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The 2020 NBA Draft is in the books and it’s time to hand out grades for all 30 teams.
The 2020 NBA Draft, unlike so many drafts in recent memory, went off without a hitch — a relative triumphant for a socially-distant, virtually-held, entirely-telecasted event.
Even in a weaker draft class, there weren’t many glaring mistakes or obvious misfires to be found. For the most part, teams drafted responsibly, executed trades that made sense for both sides and all in all, improved respective to their short-term or long-term outlook.
Not every team followed that neat rubric, however, and because there were so many different maneuvers to keep track of Wednesday night, it’s time to take a look at how all 30 teams fared and hand out some draft grades.
Atlanta Hawks: Onyeka Okongwu (No. 6), Skylar Mays (No. 50)
Okongwu is a great fit for the Hawks as a rim-running big who possesses the defensive versatility to guard out on the perimeter and block shots at the rim. This young group needs those kinds of traits to improve its defensive outlook. However, there’s bit of overlap here, as he essentially fills the same role as Clint Capela, and even if he improves his perimeter game on offense, the Hawks still have John Collins at the 4. It doesn’t hurt to have a backup option if one of those two falls through, but as fun as pick-and-rolls will be with Okongwu and Trae Young, it’s not an ideal match either.
Boston Celtics: Aaron Nesmith (No. 14), Payton Pritchard (No. 26), Yam Madar (No. 47)
The Celtics played it relatively safe, drafting for fit above all else, but that approach tracks for a legitimate title contender that couldn’t package its picks to move up in the pecking order. Nesmith only played 14 games last season, but he shot a blistering 52.2 percent on 8.2 long-range attempts per game. He’s a one-dimensional player at this point, but all the Celtics need from him is to spot up and hit open 3s anyway.
As for Pritchard, the Oregon product is a proven winner. His gritty hustle and penchant for hitting big shots falls right in line with Marcus Smart, so Boston fans are sure to love him. Finally, Madar is a solid draft-and-stash pick for the second round.
Brooklyn Nets: Reggie Perry (No. 57)
The Nets traded away their original first-rounder in this draft (No. 17) last year in the Taurean Prince-Allen Crabbe swap, but they were able to execute a draft-day trade with the No. 19 pick they got from the LA Clippers last year.
In a three-team maneuver with the Clippers and Detroit Pistons Wednesday night, the Nets sent the 19th overall pick to Motown and snagged Landry Shamet from LA. Considering this is a weaker draft class, a shooter of Shamet’s caliber (40.2 percent from distance for his career) is likely to outrank any rookie Brooklyn could’ve selected here. His floor-spacing is good value for a Nets team hoping to contend for a title this season.
Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball (No. 3), Vernon Cary Jr. (No. 32), Nick Richards (No. 42), Grant Riller (No. 56)
Even if the Hornets’ trio of second-round picks never amounts to anything, they still got the best overall prospect in the draft at No. 3. That’s all that matters for a team that lacked an identity or blue-chip prospect, even if Charlotte will have its hands full figuring out how Ball fits into the rotation with Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier at first. Throw in the potential steal of the second round with Grant Riller, a three-level scorer who only fell this far because he played for a mid-major, and that’s quite a successful night.
Chicago Bulls: Patrick Williams (No. 4), Marko Simonovic (No. 44)
The Bulls snagged the fastest riser in the draft with Williams, but even with a few other teams in the top 10 showing serious interest, this still feels like a reach for a guy who came off Florida State’s bench all last season. Still, his size, defensive versatility and motor were attractive to the teams who raved about his work ethic, but the problem is Chicago needs him to be a wing, rather than a 4, for him to truly thrive alongside Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. Whether he’s capable of doing so out on the perimeter may ultimately determine whether this was a reach or not.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Isaac Okoro (No. 5)
The Cavaliers opted for … defense? After posting the worst defensive rating in NBA history in 2018-19, and being the worst, worst and second-worst defense in the league over the last three seasons, apparently Cleveland has had enough, choosing arguably the best defender in the entire class. Okoro can lock down multiple positions, which is a good start to repairing this broken defense. However, his complete lack of a perimeter shot could be problematic on the wing. His 28.6 percent shooting from 3 and 67.2 percent from the free-throw line last year doesn’t bode well for him being much of a threat offensively.
Dallas Mavericks: Josh Green (No. 18), Tyrell Terry (No. 31), Tyler Bey (No. 36)
Between the trade for Josh Richardson, snagging their guy Josh Green at No. 18, landing perhaps the steal of the entire draft at the start of the second round with Tyrell Terry and then adding Tyler Bey to the equation, Dallas had a better draft night than anyone.
The Mavs clearly understand they need to get better on the defensive side of the ball to build around Luka Doncic and help balance out what was the most unstoppable offense in NBA history. Smart, defensive-minded players like Richardson, Green and Bey help there, while Terry is fits the bill as Seth Curry’s replacement, filling the role of undersized but elite shooter.
Denver Nuggets: Zeke Nnaji (No. 22), R.J. Hampton (No. 24)
Another solid albeit unexciting draft for the Nuggets. Taking a center like Nnaji highlights the official end of the Mason Plumlee era in Denver, and the freshman out of Arizona possesses enough athleticism, finishing ability and work ethic to give Nikola Jokic his breathers without the massive salary Plumlee incurred.
As for R.J. Hampton, he should benefit from playing for a team that somehow finds minutes for most of its developing youngsters (and often does a great job with them). This pick could be a steal, since his poor playmaking won’t be much of an issue on a Nuggets squad that doesn’t need him to worry about that aspect of the game.
Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes (No. 7), Isaiah Stewart (No. 16), Saddiq Bey (No. 19), Saben Lee (No. 38)
General manager Troy Weaver, take a bow. You’ve earned it after breathing life into the most depressing roster in basketball in your very first draft at the helm.
Killian Hayes is an exciting, crafty prospect with legitimate scoring potential. Thanks to the Trevor Ariza trade with Houston earlier on Wednesday, Detroit snagged the 16th overall pick and used it on Isaiah Stewart — an admittedly underwhelming selection since most of his value comes from post scoring, but still, not a bad addition at the price of a future first-rounder. Besides, snagging Saddiq Bey, who had no business dropping to No. 19, in a three-team deal that only cost the Pistons Luke Kennard was a good way to make up for it as Weaver continued reshuffling the deck to his liking.
Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman (No. 2), Nico Mannion (No. 48), Justinian Jesseup (No. 51)
Wiseman is a flawed prospect who may never amount to anything more than a rim-running, shot-blocking, alley-oop threat in the JaVale McGee mold. Playing with a team like the Warriors maximizes his potential to become more than that in time, but it’s hard to feel good about snagging this Memphis product (or Nico Mannion late in the second round) with the dark cloud of Klay Thompson’s latest injury hanging overhead.
Houston Rockets: Kenyon Martin Jr. (No. 52)
Let’s see here. The Rockets originally would’ve landed at No. 22 in the draft, but they dealt that pick away as part of the four-team Clint Capela trade that netted them Robert Covington earlier this year. Then they turned Covington into the 16th overall pick when they sent him to Portland earlier this week. Then they turned that pick (and Trevor Ariza) into a future first-rounder from Detroit instead.
Houston’s motivation for doing so? Becoming a hard-capped team to open up the $9.3 million Mid-Level Exception instead of the $5.7 million MLE. That’s practical in principle, but it’s moves like this that suggest the Rockets don’t understand they need to trade both Russell Westbrook and James Harden — at their own leisure to get the maximum return possible, of course, but without too much delay so the inevitable rebuild can begin. Moving a top-20 pick, even in a weak draft class, and coming out with only Kenyon Martin Jr. isn’t going to help that process.
Indiana Pacers: Cassius Stanley (No. 54)
Indiana’s first-rounder this year (No. 24) was sent to the Bucks as part of last year’s Malcolm Brogdon sign-and-trade. Considering he just had a career year of 16.5 points, 7.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game, we’re pretty confident the Pacers are happier with him than they would’ve been with drafting R.J. Hampton or anyone else in that range.
LA Clippers: Daniel Oturu (No. 33), Jay Scrubb (No. 55)
Losing Landry Shamet felt like a mistake at first, but Luke Kennard provides some of the playmaking the Clippers badly needed more of during their fizzle-out in the playoffs last year. Though it’s come on a lower volume than Shamet, Kennard has also posted the exact same 3-point percentage for his career (40.2 percent), and he’s much less of a liability on the defensive end.
That’s a fairly decent addition for a team whose most notable draft selection this year was a dude whose name is literally “Scrubb.”
Los Angeles Lakers: N/A
It’s good to be the champs and not worry about draft night, isn’t it? The Lakers had the 28th overall pick, but shipped it over to OKC as part of the Dennis Schroder trade. For a team doing everything in its power to keep LeBron James in a position to win titles for the remainder of his prime, Schroder will be a far more useful piece next season than Jaden McDaniels or anyone else LA might have drafted there.
Memphis Grizzlies: Desmond Bane (No. 30), Xavier Tillman (No. 35)
Do the Memphis Grizzlies just scroll through NBA Draft Twitter before they make their picks? Because after walking out of the 2019 draft as big winners with Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke, they basically ran it back this year, trading into the end of the first round for Bane, trading up again five picks later for Xavier Tillman and even signing the undrafted Killian Tillie to a two-way contract. Those are all big wins flying under the radar.
Bane might be the best shooter in the draft and fits the Grizzlies perfectly. That alone would’ve gotten them an A-, but doubling back for Tillman bumps it up to a full A. (They did so well we won’t even talk about how they would’ve had the No. 14 pick too if not for that Jeff Green trade back in 2015.)
Miami Heat: Precious Achiuwa (No. 20)
Precious Achiuwa plays extremely hard, is a versatile defender and has a dope name. Sounds like another vintage Heat pick to me! We could sit here and worry about his fit in Miami when he’d be most optimized as a small-ball 5, a role Bam Adebayo currently has under lock and key. But the Heat generally know what they’re doing with picks like this, so who are we to question them?
Milwaukee Bucks: Jordan Nwora (No. 45), Sam Merrill (No. 60)
The Bucks originally would’ve picked 30th, but sent that selection to Phoenix as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade back in 2017. Then they added the 24th overall pick from Indiana in the Malcolm Brogdon sign-and-trade last year, only to flip it to New Orleans this year as part of the Jrue Holiday ransom.
They moved back into the second round at No. 45, but it came at the cost of two future second-rounders. And then they had the final pick in the draft. So yeah, as much as Holiday is an upgrade on both Bledsoe and Brogdon, it’s come at a steep cost for a team that’s suddenly lacking depth, team-friendly contracts and apparently, maybe even a whole Bogdan Bogdanovic sign-and-trade.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards (No. 1), Leandro Bolmaro (No. 23), Jaden McDaniels (No. 28)
LaMelo Ball is the best prospect in this year’s draft class, but Anthony Edwards felt like a better fit … which is why it was weird to see Minnesota then double down on a bunch of guards for the rest of the night, when they could’ve just taken the best prospect there right from the start.
To be clear, none of these were bad picks. Bolmaro was a good addition in that range, as was McDaniels late in the first. Even better, the Wolves are bringing Ricky Rubio home after shipping off No. 17 to OKC for the veteran floor general and picks at No. 25 and 28. That 25th pick and another Minnesota pick (No. 33) were then packaged to move up to No. 23 for Bolmaro, showing a real concerted effort from Minnesota to bolster its backcourt and playmaking.
Rubio will be a terrific mentor for a facilitator with court vision like Bolmaro, as well as a great influence on Edwards, McDaniels and even D’Angelo Russell. But the backcourt is suddenly a bit crowded, and it’s odd the Wolves didn’t just take Ball No. 1 if they wanted to add playmakers and ball-handlers. Imagining Rubio mentoring Ball is enough to make a Wolves fan wince.
New Orleans Pelicans: Kira Lewis Jr. (No. 13)
For a team that’s stockpiled more future first-rounders than any team not named the Thunder, it was a pretty quiet night for the Pelicans. After snagging the speeder Kira Lewis at No. 13, they traded out of No. 24 (for a future first-rounder) … and then out of No. 39 … and then out of No. 42 … after already sending Milwaukee No. 60 in the Jrue Holiday trade.
That’s not bad by any means, since the Pelicans have already added Eric Bledsoe, George Hill and now the rookie Lewis to their backcourt in the last week. It was just a much more understated night than expected, even if the undersized Lewis has a very loud game.
New York Knicks: Obi Toppin (No. 8), Immanuel Quickley (No. 25)
Like most Knicks draft picks, Obi Toppin is either going to be a steal or a regrettable bust. There’s usually very little in-between there for rookies in New York, and that goes double for an offensive powerhouse with very real concerns on defense. If Toppin can at least be passable on that end he’s got a shot, but it’s not ideal that the biggest attraction of his offense — his elite interior game — might not mesh well with a center who needs floor-spacing like Mitchell Robinson. Unless Toppin can improve defensively and expand his game to the perimeter, this pick could be rough.
Also, not many people saw Immanuel Quickley going this high, so all around it was a fairly bumpy ride for New York in the draft this year.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Aleksej Pokusevski (No. 17), Theo Maledon (No. 34), Vit Krejci (No. 37)
If any team could afford to use its abundance of wealth in this year’s draft on a home-run swing like Aleksej Pokusevski, it’s the Thunder. Sam Presti turned picks from No. 25 (via Denver from the Jerami Grant trade in 2019) and No. 28 (via LAL from the Dennis Schroder trade this week) into No. 17 in the Ricky Rubio deal with the Timberwolves.
By moving up eight spots, he snagged a seven-footer who plays like a wing, has potential as a shooter and can create for others. Poku is about two years away from being a real NBA player, but if anyone can take a chance on a boom-or-bust prospect with immense upside, it’s the rebuilding Thunder.
Also, snagging a projected first-round pick like Theo Maledon with the 34th pick, acquired in Wednesday’s Al Horford trade, is yet another win for Presti as he continues to add to his mountain of draft assets.
Orlando Magic: Cole Anthony (No. 15)
The Magic are in a weird spot. Jonathan Issac is the future, but then he got hurt. Markelle Fultz might be the future, but we don’t really know for sure. Maybe Mohamed Bamba will be a thing? Orlando could be a playoff team again, or they could rebuild, or they could continue just treading water waiting for a discernible direction. Who the hell knows anymore.
That’s basically the epitome of the Cole Anthony pick. He was tantalizing before a really bad year at North Carolina, and now no one can really tell if he’s actually good or not. Seems like the quintessential Magic pick from where we’re sitting: hoping it hits and turns the franchise’s fortunes around but not bothering to act surprised if it doesn’t.
Philadelphia 76ers: Tyrese Maxey (No. 21), Isaiah Joe (No. 49), Paul Reed (No. 58)
In his first month as the Sixers’ new team president, Daryl Morey found a way to dump Al Horford’s contract, ship off Josh Richardson to further address his roster’s needs and landed Tyrese Maxey as a first-round steal at No. 21. It cost picks at No. 34 and No. 36 in this year’s draft, plus a protected 2025 first-rounder, but the wheels are already churning toward a more cohesive roster.
Thanks to this successful draft week, the 76ers are bringing in Danny Green and Seth Curry to spread the floor, as well as Maxey, who was the best player available and the best fit as a combo guard who can defend well. He’s undersized at 6-foot-3 and isn’t a primary distributor, but with Ben Simmons on the court, he won’t need to be. All in all, this is a promising sign for the future with Morey running the show.
Phoenix Suns: Jalen Smith (No. 10)
You’ve got to hand it to James Jones: He doesn’t give a damn about your projected draft ranges. If he likes a player, he’s going to take them, regardless of where they’re expected to fall. He did it last year when he traded down (not far enough) for Cameron Johnson, and he ran it back this year by stunning everyone with the Jalen Smith pick.
Smith could very well surprise everyone like Cam did, since he’s a versatile defender who can knock down 3s and rack up blocks inside. But asset management is still a thing; if Smith was Phoenix’s guy, why not trade down and add another asset of some sort? Or, you know, why not just draft Tyrese Haliburton or Devin Vassell, who would’ve been excellent fits on a team that now has Chris Paul, instead of taking guy who may just be an Aron Baynes replacement if he can’t fit in as a 4 alongside Deandre Ayton? That’s just not good use of a top-10 pick.
Portland Trail Blazers: CJ Elleby (No. 46)
The Blazers did their heavy lifting for the draft earlier in the week when they sent their No. 16 pick to the Rockets for Robert Covington. Even without a first-round selection on Wednesday night, that’s an excellent use of draft capital to finally give Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum the defensive wing they need to legitimately start climbing that Western Conference ladder.
Sacramento Kings: Tyrese Haliburton (No. 12), Robert Woodard (No. 40), Jahmi’us Ramsey (No. 43)
We’re not used to the Kings making smart choices on draft night, but when Tyrese Haliburton fell into their laps at No. 12, the decision was almost too easy. The fit between a composed, high-I.Q. winner like Haliburton and the speedy, electrifying De’Aaron Fox is almost yin and yang, but the harmony they eventually create together should be pretty fun to witness.
Haliburton had no business falling that far. Sacramento got out of its own way and did well to make the no-brainer pick here, regardless of what unfolds with Bogdan Bogdanovic.
San Antonio Spurs: Devin Vassell (No. 11), Tre Jones (No. 41)
Like the Kings, the Spurs basically had a win-win decision at No. 11: Devin Vassell or Tyrese Haliburton. Either one would’ve been praised as a classic Spurs pick, but Vassell was the right choice as an elite defender who showed legitimate flashes of being able to do a lot more on the offensive end than he’s given credit for.
Vassell was a good spot-up shooter in college and his high I.Q. and positional versatility will now join one of the smartest head coaches and best player development staffs in the league. It’s almost unfair, and that’s before we even consider what Tre Jones might become.
Toronto Raptors: Malachi Flynn (No. 29), Jalen Harris (No. 59)
With Kyle Lowry getting older and Fred VanVleet hitting free agency, the Raptors needed a stable, smart, playmaking point guard to fill out their backcourt depth. They got exactly that with San Diego State’s Malachi Flynn.
Flynn isn’t very athletic, but he’s an experienced, three-year college player with no glaring weaknesses in his game. On a Toronto squad that will still be contending next year, he can step in and contribute meaningful minutes from day one, which is all the Raptors could hope for this late in the first round.
Utah Jazz: Udoka Azubuike (No. 27), Elijah Huges (No. 39)
Azubuike is a massive human being at 7-feet, but he’s too cumbersome and slow to have any shot of surviving out on the perimeter against quicker NBA guards that will exploit him on switches.
The Jazz desperately need a quality backup for Rudy Gobert, especially after dumping Tony Bradley, so the logic fits, but it’s not as airtight as it should be when a different, more versatile kind of big man would’ve made more sense.
Washington Wizards: Deni Avdija (No. 9), Cassius Winston (No. 53)
Deni Avdija wasn’t supposed to fall this far, but other teams’ misfortune is the Wizards’ reward. The soon-to-be 20-year-old can help Washington right away as it tries to get Bradley Beal and John Wall (or Russell Westbrook?) back into the postseason. Avdija won’t be a star, but he’s a high-end role player who can defend multiple positions on defense as a forward.
He’ll need to work on his jump shot to make the spacing feasible alongside Rui Hachimura, but he’s got enough in his toolkit to carve out an effective career for himself.