Instant grades for every 2020 NBA Draft first round pick
We’re grading every pick in the 2020 NBA Draft live as it happens.
After 17 months of speculation, the 2020 NBA Draft has finally arrived. The buzz around this draft class from the very start has centered on the lack of a consensus No. 1 overall player, and the extended evaluation period hasn’t helped make it any clearer. The Minnesota Timberwolves hold the No. 1 overall pick, and like many other teams at the top of the order, they would reportedly prefer to trade down. The question then becomes whether any team actually wants to move up.
If this draft class lacks an obvious star like Zion Williamson or Luka Doncic, it does have a collection of talented players who fit into larger trends taking over the league. LaMelo Ball has excellent size for a lead playmaker with advanced ball handling and passing ability. Anthony Edwards has every physical attribute, but suffered from inconsistency at both ends. Onyeka Okongwu might not be the first big man draft, but he feels like the most complete front court prospect in the draft as a potential defensive anchor who is efficient in his offensive chances.
We graded every pick in the 2020 NBA Draft live as it happened:
1. Minnesota Timberwolves - Anthony Edwards, G, Georgia
By all indications, the Wolves did everything they could to trade this pick but couldn’t find a team that wanted it. Edwards might feel like the best short-term fit with D’Angelo Russell at lead guard and Karl-Anthony Towns at center, but there are some major holes in his game that make this look like a questionable call with the first pick. Edwards has otherworldly athletic explosiveness, but he isn’t a polished decision-maker on either end. That shows up defensively and also in his subpar scoring efficiency, where he finished with 51.7 percent true shooting. Having two other takeover scorers next to him should ease Edwards’ transition into the NBA, but the Wolves should be thinking long-term with his development. He needs to improve his focus and effort defensively and force his way to the rim more consistently instead of settling for jumpers. Edwards still has a high long-term upside with his raw athleticism and shot-making ability, but he has a long way to go before he’s a winning player in the NBA.
2. Golden State Warriors - James Wiseman, C, Memphis
Wiseman entered college as the No. 1 recruit in the class and has long been identified as a possible top overall draft pick. He has great size and length for a center, and has shown incredible end-to-end speed running the open floor. His game is going to be protecting the rim on defense, catching lobs, and getting putbacks on offense. Wiseman should be a good player, but his limited versatility makes him feel like an underwhelming No. 2 overall pick. He isn’t a polished shooter or passer on offense and defensively lacks lateral quickness and quick jumping ability. Despite having a relatively narrow skill set, Wiseman should be ready to handle minutes as a rookie just based on his elite frame and ability to run the floor. We would have Onyeka Okongwu as the top big man prospect, but Wiseman certainly should have a long and productive career even if it doesn’t feel like he has all that much upside.
3. Charlotte Hornets - LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawara Hawks
LaMelo Ball is the top player on our draft board. As a 6’7 point guard, Ball has elite ball handling ability and incredible vision as a passer. Ball’s creation ability is one of the strongest individual skills in the draft, and fills a major need for Charlotte. His oversized playmaking ability should pair well with Devonte Graham’s off the dribble shooting. The Hornets still have a lot of work to do in their rebuild, but they seem to have found a nice player in the first round last year in power forward P.J. Washington. Ball, who is one of the youngest players in this draft, has as much long-term upside as any player available. He will bring some star-power to a franchise that has been sorely missing it.
4. Chicago Bulls - Patrick Williams, F, Florida State
The first real shock of the draft is Chicago picking Williams at No. 4. The youngest American born player in the draft, Williams didn’t start a game for Florida State but flashed rim protection and spot-up shooting potential at the four. Williams will get most of his offense on catch-and-shoots from the corner, attacking closeouts, and flashing a little dribble pull-up game. Defensively, he isn’t quite quick enough to have elite versatility, but he’s a force walling up at the rim. He likely won’t provide the type of volume scoring teams look for with a top-five pick, but he gives new Chicago VP Arturas Karnisovas a bunch of different avenues to continue building the team going forward.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers - Isaac Okoro, F, Auburn
The Cavs have been the worst defensive team in the NBA since LeBron James went to the Lakers, and Okoro is the best defensive prospect in the draft. The 6’6 freshman wing checks every box for a great defender: he’s outstanding at the point of attack, he can make sharp rotations, and he even provides some rim protection. Okoro’s biggest weakness is his spot-up shooting, where he’ll need to completely rework his shot. While that’s worrying, he does do some things well offensively. Okoro is really good at forcing his way to the foul line, and he’s shown flashes as a passer. While he takes time to develop as a shooter and scorer, he should be an impact defender from day one.
6. Atlanta Hawks - Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC
Okongwu is the top big man in this class because he can play any coverage style defensively, and he’ll score efficiently in his offensive opportunities. A bit undersized for a center at 6’9, Okongwu makes up for it with strength, length, intelligence, and quick leaping ability. He can shine in drop coverage as a rim protector, or he can get out on the perimeter to hard hedge or corral ball handlers. He won’t be a go-to scorer offensively, but he’s a skilled finisher on rolls and lobs to the rim and will make an impact on the offensive glass. He should fortify the Hawks’ defense around Trae Young.
7. Detroit Pistons - Killian Hayes, G, Ulm
Hayes is a great value at No. 7 for Detroit and fills the team’s biggest need. The 6’5 French point guard can make every read on the floor and showed major improvement as a spot-up shooter in his first year in the German league. While Hayes isn’t an explosive athlete going to the rim, he knows how to change speeds and keep defenses off balance. He’s also a wonderful defender who makes sharp, instinctual rotations and should have the body to eventually check three positions. His catch-and-shoot ability isn’t quite as good as his pull-up shooting, so fixing his spot-up mechanics will be key. Hayes is also very left-hand dominant at this point, so he’ll need to develop his right hand. For all the questions about his athleticism and shooting, Hayes projects to have a positive impact on both offense and defense and still has plenty of room to grow as one of the younger prospects in this draft. Detroit just found the point guard it has been looking for.
8. New York Knicks - Obi Toppin, F, Dayton
Toppin was widely expected to be off the board by No. 8, and the Knicks are reportedly thrilled to have him fall. Why not? As a redshirt sophomore, Toppin was the most dominant player in college basketball and an incredible finisher at the rim who also made major strides with his jump shot. He could be awesome offensively, provided New York can find a way to replicate the pristine four-out spacing Toppin played within at Dayton. All of his questions come defensively. Toppin can’t anchor the defense at center and he doesn’t have the quickness to defend new-age fours. The Knicks will need a team of determined defenders around him, but his offensive ceiling is so high that this seems like a perfectly fine pick even if New York had a bigger need at guard.
9. Washington Wizards - Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Avdija was hyped as a top-five pick throughout the pre-draft process, but the rise of Patrick Williams, Isaac Okoro, and Killian Hayes pushed him down the board to No. 9. The Wizards will be happy to scoop him up. Avdija has a jack-of-all-trades skillset without a major weakness in his game. He’s at his best as a secondary playmaker who can grab a rebound and push the ball in transition or attack closeouts and find the open man in the halfcourt. Avdija only made 58 percent of his free throws in his last 400 attempts for Maccabi Tel Aviv, which isn’t encouraging for his shooting projection. If he finds a way to develop into a solid catch-and-shoot threat in the halfcourt, Avdija’s combination of aggressive drives to the rim with high-IQ passing should make him a nice pick for Washington.
10. Phoenix Suns - Jalen Smith, F, Maryland
Phoenix made the most shocking pick of the lottery last year when they selected Cameron Johnson far ahead of his projections. The Suns have done it again this year by taking Jalen Smith at No. 10 when he was widely projected to be picked in the 20s. The 6’10 big man had an awesome sophomore year for Maryland, blossoming into an All-American. He’s certainly not an elite shooter like Johnson, but Smith is a solid floor spacer who should get plenty of open looks with Devin Booker and Chris Paul running the show. Smith’s issue is that he isn’t super quick or a great leaper, which limits his defensive impact. Johnson certainly had a nice rookie year for the Suns, so maybe Smith will surprise, too. This feels like a major reach, though.
11. San Antonio Spurs - Devin Vassell, F, Florida State
Vassell is a true 3-and-D guy who is excellent in both areas. Vassell makes a huge impact as a help defender who can disrupt actions and force turnovers. He also hit better than 40 percent of his three-pointers across two seasons at Florida State after entering the program as an overlooked recruit. Because Vassell has improved so much since entering college, it’s possible he still has some upside left. The Spurs would love it if that includes the ability to create his own offense off the dribble, which would make him even more dynamic. Every team needs 3-and-D wings, and really good 3-and-D wings are undeniably valuable. This should be a great pick for San Antonio.
12. Sacramento Kings - Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State
Haliburton has some clear strengths and clear weaknesses, but he should be a really nice fit next to De’Aaron Fox in Sacramento. During his two years at Iowa State, Haliburton proved to be a knockdown three-point shooter off spot-ups, a very good stationary passer, and an impactful defender. Where he struggles is beating his defender off the dribble and getting into the paint, but he shouldn’t have much of a creation burden playing next to Fox. The bigger issue for Haliburton could be how his defense translates. While he put up a sky-high steal rate throughout his time at ISU, his rail-thin frame could lead to him getting targeted early in his career. As long as he bulks up, Haliburton should be a solid role player as a shooter and passer who complements Fox’s game well.
13. New Orleans Pelicans - Kira Lewis, G, Alabama
Lewis is a super fast point guard who fills a need for the Pelicans while also having an argument for the best player on the board. After entering Alabama as a 17-year-old freshman, Lewis took off under head coach Nate Oats to turn into a consensus lottery pick. While he’s not the most polished finisher or passer yet, his ability to breakdown the defense off the dribble and put pressure on the rim will help make things easier for the rest of his teammates. Lewis seems like a nice match with Lonzo Ball in the backcourt as long the two can knock down three-pointers consistently enough to space the floor around Zion Williamson.
14. Boston Celtics - Aaron Nesmith, SG, Vanderbilt
Nesmith is considered one of the best three-point shooters in the draft. He hit 52 percent of his threes as a sophomore for Vanderbilt through the first 14 games before suffering a season-ending stress fracture in his foot. After hitting only 33.7 percent of his threes as a freshman, it’s fair to wonder where Nesmith’s shooting would have come in over a full season. The bigger issue is his lack of off-the-dribble game and how he struggles to beat the defense as a passer. Nesmith is a long wing (6’10 wingspan) with a signature skill, but it doesn’t feel like there’s much versatility in his game.
15. Orlando Magic - Cole Anthony, G, North Carolina
Anthony is a 6’2 guard whose off-the-dribble shooting ability should be a major addition in Orlando. A consensus top-five recruit entering college, Anthony had a trying freshman season at North Carolina that included a torn meniscus. While he couldn’t carry a flawed supporting cast to success, Anthony’s game might translate better in the pros. Anthony likely doesn’t project as a full-time lead engine because his passing chops are unpolished, and he was underwhelming attacking the rim on drives. Instead, Anthony can play off Markelle Fultz’s ball handling and focus on darting around the three-point line, ripping shots, and attacking closeouts. It feels like this pick fills a big need for the Magic and also gives the organization a player who has more upside than he showed in college.
16. Detroit Pistons - Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington
Stewart joins Jalen Smith as the biggest reaches of the first round so far. A consensus five-star recruit, Stewart had a productive freshman year at Washington but there are questions about how his game translates to the NBA. Stewart is incredibly strong and long, but he only made five three-pointers and finished with 27 assists to 71 turnovers so there isn’t much versatility to his game. Defensively, Stewart plays a high-energy game, but he doesn’t have the quickness to defend the perimeter. Detroit needed a big man, but they could have went with Xavier Tillman from Michigan State instead.
17. Oklahoma City Thunder - Aleksej Pokusevski, F, Serbia
The Thunder are in tear down mode, and Pokusevski is the best possible player to take a chance on for a team in their situation. Poku is a 7-footer who offers a dribble, pass, and shoot skill set while playing with tremendous confidence offensively. He’s the youngest player in the first round at 18 years old, and he has a rail thin frame, but if he develops the right way, Poku has the potential to be one of the best players in this draft class long-term. The Thunder will be patient with him and hope he can be an offensive star down the road.
18. Dallas Mavericks - Josh Green, G, Arizona
Green is a super athlete with great straight-line speed and quick hips who should develop into a quality 3-and-D wing around Luka Doncic. Green has good size at 6’6 with a 6’10 wingspan while hitting 34 percent of his three-pointers. He should be an impact player in transition who spaces the floor in the halfcourt. His defensive versatility will come down to how much strength he can add to his frame.
19. Detroit Pistons - Saddiq Bey, F, Villanova
The Pistons end the first round with a wing after already landing a point guard (Hayes) and a big (Stewart). Bey is a 6’8 swingman who hit 45 percent of his three-pointers and showed surprising skill in the pick-and-roll and in transition. The shooting should translate, but there are legitimate questions about how versatile his skill set can be beyond that. Bey had a sound defensive reputation in college, but he’ll have to prove he can stick with faster NBA players, or he’ll be forced to move up the four. This isn’t the most exciting pick, but Bey’s shooting would help any team, especially one that just drafted Killian Hayes to set the table.
20. Miami Heat - Precious Achiuwa, C/F, Memphis
Achiuwa is a strong and long 6’9 energy big with great physicality and major questions about his skill set and feel for the game. For now, Achiuwa can succeed in spot minutes just by being big and fast and playing with a high motor. His decision-making is an issue, but you can trust the Heat as much as any franchise to put young players in positions to succeed. As raw as he is offensively, he should have a relatively high floor as a rebounder and rim runner who can fly in transition.
21. Philadelphia 76ers - Tyrese Maxey, G, Kentucky
This feels like the best value pick of the first round. Maxey is a perfect fit in Philadelphia as an aggressive guard who shines attacking the rim and playing physical point of attack defense with a 6’6 wingspan. While he didn’t shoot the ball as well as expected in college, he was a great free throw shooter who should improve from three-point range in time. For now, Maxey’s touch on floaters and his ability to contort his body for tough finishes at the rim will be a nice addition next to Ben Simmons’ oversized playmaking at the four. Maxey deserved to be a lottery pick, but he found a great home on the Sixers. Daryl Morey knows what he’s doing.
22. Denver Nuggets - Zeke Nnaji, F, Arizona
Nnaji was a bit overlooked entering Arizona in a stacked freshman class next to Nico Mannion and Josh Green, but he has an argument to have the most pro potential of the group. The 6’11 big man is agile and explosive around the rim, showing nice finishing touch as a roll man and cleaning up the glass as an offensive rebounder. There are questions on if he can provide enough shot blocking to stick at the five defensively, but he does have impressive quickness to hold his own a little bit on the perimeter. His swing skill could be his shooting, which is unpolished but appears to have potential after he hit 76 percent of his free throws. Nnaji projects as an energy big with room to grow from there.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves - Leandro Bolmaro, G, Barcelona
Bolmaro is an Argentinian guard who offers playmaking ability at 6’7. He’s in a quality developmental situation on Barcelona and could be viewed as a draft-and-stash prospect for Minnesota. If Balmaro doesn’t hit his ceiling as a facilitator, he still offers value as a big defensive guard with good help instincts.
24. Denver Nuggets - R.J. Hampton, G, New Zealand Breakers
Hampton was a five-star recruit out of Dallas who decided to follow LaMelo Ball’s path to the NBL. The 6’5 guard has a nice mix of length and athleticism to go with an aggressive mindset at both ends of the floor. While he’s not a natural floor general or a knockdown shooter just yet, Hampton offers some upside for Denver to groom long-term behind Jamal Murray.
25. New York Knicks - Immanuel Quickley, G, Kentucky
Quickley had a breakout sophomore year at Kentucky by developing into one of the best shooters in the country. Quickley hit 42.8 percent of his three-pointers and 92 percent of his free throws as he transitioned from point guard to an off-ball role. This pick was surely influenced by Kenny Payne, the assistant coach the Knicks hired away from Kentucky a few months ago. For all of Quickley’s shooting skill, he struggles to create off the dribble, get to the rim, and defend stronger and faster players. Desmond Bane would have been a better pick as a 3-and-D prospect at this spot.
26. Boston Celtics - Payton Pritchard, G, Oregon
Pritchard was one of the best players in America as a senior for Oregon this past season, but there are major questions about how his game will translate to the NBA. If there’s one thing the 6’2 guard can be expected to do in the league, it’s shoot: he hit 41 percent of his threes and 82 percent of his free throws. The questions with Pritchard centers on everything else. He doesn’t have a ton of juice to create of the dribble and will likely struggle to stay in front of faster and stronger NBA guards. It felt like there were better options on the board for Boston.
27. Utah Jazz - Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas
Azubuike is a massive center at 7-foot, 270 pounds with a reported 7’6 wingspan. ‘Dok’ was the most dominant physical presence in college basketball this season as a senior at Kansas, getting buckets at will as an inside scorer and improving his defense in the middle. For as good as Azubuike was in college, it feels like his game doesn’t fit the modern NBA. Teams will target him in pick-and-rolls and force him to defend in space. His post scoring also won’t be as en vogue in the league. Despite the C grade here, Azubuike is huge and strong and has soft touch close to the rim, so there is some upside here for Utah.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves - Jaden McDaniels, F, Washington
McDaniels couldn’t live up to his high school hype as a five-star recruit at Washington. The skinny 6’10 wing struggled to score efficiently with 51.5 percent true shooting and finished the season with 100 turnovers to 65 assists. There were better bets at this point in the first round, but the Wolves are obviously weighing pre-college sample more heavily than what happened in college for both McDaniels and No. 1 pick Edwards. McDaniels has some upside because of his size and scoring instincts, but we thought there were better players on the board.
29. Toronto Raptors - Malachi Flynn, G, San Diego State
Flynn isn’t the biggest or fastest guard, but he’s so tough and skilled and should be a perfect fit for the Raptors. In his first year with San Diego State after transferring from Washington State, Flynn emerged as one of the best players in America and helped lead the Aztecs to a 30-2 season. He has great instincts in the pick-and-roll as both a passer and scorer, flashed pull-up shooting ability, and is a smart and active defender. The Raptors helped turn Fred VanVleet from a great college player to a very good pro, and Flynn could very well follow the same path.
30. Memphis Grizzlies - Desmond Bane, G, TCU
A year ago, the Grizzlies traded back into the first round to take Brandon Clarke, a player anyone paying attention knew was going to be an impactful pro. They just did it again with Bane. The senior guard from TCU is one of the best shooters in this class, knocking down threes off movement and spot-ups. He’s also a smart passer and defender, projecting as the type of role player who impacts winning without needing the ball in his hands. There are plenty of teams picking the 20s who will wish they took Bane a few years down the road.