How Will The 2020 NBA Draft Lottery Play Out?

Last Thursday, the NBPA has approved ownership’s proposal for the 2020-2021 NBA season, so we finally have a definitive starting date for the season. The two sides have agreed to a 72 game season that is set to start on December 22. There were talks that the league was considering a shortened season, and the main priority for starting the season on December 22, was to preserve the NBA’s two highest rated days of games including Christmas Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Getting back to somewhat of a normal schedule and ending the season on time have been the two points that the NBA has emphasized throughout negotiations. With so much uncertainty heading into this new season, there is finally some clarity to when we will be getting NBA basketball. Before teams report for training camp on December 1st, one order of business that needs to be figured out is the draft, which is scheduled for November 18th. The 2020 NBA Draft is one of the more interesting drafts in recent history. Unlike past years, there is no clear #1 pick. Many experts have had trouble ranking these players, and where they will fall. The consensus top 3 are Lamelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and James Wiseman. Each of these players has immense talent and upside, but each has defining flaws that hurt their draft candidacy.

In fact, Lamelo Ball’s immaturity and struggles during his NBA workouts have caused him to drop out of the top 3 in some mock drafts. But even with those flaws, Ball’s 6’7 frame and natural playmaking ability make him a top 5 player in this draft. Another possible candidate for the first pick is Anthony Edwards out of Georgia. Edwards is a dynamic scoring guard, with off the charts athleticism and playmaking ability. Edwards’ success when driving to the rim, along with his ability to create his own shot make him one of the few potential superstars in this draft. The catch with Edwards is his decision making and shot selection. Most scouts note his inconsistency on defense, and his tendency to give up on plays. But with the Timberwolves picking at 1, Edwards seems like the most logical fit there. Edwards would come in and play alongside DeAngelo Russell, and Karl Anthony Towns who would nicely complement his strengths.

Mar 4, 2020; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs guard Anthony Edwards (5) controls the ball against the Florida Gators during the second half at Stegeman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

And finally, perhaps the most interesting prospect in this entire draft: James Wiseman. Wiseman is probably the most difficult player to evaluate because  he only played 3 games at Memphis before opting out to prepare for the NBA Draft. Wiseman is one of the rare 7 footers that has explosive speed and versatility when moving down the court. There’s no denying Wiseman’s measurables are elite, but some of the weaknesses in his game have teams guessing what kind of NBA player he will end up being. Wiseman is at his best when he is setting screens and rolling to the basket, and displaying his athleticism around the rim. Wiseman tends to struggle when settling for long mid range and 3 point jump shots. Another negative that scouts have noted is his tendency to chase blocks and try and make the highlight reel play. His aggression on the defensive end often puts him in the wrong spot, and his sluggish lateral movement is particularly concerning. Early on, Wiseman will be a raw athletic prospect, who will need time to develop his shot creation and floor awareness. With all of that being said, Wiseman will be an elite rim runner right away, and could easily still be the #1 pick in this draft. If Minnesota stays at 1, I don’t see them picking him to pair with Karl Anthony Towns who is already the team’s superstar and defensive leader.

James Wiseman of the Memphis Tigers boxes out an opponent during a game against the South Carolina State Bulldogs. Photograph: Joe Murphy/Getty Images

After those 3 guys, it’s hard to say who will go next. Onyeka Okongwu out of USC is a 6’9 bigman who can put the ball on the floor and finish around the basket. Killian Hayes is a 6’5 playmaking guard from France. Hayes could end up being the best player in this draft because of his untapped potential shooting the ball. Another interesting prospect is Deni Avdija who’s a lengthy and versatile forward who can finish and play great defense. Some mock drafts have him going at 4 to the Bulls, but there’s a chance the Bulls would be inclined to take one of the 3 guys if one of them falls out of the top 3. But with this draft there are no guarantees. In fact, the order of the players that will be picked is just as unclear as the order of the teams that will select them.

Currently the teams set to pick in the top 10 in order are:

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves
  2. Golden State Warriors
  3. Charlotte Hornets
  4. Chicago Bulls
  5. Cleveland Cavaliers
  6. Atlanta Hawks
  7. Detroit Pistons
  8. New York Knicks
  9. Washington Wizards
  10. Phoenix Suns

This year’s draft provides a unique challenge for all NBA teams. Firstly, the pandemic has made it increasingly difficult for teams to work out players, and meet them in person. Not being able to evaluate these players in person makes it that much harder for teams to decide who they want to make this huge investment in. The cancellation of the NCAA tournament has also taken away the ability for draft prospects to shine and showcase their skills on the biggest stage college basketball has to offer. Many players have boosted their draft stock in past years, after inspiring March Madness performances. While teams picking in the top 10 have had extra time to study these players, it’s been mostly through Zoom calls and tape. Since this draft isn’t very  top heavy, and has quality role players hiding in the first and second rounds, there are no promises that teams will stay where they are now.

A team like Golden State picking at 2 has a plethora of options. They can keep the pick and draft Wiseman for the upside, and the belief that his physical gifts will translate to NBA stardom over time. Another option the Warriors have is moving down and acquiring some assets for the second pick. More desperate teams like the Knicks, Pistons, Cavaliers might be interested in getting one of the top 3 guys to attract some attention and hype for their franchises. The Warriors might be more interested in acquiring a veteran player to pair with Curry, Klay, and Draymond.

Some league sources have reported that the Celtics and the Magic are looking to move up into the middle of the lottery. It’s also been reported that the Wizards are trying to get into the top 5. Since there are no known commodities in this draft, there will be no saying how the lottery plays out. Any order of the top 3 guys won’t surprise me, but it will be interesting to see if Lamelo can be the first overall pick. Some recent reports say that Lamelo Ball will be the first pick, and teams will trade up to try and get him.

Nevertheless, there will be some unexpected things that happen before and during the November 18th draft. This is a notoriously underwhelming draft, so it will be interesting to see who finds the late 1st, or early second round gems. While the guys at the top of the draft seem to be hit or miss, teams will find quality role players throughout this draft. But the biggest question will be what order the top 3 goes in, and who will become the best NBA player out of Edwards, Wiseman, or Lamelo. 

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