Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
The 2020 NBA draft doesn’t appear loaded with future stars.
While a few prospects have risen to the top of many mock drafts—Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, LaMelo Ball—there is no consensus on who is the best or how good they can be.
The knee-jerk reaction is to label this draft class as weak, but the better descriptor for this iteration of the talent grab is “challenging.”
Even if no superstars emerge from this crop, impact players will. But they could come from anywhere. The 2000 draft (considered among the worst ever) saw its top four players by win shares taken at Nos. 16 (Hedo Turkoglu), 5 (Mike Miller), 8 (Jamal Crawford) and 43 (Michael Redd).
It’s imperative, then, for evaluators to be intimately familiar with all levels of the draft board, so after running through our mock first round, we’ll spotlight three under-the-radar prospects who could rise from its back half.
2020 NBA Mock Draft
1. Golden State Warriors: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
2. Cleveland Cavaliers: James Wiseman, C, Memphis
3. Minnesota Timberwolves: LaMelo Ball, PG/SG, Illawarra Hawks
4. Atlanta Hawks: Obi Toppin, PF/C, Dayton
5. Detroit Pistons: Deni Avdija, SF/PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
6. New York Knicks: Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
7. Chicago Bulls: Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State
8. Charlotte Hornets: Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC
9. Washington Wizards: Isaac Okoro, SF/PF, Auburn
10. Phoenix Suns: Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm
11. San Antonio Spurs: RJ Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers
12. Sacramento Kings: Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Aleksej Pokusevski, PF/C, Olympiacos
14. Portland Trail Blazers: Jaden McDaniels, SF/PF, Washington
15. Orlando Magic: Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn Nets): Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
17. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies): Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
18. Dallas Mavericks: Josh Green, SG/SF, Arizona
19. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers): Saddiq Bey, SF/PF, Villanova
20. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers): Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State
21. Denver Nuggets (via Houston Rockets): Patrick Williams, PF, Florida State
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City Thunder): Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL
23. Miami Heat: Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
24. Utah Jazz: Leandro Bolmaro, SG/SF, Barcelona
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver Nuggets): Robert Woodard, SF, Mississippi State
26. Boston Celtics: Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington
27. New York Knicks (via Los Angeles Clippers): Tre Jones, PG, Duke
28. Toronto Raptors: Vernon Carey Jr., C, Duke
29. Los Angeles Lakers: Jalen Smith, PF/C, Maryland
30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks): Jahmi’us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech
Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
While Kira Lewis Jr. completed two seasons with the Crimson Tide, his age actually helps his stock. He reclassified to start his college career a year early and just turned 19 on April 6.
That points to a higher ceiling than his projected draft slot might suggest, and his floor looks on the loftier end, too. He might be the fastest player in this draft, and unlike some speedsters, his three-ball looks like a legitimate weapon.
Lewis is already an asset in transition, as opponents simply can’t match his top gear. That’s what makes his outside shot (56 splashes at a 36.6 percent clip this past season) such a critical skill for his NBA future.
If he can maintain (or better yet, improve) his accuracy and keep developing his promising handles, he could be just as valuable in half-court situations against players with similar or even superior athleticism.
His burst brings value to the defensive end, where he can close passing lanes or contest shots in an instant. His budding offensive skills suggest three-level scoring potential. He could become one of the five best players to come out of this class, but his cost won’t be nearly that steep.
Robert Woodard, SF, Mississippi State
While chasing upside has its merits, relative safety has its own appeal once you move outside of a draft’s top tier.
Robert Woodard isn’t a first-round lock, but he does seem like one of the more bankable contributors outside of the projected lottery picks.
“Woodard has given off NBA role-player vibes with his 42.9 percent three-point shooting and defensive versatility for an athletic, 6’7″, 230-pound forward,” B/R’s Jonathan Wasserman wrote.
If teams buy the 20-year-old’s improvement as a shooter—he only attempted 70 threes and shot just 64.1 percent at the free-throw line—then he’s an easy sell as a three-and-D combo forward. Clubs can never have enough of those in today’s pace-and-space NBA.
Jalen Smith, PF/C, Maryland
Jalen Smith made his second year with the Terps count.
His production rocketed in volume and efficiency. He shined exactly where he needed to. When the campaign closed, the 20-year-old became just the sixth player to average 10 rebounds, two blocks and one three-pointer since 1992.
Modern teams want their bigs to have some kind of jumper but still hold down the interior at the other end. Smith’s scouting report at The Stepien includes high-, medium- and low-level projections and all three start with the same description: “Floor spacing big, rim protector.”
Smith could improve his stock by diversifying his offensive arsenal, improving as a passer and growing more comfortable defending in space, but he already has the hoops world’s attention for his modern blend of basketball gifts.