The NBA draft is one of the most captivating and polarizing events of the NBA season. Each year, all 30 teams have the opportunity to select the best available players in the world.
However, after an incomplete college basketball season, teams will be forced to make selections without benefiting from the customary scouting process. As a result, predicting NBA success is more challenging this season than ever before. The league postponed the draft multiple times before they decided to hold it virtually on Nov. 18.
Now, with the NBA draft less than a week away, the Collegian’s sports editors have decided to create our own mock draft with predictions of the first 10 picks.
- Minnesota Timberwolves – LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawarra Hawks (Australia)
Minnesota will select LaMelo Ball first overall in this year’s draft, putting him among NBA greats like LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan. The 19-year-old will be one of the youngest players to be taken in the first round. Although Ball is not a great fit alongside another ball-dominant point guard in D’Angelo Russell, his talent is too great for the Timberwolves to pass on. Ball stands at an impressive six feet seven inches, tall for a guard, and has exceptional court vision. He can make nearly any pass in the book with either hand. Ball is an excellent ball handler, with remarkable range from deep and the potential to be a great defender and rebounder. The phenom is built for the spotlight; he has been in the public eye since 2014 and played professionally in Lithuania and, most recently, in Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL) where he put on a show, averaging 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists per game.
- Golden State Warriors – James Wiseman, F/C, University of Memphis
The Warriors are in desperate need of a big man, and Wiseman would certainly fill that role. After an outstanding high school career, in which he averaged an astounding 25.8 points, 14.8 rebounds and 5.5 blocks his senior year, the 19-year-old committed to the University of Memphis. However, he was declared ineligible to play early on in the season after the NCAA determined that he had received improper financial assistance from coach Penny Hardaway. Despite playing just three collegiate games, the former Gatorade National Player of the Year made his mark, averaging 19.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in just 23 minutes per game. Standing seven feet one inch tall with a seven-foot-six-inch wingspan, Wiseman is a force on the glass and will bring much-needed rim protection and interior scoring to a Warriors team that has been looking for consistency at the center position.
- Charlotte Hornets – Anthony Edwards, F, University of Georgia
Anthony Edwards is too good for Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan to pass on if he falls from his originally anticipated No.1 spot to No. 3. Standing at six feet five inches and 225 pounds, the explosive guard is freakishly athletic and has the ability to slash through NBA defenses. He has tremendous body control and is a big-time threat above the rim. Edwards has the potential to be an elite scorer and can do so from anywhere on the floor. He can shoot off the dribble, pull up from deep or take the ball to the paint with an impressive first step. Edwards led the Southeastern Conference in scoring and had multiple 30-plus point outings as a true freshman last year for Georgia. If drafted, he will join a crowded Charlotte backcourt that includes Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham, but he can easily take on a lead role in his rookie year for the Hornets. “Ant-Man” has the tools to become an NBA star and is a franchise player that Charlotte can build a team around.
- Chicago Bulls – Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)
Many are saying Deni Avdija is the next Luka Dončić. The Israeli national is certainly a high-risk, high-upside choice, but the Bulls are in need of a franchise centerpiece to lead their team for years to come. At six feet, nine inches, Avdija is a versatile offensive player who is explosive with the ball in his hands and has all the potential in the world. However, there are question marks about how he will transition to the NBA. The 19-year-old has only played in limited spurts for a deep Maccabi Tel Aviv squad, so it is difficult to know how he will adjust to more playing time. He also must improve the mechanics of his outside shot, as he shot just 28% from behind the line last season. Nonetheless, Avdija is certainly worth the gamble at No. 4. His playmaking ability would fit in nicely alongside the Bulls young core of Zach Lavine, Lauri Markannen and Wendell Carter Jr.
- Cleveland Cavaliers – Obi Toppin, F, University of Dayton
With the future of Cleveland’s frontcourt in question, Toppin is a no-brainer for the Cavaliers with the No. 5 pick. The Ohio native is a stretch forward or center who has the ability to score inside and out. His explosive athleticism makes life difficult for opposing big men inside the paint. Listed at six feet nine inches with a seven-foot-two-inch wingspan and weighing 230 pounds, Toppin can finish consistently through contact. The 22-year-old has a tremendous motor and led the NCAA in dunks this season while at Dayton. Toppin fits the mold of a modern NBA big, as he can operate in the post, midrange and behind the 3-point line. He can be extremely effective in the pick and roll game and as a spot-up shooter, both of which are skills that will open up the floor for Cleveland’s young guards Colin Sexton and Darius Garland. Toppin, who was last season’s Wooden Award winner (given to the best player in college basketball), is a logical choice for the Cavaliers as they continue to rebuild two years after LeBron James’ departure.
- Atlanta Hawks – Isaac Okoro, F, Auburn University
Yet another “one and done” college player will come off the board in the top 10. The Hawks are looking to build a winning team around franchise guard Trae Young: Okoro would provide depth on the wing, a position where the Hawks need to improve. Atlanta ranked 30th last season in opposing points per game, and Okoro is widely considered one of the strongest defensive players in the draft. His superior athleticism allows him to guard multiple positions. On the offensive end, Okoro is terrific at attacking the rim, and is very dangerous in transition, which would give primary ball handler Young more options on the fast break. Okoro will need to improve his outside shot, and it is uncertain whether his shot-creating abilities will transfer to the next level, but he definitely fills a need for the Hawks.
- Detroit Pistons – Patrick Williams, F, Florida State University (FSU)
Detroit has gaping holes in their roster after dealing Andre Drummond and waiving Reggie Jackson at the trade deadline. The Pistons are in full rebuild mode and Williams can serve as a perfect reset piece. He is one of the most exciting prospects in this year’s class. Williams is one of the youngest players in this draft class and has largely flown under the radar after playing in a restrictive system at Florida State. The six-foot-eight-inch wing is versatile and can play both forward positions while making an immediate impact on the defensive end. Williams’ near seven-foot wingspan has allowed him to average over one block per game as a freshman at FSU, and he is formidable on the glass. While he remains raw offensively, the 19-year-old has immense potential and will have the necessary playing time in Detroit to develop into one of the top players in the 2020 draft class.
- New York Knicks – Killian Hayes, G, ULM (Germany)
Any way you slice it, the Knicks are in desperate need of talent, especially at the guard position. At No. 8, 19-year-old Killian Hayes is the right move. He has all the raw tools to become an outstanding NBA player. Hayes already has three years of professional basketball in Europe under his belt, and is considered mature beyond his years. He is adept at creating his own shot, both in the paint and on the perimeter, and is an excellent facilitator. Last season for ULM, Hayes averaged 1.5 steals per game; his defensive prowess will give the 29th-ranked Knicks offense opportunities for easy points. The Frenchman doesn’t shoot a high percentage from outside, but his sound shot mechanics illustrate that this element of his game will likely continue to improve. With the Knicks in a full rebuild, Hayes will have time on the floor to develop without immense pressure, and possibly grow into one of the league’s best point guards.
- Washington Wizards – Onyeka Okongwu, F, University of Southern California (USC)
The Wizards have solidified scorers and stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal, but they don’t have a defensive stopper like Okongwu. He is the most skilled center in the draft, and plays extremely hard on both ends of the floor. At only six feet, nine inches, the Chino Hills native is undersized for a big man but makes up for it with exceptional timing and length. Okongwu uses his strength to get great positioning and then utilizes his athleticism to spin or explode past defenders and finish with both hands. The USC star averaged an exceptional 3.5 blocks and 1.6 steals per game in just one year for the Trojans. The Los Angeles native can step in immediately and play big-time minutes for the Wizards as a defensive anchor. Okongwu is excellent in the pick and roll game and should fit in perfectly for a revitalized Wizards lineup alongside Wall, Beal and Rui Hachimura.
- Phoenix Suns – Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State University
If Tyrese Haliburton falls to them, the Phoenix Suns will consider themselves lucky to land a player who is expected to go as early as 4th in the draft. With two seasons of college experience to his name, Haliburton is on the older side of the top prospects, making him more NBA-ready than his counterparts. He is arguably the most versatile offensive player in the draft, averaging 15.2 points, 6.5 assists and 5.9 rebounds at the point guard position last season. Haliburton would allow Suns superstar Devin Booker to play more off the ball, and would serve as a strong facilitator for the prolific scorer. The Wisconsin native is also excellent in the pick and roll; he could form an intriguing partnership with talented center DeAndre Ayton. His six-foot-five-inch frame allows him to both shoot pull-up jumpers over smaller guards and survey the floor to find open shooters. The Suns narrowly missed the playoffs last season, and Haliburton could be the piece they need to get over the hump.
The NBA draft will air on Wednesday Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN.