The NBA Draft Lottery pecking order is set for the teams picking No.’s 1-14 in this year’s draft. The winner among the losers was the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team with the third-worst regular season record was awarded the first overall selection.
The Golden State Warriors, who are looking to get healthy and return to their winning ways, will pick second, the Charlotte Hornets third, with the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers rounding out the first five selections.
This will be one of the most unique NBA Drafts on record due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only is the draft delayed by at least four months, NBA front offices will be making picks with far less real-time evaluation because of the cancellations of many conference tournaments and the NCAA Tournament last season. Another interesting aspect of this draft is NBA scouts and front office personnel will not be able to evaluate prospects in a live draft combine setting, but rather a virtual one taking place at regional sites.
In this piece, myself and Ronnie Flores do our best to predict which players the lottery teams will select based on fit and team needs. Check out our selections for the top four picks in the final part of our three-part NBA Draft Lottery predictions series.
4. Chicago Bulls
Ronnie’s Pick: LaMelo Ball | Guard | 6-7 | 190 | Australia | PRO
Why: The Bulls moved up three spots and could they be picking up the best talent in the draft? Some feel so, as Ball is the over-sized playmaker NBA teams covet nowadays. The most polarizing player in this draft, and perhaps’ the most in many years, he’s also got the biggest risk-reward factor of any potential draft pick. The younger brother of 2017 No. 2 pick (Lonzo Ball) has a big more wiggle, craftiness, and potentially a tighter handle than his brother, while both have that incredible vision and court awareness. Some NBA brass feel it’s a big plus that he’s already been through the rigors of pro basketball, but his defensive intensity and “gimmicky” style does raise some legitimate question marks about his long-term potential. Melo has been one of the most scrutinized players in basketball, at any level, or the past five years and that should help him should be get off to a slow start in his NBA career. Ball should be a rotational player as long as he picks up the defensive schemes and the fact that Chicago doesn’t have big glaring weaknesses should help his transition. Golden State will take a long look at him at No. 2, but he’ll fall here, and that will give him a better chance to learn on the job and eventually thrive.
Devin’s Pick: Obi Toppin | Forward | 6-9 | 220 | Dayton | So.
Why: When taking a closer look at the Bulls’ roster, two areas of need immediately jump off the page: guards and forwards. Chicago could certainly go with LaMelo Ball here if he’s still available and come away with a high risk/high reward selection and add him in to a solid backcourt alongside Zach LaVine and Coby White. Or, as I believe will happen, the Bulls will select a guy who will be a productive NBA player from day one in Obi Toppin. The 6-foot-9 forward out of Dayton is a high motor guy who plays with great energy on both ends of the floor and has proven he can score inside and out. His rim running ability in transition, along with his vertical athleticism, make him a guy who could excel as an open court finisher or a pick-and-roll lob finisher in the half-court. Toppin shot 39 percent from the college three-point line, and while his catch-and-shoot mechanics are fundamentally sound, it will be interesting to see if his perimeter shooting translates to the deeper NBA three-point stripe.
3. Charlotte Hornets
Ronnie’s Pick: Obi Toppin | Forward | 6-9 | 220 | Dayton | So.
Why: If Wiseman is the Warriors’ pick, and he should be, taking Melo Ball here would be a tempting move for the Hornets, as would his former high school teammate from Chino Hills (Calif.) Onyeka Okongwu. I just get the feeling Charlotte will play it safe, as they are one of those teams that favors more seasoned talent rather than gambling on younger players with a perceived higher ceiling. As the 2020 Naismith Award winner, Toppin was an efficient player in college who will be able to operate down low in the NBA and contribute right away. The Dayton star is a classic what-you-see-is-what-you-get type and at 22 would be the oldest top five pick in a decade. Toppin is an underrated shooter, but there are some concerns about his defensive ability and ceiling. Will those concerns cause him to drop? We don’t think so and in a draft with plenty of question marks, he’s not going to fall out of the top five.
Devin’s Pick: LaMelo Ball | Guard | 6-7 | 190 | Australia | PRO
Why: As mentioned above, Ball might be the most talented prospect in this year’s draft class, but there are plenty of unknowns that come with drafting a player like him. We all know the story of him leaving Chino Hills to go to Lithuania and then to SPIRE Academy and finally to Australia where, for the first time, he played in a more structured environment than he did at the high school and club level in the states. Like Ronnie said, the youngest of the three Ball brothers is the most polarizing player in the 2020 Draft and he’s also the most talented of the three siblings. At 6-feet-7, Melo has the ball skills, creativity, craftiness, vision and basketball IQ to serve as a primary ball handler and playmaker. The question marks about Ball, among NBA decision-makers, stem both on and off the court. Does his freewheeling style of play translate to the NBA level? Will he be a consistent three-point shooting threat from the NBA line? Can he guard his position and properly defend in an NBA defensive scheme? In a draft that doesn’t feature a whole lot of no-brainer talent, Charlotte has to go with the best available player here and it is Ball. To me, Melo would fit in nicely with the vastly-improved Devonte’ Graham and veteran point guard Terry Rozier along with young, talented forwards in P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges.
2. Golden State Warriors
Ronnie’s Pick: James Wiseman | Center | 7-1 | 235 | Memphis | Fr.
Why: The dynasty with the closing championship window are the big winners in this year’s draft. Why? For starters, its selection won’t have the added pressure of being the No. 1 pick in a weak draft (think Anthony Bennett and how that worked) and regardless, two players from among Anthony Edwards, Melo Ball and Wiseman will be available. That means the Warriors’ front office will have a quality pick/player to shop around should they decide no player from this draft will greatly assist within the time frame of that championship window (keep in mind the Warrior’s own Minnesota’s 2021 first-round pick). Wiseman combination of immense size, frame and mobility easily offsets his limited body of work to get to this point. Sure, Wiseman only played three college games, but should fit in with a team that doesn’t need him to produce gigantic numbers right away. He’ll have some pressure on him to perform at some point, but with Golden State’s shooters, he’ll eventually thrive. And if the Warriors want to package this pick as part of a deal for a veteran, he brings the most value or they’ll be choosing for another team. Either way, the Warriors have quality options.
Devin’s Pick: James Wiseman | Center | 7-1 | 235 | Memphis | Fr.
Why: There are expectations that Golden State will try to trade this pick for a more seasoned veteran as it tries to bounce-back to championship form after an injury-riddled season, meaning there’s a lot of different ways the Warriors could go here. For the sake of this story, let’s assume the Warriors keep this pick, and I think they go with Wiseman here. The mobile 7-foot-1 center has all the makings of a modern big man and his skill-set would translate quite nicely to a Golden State roster that needs some help inside. Wiseman had a brief cup of coffee at Memphis, but showed flashes of his next-level ability in the three games he played. Wiseman averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and three blocks per game before a NCAA suspension led him to leave school to prepare for the 2020 NBA Draft. So what is it about Wiseman that could fit in well with the Warriors? The first thing that stands out for me is rim protection, and as the league becomes more athletic and more offensively gifted, there’s always a place for a guy who can block, change or alter shots at the rim. The second aspect of Wiseman’s game I like is his rebounding, both offensively and defensively. There’s no better way to start a fast break than old-fashioned glass cleaning and second-chance opportunities on missed shots are all-important in deep playoff runs.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves
Ronnie’s Pick: Anthony Edwards | Guard | 6-5 | 225 | Georgia | Fr.
Why: There is no questioning Edward’s offensive talent and we’ve known for a long time (since the 2018 Pangos All-American Camp) that he had No. 1 in the draft-type talent. Since the Wolves have some quality offensive players on the perimeter, Edwards won’t be under a tremendous amount of pressure to put up big numbers right away, but he’ll be under the microscope to show offensive efficiency and be engaged defensively. If Edwards gradually improves his shooting percentages and displays an locked-in attitude on defense, we’re talking a potential All-Star player (and there is not too many of those with that potential in this draft). He has to be in a position to succeed and with a coaching staff that feels any shortcomings can be addressed in an adequate amount of time. He’s not a “project” as a No. 1 pick, but not a sure-fire star. Nobody in this draft is, but Edwards is still its best bet because of his combination of athleticism and offensive play-making ability against NBA level defenders.
Devin’s Pick: Anthony Edwards | Guard | 6-5 | 225 | Georgia | Fr.
Why: I compare Edwards to Toppin in this year’s draft and not because of style of play, but more because of the fact that you know what you’re getting and that’s a bonafide scorer. The 6-foot-5 off-guard has an impressive combination of physical strength and vertical explosiveness, both of which led to him averaging 19.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game as a freshman in the SEC. Edwards will be a guy who can play off the ball alongside De’Angelo Russell, Karl Anthony-Towns and another young and talented wing in Jarrett Culver. While Edwards is a creative scorer and shot creator, it remains to be seen if his perimeter shooting ability is at the level it needs to be for him to live up to a No. 1 Draft selection. Edwards struggled from three-point range at Georgia, connecting on just 29.4 percent of his 7.7 three-point attempts per game. As we all know, shooting the deep ball has become one of the more important aspects of the game and Edwards will need to develop a more consistent deep ball to have a long and productive NBA career.