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There might not be a worthwhile center available where the Charlotte Hornets are picking. Depending on where they land in the lottery, they might want to either reach or trade down for a shot-maker like Aaron Nesmith.
Before injuring his foot 14 games in, he was burying 4.3 threes per game at a blistering 52.2 percent clip. Charlotte can use him to stretch the floor (95th percentile in spot-ups) or run him off screens (97th percentile).
The main reason to target Nesmith would be to improve Charlotte’s 28th-ranked offense. If the Hornets are going to play Miles Bridges and PJ Washington big minutes, they’ll want to have someone with Nesmith’s scoring pop in the rotation.
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Devin Vassell could be a surprise target for a number of lottery teams, making him the only prospect to show up twice on this list. Even some teams in the top 10 could give him a look, and the Washington Wizards should love everything about his fit between John Wall and Rui Hachimura.
The NBA’s No. 29-ranked defense would benefit from Vassell, whose athleticism and IQ point to exciting individual and team defensive potential.
But with Wall back in the lineup, he could use another shooting target, and Vassell shot over 41.0 percent from deep in both seasons at Florida State.
Unless the Wizards luck out in the lottery, there won’t be a center worth taking. And with Wall healthy and likely untradeable, there are cons to drafting a point guard. Vassell’s three-and-D works for Washington, but he’s also flashed enough improvement to a pull-up game that could unlock more scoring potential.
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The Phoenix Suns could either reach or trade down to fill their hole at power forward, but if they pick at No. 10, where the odds say they should, Kira Lewis Jr. is a sleeper option to draft and groom as Ricky Rubio’s eventual replacement.
He’d give the rotation a new dimension of speed. He’d also play to his strengths as a change-of-pace rookie guard off the bench, capable of providing a spark by pushing the pace and putting pressure on second units with his jets in transition and ability to break down half-court defenses.
Lewis, who turned 19 in April and is younger than some freshmen, finished his sophomore season on a tear, averaging 23.2 points and 6.7 assists on 46.3 percent shooting from three over Alabama’s final nine games.
There are questions about how his athletic limitations will hold him back, but Lewis looks like the quickest among this year’s point guards, and his skill set may suddenly be one of the most well-rounded.
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Loaded with young guards, the San Antonio Spurs may want to start focusing on rebuilding their frontcourt. Patrick Williams has risen to No. 10 on our board for his unique mix of power and skill versatility fueled by shot-making and pick-and-roll passing.
Tough and athletic around the basket, Williams is bound to outproduce his draft slot if he continues to improve on his three-point shooting, pull-up game and ball-screen offense, all areas he’s flashed glimpses in playing a supporting role at Florida State.
Williams also averaged a steal and a block in 22.5 minutes per game, and though he wasn’t flawless defensively, coaches should still be able to unlock a switchable playmaker.
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Reliant on De’Aaron Fox for creating offense and getting teammates involved, the Sacramento Kings may want to target Leandro Bolmaro, a 6’7″ playmaking wing, in the draft.
He separates himself from others with his size, ball-handling and high-level passing skills. He’d bring a unique dimension of offensive versatility to a Kings lineup that has scorers but lacks distributors and defensive 2s, 3s and 4s.
Bolmaro is also an aggressive, high-effort defender, another selling point that’s helped propel him to No. 14 on our big board.
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Saddiq Bey may be viewed as a reach for the New Orleans Pelicans at No. 13. But depending on who’s on the board, his textbook fit may be worth stretching for.
The New Orleans Pelicans lineup needs shooters to surround Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, and Bey just shot 45.1 percent from three, with a 6’8″, 216-pound frame suited for a small-ball 4 role.
A limited athlete, he did have some trouble scoring inside the arc or sliding his feet with quicker wings, but New Orleans can put him in position to play to his strengths, shooting off spot-ups (48.2 percent) and screens (53.3 percent) and guarding more 4s.
His passing ability off the dribble (88th percentile pick-and-roll ball-handler) could give him the extra edge over other prospects New Orleans may be looking at.
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The Portland Trail Blazers’ identity revolves around their backcourt scoring. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum power the NBA’s No. 9-ranked offense, but Portland is tied for No. 26 in defense, and Tyler Bey could give them a needed defensive ace at multiple positions.
Opposing isolation scorers and pick-and-roll ball-handlers combined to shoot 5-of-29 against Bey, who has terrific instincts and the athleticism and quickness to contest or make plays on the ball.
Portland could use him to specialize in guarding either forward spot next to Jusuf Nurkic.
The Blazers were also tied for 21st in rebounding rate, and Bey’s 18.4 rebounding percentage will be one of the highest in the draft class.
Meanwhile, he can still add bonus value offensively with his off-ball scoring as a finisher (63.4 percent at rim) and developing catch-and-shooter (45.2 percent).
Stats courtesy of ESPN, Synergy Sports and Sports-Reference.com
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