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I will live to regret these 2020 NBA draft grades, but it is time to get these way-too-early takes on the record. Whereas the lottery was absent any maneuvering, the latter half of the first round and the entirety of the second round were rife with trades that also featured five-time All-Star Al Horford, two-time reigning champion Danny Green and Seth Curry, who will be playing for his father-in-law on the Philadelphia 76ers.
Let us get to it all.
In: (6) Onyeka Okongwu; (50) Skylar Mays
The Hawks used their No. 6 pick to add the 6-foot-9, rim-running and -protecting Okongwu to a frontcourt that already includes an awkward fit around John Collins and Clint Capela. This after trading the No. 17 pick in Wednesday’s draft for the final three years on the 26-year-old Capela’s contract at the February deadline. Okungwu is a no-doubt, top-10 talent, but from a fit standpoint, there were better options at equal value.
With their second-round pick, rather than chasing potential, Atlanta went for the safety of the 23-year-old Mays, who brings a mature 3-and-D wing game (39.4 percent on 4.1 three-point attempts per game as an LSU senior) with a definitive ceiling. It is not a wildly exciting selection, but there is nothing wrong with that.
In: (14) Aaron Nesmith; (26) Payton Pritchard; (47) Yam Madar; two future second-round picks (via Memphis)
Out: (30) Desmond Bane
The Celtics entered the draft with four picks in the top 50 and nowhere to put all of them. They left with two first-round picks who theoretically fill rotational needs — Nesmith as “an absolute sniper” and Pritchard as a backup point guard — around core playmakers Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker, even if both may have been a bit of a stretch for their draft slot and neither brings a defensive pedigree to Boston.
With their other two picks, they draft-and-stashed Yam Madar, who ESPN’s Mike Schmitz described as “an Israeli Patrick Beverley” on the draft broadcast, and passed on potential sleeper Tyrell Terry to turn the 30th pick into a pair of future second-round picks from the Memphis Grizzlies. A meh draft if there ever was one.
In: Landry Shamet; (57) Reggie Perry
Out: (19) Saddiq Bey; (55) Jay Scrubb
Rather than gambling on the unknown of Bey or one of several other players at No. 19 who could develop into a better 3-and-D wing down the line, the Nets traded the pick for Landry Shamet’s known ability to space the floor for superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. It is a sound strategy, even if the Clippers turned Shamet into the best player in the three-team trade (Luke Kennard) without giving up a draft asset.
Brooklyn swapped Scrubb for Perry, which is a downgrade in the name department but an inconsequential move from a trade standpoint. The Nets got there guy in Perry, a still-developing offensive-minded big man.
In: (3) LaMelo Ball; (32) Vernon Carey Jr.; (42) Nick Richards; (56) Grant Riller
Out: 2024 second-round pick (to New Orleans)
Regardless of how many people tell me Ball is an undeniable talent as a ball-handler and passer, I still cannot imagine a guy who cannot shoot and who ESPN’s Jay Bilas said does not guard anyone will be worth the No. 3 pick, even in a bad draft. The Hornets required an All-NBA rise from Kemba Walker to make their only two playoff bids under Michael Jordan’s stewardship, and Ball may never reach that level. Plus, two of Charlotte’s few plus players — Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham — play Ball’s position.
The Hornets will hope to salvage some much-needed talent from their three second-round picks. Carey and Richards are centers with Duke and Kentucky pedigree, respectively. One needs more work defensively, and the other needs offensive improvement. Riller is a 23-year-old Fred VanVleet-type who may be a steal.
In: (4) Patrick Williams; (44) Marko Simonović
Williams is a high-risk, high-reward gamble in a draft that had safer bets after a clearer-cut (and equally risky) top three. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound Florida State freshman has the frame and athleticism to become a two-way versatile playmaking forward, this era’s most important position. He is also really raw, averaging 9.2 points, mostly around the rim, and logging twice as many turnovers as assists in his lone season on the Seminoles. It will be a problem if neither he nor Wendell Carter Jr. takes the reins as a three-point shooter.
Simonović could become Lauri Markkanen lite if he reaches his full potential.
In: (5) Isaac Okoro
Okoro is a similar offensive risk to Williams but more polished defensively. He too is built for the modern NBA and fills a desperate need on the wing between a young backcourt and a misfit veteran frontcourt. If you are picking between two versatile wings with significant offensive upside, I will take the one that is ready to defend multiple positions now.
In: Josh Richardson; (18) Josh Green; (31) Tyrell Terry; (36) Tyler Bey
Out: Seth Curry
The Mavericks entered the draft with the 18th and 31st picks, nabbed Green and Terry, and also turned Seth Curry into Richardson and Bey, all perfectly complementing Luka Doncic’s ball-dominant stardom.
Terry is a lights-out shooter and widely considered the steal of the draft at No. 31. Even if his slight frame (6-2, 174) will limit his defensive prowess, he should seamlessly replace Curry’s role in time. Richardson can help on the wing now, while both Green and Bey develop into similar 3-and-D role contributors around him.
In: (22) Zeke Nnaji; (24) R.J. Hampton
Out: 2023 lottery-protected first-round pick (to New Orleans)
Given Denver’s experience restoring highly ranked high school prospects whose stock fell in a single post-prep season, Hampton could be another home run. He is arguably the best athlete in the draft, still with star potential, even if his lone season on the New Zealand Breakers was cut short by injury. Considered a top-five pick at season’s start, projections had him going in the middle of the first round before he fell to No. 24. He very well could be a Michael Porter Jr. redux for the Nuggets.
Nnaji is a raw 7-footer with floor-spacing potential, and again, trust in a front office with a history of striking gold on unheralded big men in the draft.
In: (7) Killian Hayes; (16) Isaiah Stewart; (19) Saddiq Bey; (38) Saben Lee; Trevor Ariza; Rodney McGruder; Tony Bradley
Out: Luke Kennard; lottery protected future first-round pick (to Houston); cash; future considerations
Detroit’s roster may have had the greatest talent void in the NBA, and general manager Troy Weaver left his first draft with three top-20 picks with serious potential, all of whom complement each other. Hayes is a southpaw floor general with a chance to be the best player in the draft. Bey is a safe bet to make it as a 3-and-D wing. And Stewart will do the yeoman’s work in the frontcourt. The Pistons needed talent and got it.
Golden State Warriors
In: (2) James Wiseman; (48) Nico Mannion; (51) Justinian Jessup
The Warriors would have liked to make a bigger splash at No. 2 — either in a trade or by selecting a surefire superstar — but absent of both, Wiseman fills a need as a rim-running and -protecting center with a chance to be special. It would have been fascinating to slot him into that spot right away in a lineup featuring Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green, but the news of Thompson’s Achilles injury on Wednesday took the wind out of the sails of what should have been a franchise rebirth.
I also love the idea of Mannion — a participant in Curry’s SC30 Select Camp — studying under his mentor.
In: (52) Kenyon Martin Jr.; lottery protected future first-round pick (from Detroit); 2021 second-round pick (from L.A. Lakers via Detroit)
Out: (16) Isaiah Stewart; Trevor Ariza; 2021 second-round pick (to Sacramento); $4.6 million; more cash considerations
The Rockets are a sinking ship, and Exhibit X is trading Ariza and a mid-first-round pick in a draft full of quality complementary role players for the likelihood of a worse pick down the line. According to the Detroit Free Press, the first-rounder from Detroit is protected 1-16 from 2021-24, 1-10 from 2025-26, 1-9 in 2027 and converts to a second-round pick in 2028. They also paid a boatload for a future second-round pick, a ton of which were traded around like candy on Wednesday, not that Tillman Fertitta’s money is my concern.
In: (54) Cassius Stanley
Having previously traded their own first-round pick in the sign-and-trade deal that landed them Malcolm Brogdon in the summer of 2019, the Pacers did nothing beyond make their second-round selection. Stanley is a Duke freshman with ridiculous athleticism and a chance to be a sleeper at the wing position.
Los Angeles Clippers
In: Luke Kennard; (33) Daniel Oturu; (55) Jay Scrubb
Out: Landry Shamet; Rodney McGruder; 2023 second-round pick (to New York via Detroit); (57) Reggie Perry
The Clippers entered the draft with only the No. 57 pick and left with Kennard — the best player in a three-team draft-night trade and a wonderful complement to L.A.’s stars — and a pair of higher second-round picks. Oturu is a fairly safe bet to become a rotational floor-spacing big man, and Jay Scrubb is just a fantastic name for a late second-round pick, whether he makes it or not. Bet on a dude named Scrubb.
Los Angeles Lakers
In: Dennis Schroder; $4.6 million
Out: Danny Green; (28) Jaden McDaniels; 2021 second-round pick (from Detroit)
In a deal that was agreed to before the trade and finalized on Wednesday, the Lakers turned the 33-year-old Green and their No. 28 pick — rarely someone who can contribute to a title defense right away — into Schroder, the 27-year-old runner-up for the Sixth Man of the Year award and a phenomenal complement to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. A cool $4.6 million will help that luxury tax the Lakers are soon to pay.
In: (30) Desmond Bane; (35) Xavier Tillman
Out: two future second-round picks (to Boston)
The Grizzlies grabbed Bane and Tillman, a pair of lunchpail types who fit into the new era of grit-and-grind basketball. You have to love that Memphis already has an identity, and they did well to concentrate on finding players — a wing and a big man — who can develop and contribute behind Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke. It does not hurt that Jackson and Tillman are close friends.
In: (20) Precious Achiuwa
To nobody’s surprise, Miami nabbed a guy who fits Heat Culture to a tee. Achiuwa’s energy is his greatest weapon and a positive sign he can reach his potential, especially as an understudy behind Bam Adebayo.
In: (45) Jordan Nwora; (60) Sam Merrill
Nwora’s shooting ability alone at 6 feet, 8 inches will give him a chance to stick around for a while, but this description of the 6-foot-5 Merrill does not give me hope for his NBA chances, courtesy of Schmitz: “short arms, an undefined frame and less than stellar run-and-jump athleticism.” He is also already 24 years old.
The tougher pill to swallow on Wednesday was the news that an agreed upon sign-and-trade with the Kings for Bogdan Bogdanovic was apparently not agreed upon by Bogdanovic, putting an end to the deal.
In: (1) Anthony Edwards; (23) Leandro Bolmaro; (28) Jaden McDaniels; Ricky Rubio
Out: (17) Aleksej Pokusevski; James Johnson
The Wolves were in the unenviable position of selecting first in a draft without a clear No. 1. Every top prospect came with flaws, and Edwards is no different. He fills a position of need next to Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, but all three could fall short of the top-tier talent you want from them.
Turning the No. 17 pick into Rubio and two late-round picks in a draft that has value there makes sense, even if I do not love the money left on Rubio’s deal or the risk that comes with Bolmaro and McDaniels.
New Orleans Pelicans
In: (13) Kira Lewis Jr.; 2023 lottery-protected first-round pick (from New Orleans); 2024 second-round pick (from Charlotte); future second-round pick (from Utah)
Out: (24) R.J. Hampton; (42) Nick Richards
Lewis is a solid pick at No. 13. He brings incredible potential as a playmaker and scorer alongside Lonzo Ball at the guard position, even if his defense may never come. The Pelicans continued to add to their war chest of draft assets, although they may regret trading out of the opportunity to nab Hampton at No. 24.
New York Knicks
In: (8) Obi Toppin; (25) Immanuel Quickley; 2023 second-round pick (from L.A. Clippers)
Out: (23) Leandro Bolmaro
I love the idea of a New York City kid with an ultra-exciting game playing in Madison Square Garden. I do not love the fact that Toppin is a 22-year-old who The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor described as “a brutal pick-and-roll defender.” The Quickley pick is another conundrum. New president of basketball operations Leon Rose’s relationship with John Calipari is well known, which makes you wonder whether the Kentucky coach is rightfully higher on Quickley than scouting reports have suggested or if he sold Rose a bill of goods.
Oklahoma City Thunder
In: Al Horford; (17) Aleksej Pokusevski; (34) Theo Maledon; (37) Vít Krejčí; 2025 first-round pick (from Philadelphia); James Johnson
Out: Danny Green; (53) Cassius Winston; future second-round pick (to Washington)
The Thunder finally landed Horford a few years too late, although I would not be surprised to see a resurgent season from the five-time All-Star. That contract is tough to swallow, but who else are they going to pay? More importantly, OKC GM Sam Presti flipped Green into a first-round pick and a second-rounder — shortly after acquiring Green for Schröder and the No. 28 pick. More moves came, and when all was said and done, the Thunder drafted a trio of projects with the Nos. 17, 34 and 37 picks. Presti has built a cache of draft assets, so much attention will be paid to his success with his first three cracks at it this season.
In: (15) Cole Anthony
Anthony’s stock fell significantly during an injury-plagued freshman season at North Carolina, but I would not give up on him emerging as a top-10 talent from this draft. He is not so different from Markelle Fultz, and if one of those guys emerges as a lead playmaker, that is welcome news for a Magic team that has long whiffed on point guards. And if both develop as they could, their games could still complement each other.
In: Danny Green; Seth Curry; (21) Tyrese Maxey; (49) Isaiah Joe; (58) Paul Reed
Out: Al Horford; Josh Richardson; 2025 first-round pick; (34) Theo Maledon; (36) Tyler Bey
At first glance, the thought of trading a future first-round pick and two high second-round picks with Horford and Richardson for Green and Curry can give you a brain freeze. But in one night, new president of basketball operations Daryl Morey addressed Philadelphia’s biggest need, acquiring a bounty of shooters and scorers to (hopefully) fill the gaps around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. A roster that made no sense is coming into view.
In: (10) Jalen Smith
The Suns kind of just did the Cameron Johnson thing again. Smith may well become a productive stretch forward, but his defensive limitations make him a reach at No. 10 and a more awkward fit alongside DeAndre Ayton. They may live to regret not taking Haliburton, who could have developed under Chris Paul as a future running mate for Devin Booker while still contributing in three-guard lineups straightaway.
Portland Trail Blazers
In: (46) C.J. Elleby
Portland had already traded out of its first-round pick (and one next year) to acquire Robert Covington earlier in the week, so the Blazers were left only with their second-round pick. They took Elleby, a 6-foot-6 wing who produced nearby at Washington State for two seasons. That should be enough to trust in GM Neil Olshey’s ability to identify talent in the draft, but Portland’s search for wing help is going on a decade.
In: (12) Tyrese Haliburton; (40) Robert Woodard II; (43) Jahmi'us Ramsey; 2021 second-round pick (from Houston); 2022 second-round pick (from Memphis); cash considerations
Out: (35) Xavier Tillman; (52) Kenyon Martin Jr.
Hey, the Kings had a good draft. New GM Monte McNair was fortunate Haliburton fell to him. He is an ideal complement to De’Aaron Fox in a backcourt that also features Buddy Hield’s sharpshooting. Woodard is widely considered a steal at No. 40, and Ramsey is a fun developmental gamble three picks later. Not only that, but Sacramento picked up two future assets in the process and most importantly did nothing dumb.
San Antonio Spurs
In: (11) Devin Vassell; (41) Tre Jones
The Spurs did what they always do, drafting a pair of not-super-sexy but high-character guys who should develop into two-way contributors. Both represent solid value at their draft slot, and we can add them to a list of players who may form San Antonio’s future backcourt, along with Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes and Lonnie Walker. At the very least, Vassell and Jones will help win games at some point.
In: (29) Malachi Flynn; (59) Jalen Harris
Depending on whether or not VanVleet leaves in free agency, Flynn will either be his understudy or future replacement, although he lacks the same physicality. At worst, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound point guard gives Toronto depth at the position behind Kyle Lowry. Harris is a bit longer, but not so different. Another transfer who produced offensively as a junior for a mid-major school, he is the traditional shot in the dark at No. 59, but who am I to question a Toronto front office that has proven to consistently find gems late in the draft.
In: (27) Udoka Azubuike; (39) Elijah Hughes; cash; future considerations
Out: Tony Bradley; (38) Saben Lee; future second-round pick (to New Orleans)
The Jazz stretched for Azubuike, a bruising 7-footer whose fit in the modern game is uncertain. That could change if he develops into a high-end defender and potential replacement for Rudy Gobert down the line. Hughes, however, is a prototypical wing for this era, capable of creating offense and knocking down shots. Defense is also a question with Hughes, but he is a willing worker, and 39th feels like the right spot for him.
In: (9) Deni Avdija; (53) Cassius Winston; future second-round pick (from Oklahoma City)
Out: (37) Vít Krejčí
Avdija has a chance to be a top-three player in the draft, and the Wizards were fortunate he fell to them at No. 9. Washington needs wings (and a lot of other help) around Bradley Beal and John Wall, and Avdija could become a special one. Even at 19 years old, his professional experience overseas and keen understanding of the game — both as a playmaker and defender — should help him contribute right away.
Likewise, Winston was a no-brainer late in the second round. He may be undersized at the point guard position, but he is a skilled scorer and high-IQ playmaker who will bring a chip on his shoulder to D.C.
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