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NBA mock draft: Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball as top pick?

Georgia guard Anthony Edwards is one of the top candidates to be the first player taken in the 2020 NBA draft.
(Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

Congrats to the Minnesota Timberwolves, winners of the NBA’s draft lottery and owners of one of the few pieces of concrete information that exists in the league’s universe.

When free agency will start? That’s up for debate. When the draft will be held? Same. And the start of next season, which was tentatively set for Dec. 1? NBA commissioner Adam Silver, in a televised interview on ESPN, said that feels a little bit too early.

For the record:

8:37 AM, Aug. 21, 2020Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this report said LeMelo Ball turns 22 on Aug. 22. He turns 19.

But whenever the league decides its time for 60 new players to have their dreams realized, the Minnesota Timberwolves are 100%, dead-eye sure that they’ll have the first pick.

Here’s an early look at the NBA lottery (with a bonus Lakers pick):

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No. 1: Minnesota — SG Anthony Edwards, 6-5

This is where the certainties go out the window because there’s no consensus for the top pick in the NBA draft. Maybe an NCAA postseason would’ve shaken stuff out. Maybe amazing individual workouts or combine measurements would push someone to the top. Instead, Minnesota can look at its roster and take a player with enormous offensive upside, getting a third piece to pair with point guard D’Angelo Russell and center Karl-Anthony Towns. Edwards needs to become a better defender than he was a Georgia, but offensively, but he can be a devastating scorer.

No. 2: Golden State — C James Wiseman, 7-1

The Warriors will probably look hard at moving this pick — pairing a teenager with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and a returning Klay Thompson doesn’t do a lot toward putting the Warriors back in title contention in 2021. If they did decide to make a pick, a long, 7-footer who can protect the rim and run pick-and-rolls seems like a good fit. His mid-December exit from Memphis means he won’t have played in a game in a year once he debuts.

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No. 3: Charlotte — PG LaMelo Ball, 6-7

One of the best parts of this draft is that you could pick third and end up taking the best overall player. There’s a decent chance that Ball is that guy. He’s an amazing passer, he’s got tremendous size for the position and he’s been playing professionally for two seasons. He’s still young (he turns 19 on Aug. 22) and he has star-making flair on the floor. Yeah, there’s baggage, but maybe lessons have been learned.

No. 4: Chicago — SF Deni Avdija, 6-9

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The Bulls need more talent, plain and simple, and that appears to be the plan of attack for new executive Arturas Karnisovas. You’d want Avdija to shoot the ball better — he’s been inconsistent with that part of his game — but this lanky Israeli is a superb playmaker who can create his own offense and could give Chicago the kind of selflessness it lacks on the offensive end.

No. 5: Cleveland — PF Obi Toppin, 6-9

Cleveland has invested a lot of draft capital into its backcourt in the last two years, and Toppin is the kind of finishing big man those guards desperately need. There’s some concern that he’s already reached his ceiling, that there’s not more room for the Dayton star to grow. Cleveland would have to hope that his skills can stretch to the three-point line, where he’s shown some promise. There’s some Tobias Harris in his game.

No. 6: Atlanta — PG/SG Tyrese Haliburton, 6-5

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Haliburton is one of the most complete players in the draft, doing everything for Iowa State. He’s versatile enough to pair with point guard Trae Young. He’s a favorite of some scouts and coaches.

No. 7: Detroit — C Onyeka Okongwu, 6-9

The former Chino Hills High and USC star is probably the best defensive player in the draft. While he’s undersized by a previous generation’s standards, he’s got all the tools of a modern NBA center.

USC's Onyeka Okongwu goes up for a shot during an exhibition game against Villanova.
(Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)
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No. 8: New York — PG Killian Hayes, 6-5

The Knicks have to be disappointed (again) that they’ve been kept out of the hunt for the best players in the draft. Hayes, a French-American who grew up overseas, will turn it over a lot, but he’s got great size and promise running a team.

No. 9: Washington — SF Isaac Okoro, 6-6

Kind of a prototypical NBA wing, even if Okoro didn’t shoot as well as you’d want at Auburn. He’s the kind of player who does everything else you’d want in a winner outside of scoring, and if Bradley Beal and John Wall are there, the Wizards could use this kind of player.

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No. 10: Phoenix — PG Cole Anthony, 6-3

After being the story of the bubble seeding games, the Suns can take a big swing on a point guard who many projected as the top talent in college last season. An injury cut Anthony’s year short at North Carolina, but he’s a skilled offensive player who competes on the other end. Needs to work on his passing, but Devin Booker has improved in that area, making this an interesting match.

No. 11: San Antonio — SF Saddiq Bey, 6-8

Villanova has consistently produced NBA-quality wings and Bey seems like he’s next in line. The Spurs could look for a big man, but they’ve always seemed to value skilled defenders who can knock down shots.

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No. 12: Sacramento — SF Aaron Nesmith, 6-6

Regarded by some scouts as maybe the best shooter in the draft, the Vanderbilt wing might possess the most NBA-important skill. The Kings need plenty of help on the perimeter, and assuming the stress fracture in his foot that cost him most of his season is healed, Nesmith could help sooner than later.

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No. 13: New Orleans — PG RJ Hampton, 6-5

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Hampton played in Australia this year, where he struggled some. But Hampton profiles as someone who can play both guard positions, and the Pelicans should be looking for as many players who can get the ball to Zion Williamson as possible.

No. 14: Boston (via Memphis) — PF Precious Achiuwa, 6-9

The Celtics could use some size in the frontcourt and Achiuwa is a big-time athlete with great size and length for the position. He’s the kind of player who could use some molding, and Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in the league.

BONUS

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No. 29: LAKERS — PG Cassius Winston, 6-1

The Lakers will eventually need someone to help remove the ball-handling and playmaking burdens from LeBron James, and Winston is incredibly polished and tested from four years of big games at Michigan State. He seems like the kind of prospect who could earn minutes on a contender right out of the gate.


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