San Antonio Spurs Mock Draft version 6.0: LaMelo Ball, Obi Toppin losing stock

AUBURN, AL - JANUARY 25: Tyrese Haliburton #22 of the Iowa State Cyclones drives against Isaac Okoro #23 of the Auburn Tigers during the first half of the game at Auburn Arena on January 25, 2020. Each of these players would be must-draft options if they slip to the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
AUBURN, AL - JANUARY 25: Tyrese Haliburton #22 of the Iowa State Cyclones drives against Isaac Okoro #23 of the Auburn Tigers during the first half of the game at Auburn Arena on January 25, 2020. Each of these players would be must-draft options if they slip to the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
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AUBURN, AL – JANUARY 25: Tyrese Haliburton #22 of the Iowa State Cyclones drives against Isaac Okoro #23 of the Auburn Tigers. The San Antonio Spurs must draft these players if they slip to 11. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
AUBURN, AL – JANUARY 25: Tyrese Haliburton #22 of the Iowa State Cyclones drives against Isaac Okoro #23 of the Auburn Tigers. The San Antonio Spurs must draft these players if they slip to 11. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Now that the official draft date is set for the middle of November, the San Antonio Spurs pick eleventh in the latest update to our 2020 NBA Mock Draft.

By now, you’ve probably already seen a few 2020 NBA Mock Drafts featuring the San Antonio Spurs at No. 11. At this point, it feels like there is no consensus pick at any draft range, which opens up a world of possibilities for the Spurs. The mystery of the 2020 NBA Draft, due largely to restrictions and cancellations related to COVID-19, is putting front offices to the test.

In many cases, general managers need to rely heavily on the workouts set for the near future, which limits the pool of players they’ll have background knowledge on. If teams get caught up on the same few players, the San Antonio Spurs will have a shot at swinging big on a late-lottery pick at No. 11. One player with a great deal of variance is the player we had going to San Antonio in our previous NBA Mock Draft — FSU forward Devin Vassell.

While some believe Vassell to be a surefire prospect with top-five upside from his class, others view him as nothing more than a role player. This is a player who’s most likely going to be picked between picks seven and 13. It’d be very surprising to see him fall deeper than that, but stranger things have happened. Looking at the 2019 NBA Draft in which teams were able to meet with prospects, we saw All-Rookie First Team selection Brandon Clarke slip to No. 21 and beloved Spurs rookie Keldon Johnson slip all the way to No. 29.

One thing we can depend on is the San Antonio Spurs identifying which talent is worthy of selecting with their pick. They’ll certainly create their own Big Board and rank players based on draft value versus their upside. Whoever slips to San Antonio will be lucky to be put on a path led by this star organization.

Without further ado, let’s get into version six of our 2020 NBA Mock Draft.

Next: No. 1 overall pick

ATHENS, GA – FEBRUARY 19: Anthony Edwards of the Georgia Bulldogs, who goes No. 1 in this NBA Mock Draft, reacts following a win over the Auburn Tigers. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GA – FEBRUARY 19: Anthony Edwards of the Georgia Bulldogs, who goes No. 1 in this NBA Mock Draft, reacts following a win over the Auburn Tigers. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

. Shooting Guard. Anthony Edwards. 1. 86

Congratulations Anthony Edwards, you’re the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft to no one’s surprise. Maybe his route to the NBA wasn’t as much of a spectacle as LaMelo Ball’s, but Edwards put his all into the 2019-20 NCAA season. A 6-foot-5 guard with underrated strength and verticality, Edwards has a little bit of everything in his game.

Few players are going to get their own shots like Edwards is. Whether he’s spotting up for a jumper, shifting an opponent to create separation, or attacking the rim with reckless abandon, Edwards is a threat to score every time the ball touches his hands. Still just 18-years-old, Edwards has the physical profile of a four-year senior entering the league.

Minnesota is looking to build itself a Big Three with this No. 1 overall selection. They’ve got an established star looking to make an impact in Karl-Anthony Towns and an impactful point guard with high scoring upside in D’Angelo Russell. Edwards could be the glue to make that pair work and instead of having to be the leader of his first NBA team, he can settle into the rotation with time. Most No. 1 overall picks are looked at to turn a franchise around — That’s not the case here.

Drafting Anthony Edwards gives the Timberwolves a legitimate shot at making the postseason in 2021 while adding to what was already a bright future. Now the real fun begins in the Twin Cities.

Next: No. 2 overall pick

MEMPHIS, TN – NOVEMBER 5: James Wiseman #32, No. 2 in the 2020 NBA Mock Draft, and Lance Thomas #15 of the Memphis Tigers during introductions vs. the South Carolina State Bulldogs. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN – NOVEMBER 5: James Wiseman #32, No. 2 in the 2020 NBA Mock Draft, and Lance Thomas #15 of the Memphis Tigers during introductions vs. the South Carolina State Bulldogs. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

. Center. James Wiseman. 2. 41

Does this feel kind of like a cheat code for anyone else? It’s almost as if when Steph got injured this year, the Golden State Warriors pressed “R1, R2, L1, X, Left, Down, Right, Up, Left, Down, Right, Up” and boom — They’ve got the No. 2 pick.

Even though his season was cut short well before everyone else’s, former Memphis center James Wiseman is a behemoth of a prospect. Centers aren’t viewed as important compared with other positions in the modern game and many believe that Golden State would want to take another guard to back up Steph Curry.

If the Warriors are going to maximize this pick and use it instead of trading it, wouldn’t it make more sense to use it at their weakest position? If the Golden State Warriors, run it back next season with the same lineup, their starting center would be Kevon Looney. Don’t get me wrong — He’s a fine player when he’s locked in, but I’d think Wiseman is a much stronger option.

An athletic monster with a physical profile that compares with a young David Robinson, Wiseman has the foundation of what could be the next great NBA center. They could swing for the fences and truly buy into a small-ball renaissance by picking a guard or wing and hope for the best at that center position. However, they’d be wasting an opportunity that could greatly benefit their Big Three as they get older.

Having Wiseman in the middle commands defensive attention, drawing help defense away from the perimeter. This opens up 3-point firestorms for two of the best players to ever do it. Playing as a small-ball five drains a lot of energy from Draymond Green, limiting his overall effectiveness. If they let Wiseman play that role instead, the Warriors could return to Finals contention in no time.

Next: No. 3 overall pick

LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 30: Branden Carlson #35 of the Utah Utes guards NBA Draft prospect Onyeka Okongwu #21 of the USC Trojans at Galen Center on January 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 30: Branden Carlson #35 of the Utah Utes guards NBA Draft prospect Onyeka Okongwu #21 of the USC Trojans at Galen Center on January 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

Power Forward/Center. Onyeka Okongwu. 3. 170.

For as much as teams need to be taking chances on star talent, they also need to build around what they already have. That’s why the Charlotte Hornets are picking Onyeka Okongwu third overall in the 2020 NBA Mock Draft.

Say what you want about the Hornets franchise, but the team they’ve put together is promising. This group featured one of the league’s most exciting breakout candidates in Devonte’ Graham with a lineup of intriguing young players. Okongwu is a perfect complement to the Hornets‘ 2019 NBA draft pick, P.J. Washington. Though Washington could become a solid rim protector, he’s best utilized as a weak-side help defender and shot-blocker from the power forward spot. Adding Okongwu to the lineup provides a rim protector with explosive athleticism and a high motor.

Picture everything that Charlotte envisioned center Bismack Biyombo becoming — An athletic, physical presence near the basket who can explode in the pick-and-roll while sending shots packing on defense. That is exactly what they would be getting when drafting Okongwu.

They could opt to draft LaMelo Ball and aim for an up-tempo offense run by a triad of guards, but that could be redundant. Graham has been a revelation for this Hornets team that didn’t seem to have much upside heading into the season. Taking the ball out of his hands doesn’t seem like a great idea.

Instead, they can give him a sure-fire pick-and-roll partner who should make the game easier for teammates with his presence alone.

Next: No. 4 overall pick

CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 09: NBA Draft prospect LaMelo Ball of the Illawarra Hawks warms up before his round six NBL match against the Cairns Taipans at the Cairns Convention Centre. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 09: NBA Draft prospect LaMelo Ball of the Illawarra Hawks warms up before his round six NBL match against the Cairns Taipans at the Cairns Convention Centre. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

. Point Guard. LaMelo Ball. 4. 24

There’s a new regime in Chicago, which dramatically changes how this team will proceed. Point guard Coby White had an excellent rookie campaign; particularly in his second act. However, his score-first mentality won’t help them facilitate the offense. They certainly have building blocks from years of drafting in the lottery, but none with star potential like LaMelo Ball.

A polarizing prospect with game-changing passing vision, Ball projects to be the best of his family. Some view him as confident and others say he’s cocky, but no one will deny that this kid knows how to hoop. Standing at 6 foot seven with the speed of a player much shorter, Ball’s athleticism and competitive drive wreck near the top of the class.

Even so, there are legitimate concerns that will impact how he’s viewed by general managers. LaMelo’s cockiness impeded his will to play defense at just about any level. Dating back to high school when he starred in Ball Is Life mixtapes, LaMelo simply never tried on the defensive end. Unless it’s for a flashy play like a chase-down block or deceptive steal, Ball isn’t going to show up.

Regardless, there’s legitimate hope that his defensive tendencies will change once he hits the next level.  This area is where he differs the most from his brother, Lonzo Ball, who can break out as the best defender on the court on any given night. For Lonzo, the issue is consistency, but for his brother, the issue is effort. There’s a significant difference between the two.

Playing the sport and understanding it or not the same thing. So many players who rely on raw athleticism fizzle out in the NBA. For as enticing as he is, LaMelo raises a high risk for the team the draft him. Chicago doesn’t have much to lose, so why not take a swing?

Next: No. 5 overall pick

ULM, GERMANY – FEBRUARY 11: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Martin Hermannsson of Alba Berlin and NBA Draft prospect Killian Hayes of Ratiopharm Ulm battle for the ball. (Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
ULM, GERMANY – FEBRUARY 11: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Martin Hermannsson of Alba Berlin and NBA Draft prospect Killian Hayes of Ratiopharm Ulm battle for the ball. (Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

5. 156. . Point Guard. Killian Hayes

Based on their draft strategy from years past, Cleveland wants to build a perimeter-oriented team. They managed to draft two point guards in recent drafts – Neither of which has shown a strong proficiency as a passer. In this scenario, the Cavaliers‘ front office is buying into depth at the guard positions by drafting Killian Hayes fifth overall.

Some consider the French sensation the best prospect in the draft class because of his unique profile as a lefty point guard. As a scorer, Hayes has shown that he can be a primary scorer when he needs to be. Through the early portion of his season, Hayes is the type of player who makes his teammates better by guiding them with his creativity playstyle.

The starting guards, Sexton and Garland aren’t being given up on — Quite the opposite is taking place. Instead of deploying them together, this gives the Cavaliers a true facilitator who can find the guards in their spots and give them a break from having to create their own shots. Inversely, Hayes can keep the ball out of their hands and get buckets on his own when the rest of the team fails to meet expectations.

Usually, this would be the job of a veteran, but Hayes seems to have the basketball mind of a player well beyond his years. They may be a joke now, but no one will be laughing if Hayes and the Cavaliers run up the score with a threatening perimeter attack.

Next: No. 6 overall pick

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – FEBRUARY 28: Deni Avdija, #8 of Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv in action during the 2018/2019 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season Round 24 game. (Photo by Seffi Magriso/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – FEBRUARY 28: Deni Avdija, #8 of Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv in action during the 2018/2019 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season Round 24 game. (Photo by Seffi Magriso/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

Deni Avdija. 6. 125. . Small Forward

To the San Antonio Spurs fans: you’re not going to like this. With the sixth pick in the 2020 NBA mock draft, the Atlanta Hawks select Deni Avdija from Israel. Not many players were able to raise their draft stock since coronavirus spread across the world. That wasn’t the case for Avdija, who played out his season and improved along the way.

Before professional sports shut down earlier in the year, Deni had only shown flashes. Once his league restarted and he got the chance to play again, Avdija asserted himself against reasonable competition and set the bar high.

There’s a lot to like about Avdija. He’s not afraid to shoot the ball or put it on the floor and drive to the basket, but his priority does not seem to be on himself. He’s an unselfish player who is showing great signs as a playmaker and athlete with underrated defensive potential.

Physically, there’s a lot to like. The 19-year-old stands at 6-foot-9 with a long reach and surprising verticality. Although his shooting percentages need to come up while playing in the NBA, he will benefit from the league’s pace and tendency to favor perimeter players.

Atlanta’s star player, Trae Young is a killer on the ball, but the team cannot unlock his potential off the ball without another playmaker in the lineup. Avdija can be that guy, whether it is as a starter or off the bench. Another lottery team with playoff aspirations, Atlanta could make the jump with some help from Avdija.

Next: No. 7 overall pick

AMES, IA – NOVEMBER 12: Tyrese Haliburton #22 of the Iowa State Cyclones drives the ball in the second half of play at Hilton Coliseum on November 12, 2019, in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images)
AMES, IA – NOVEMBER 12: Tyrese Haliburton #22 of the Iowa State Cyclones drives the ball in the second half of play at Hilton Coliseum on November 12, 2019, in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images)

Point Guard/Shooting Guard. Tyrese Haliburton. 7. 64.

Landing Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton seventh overall drastically improves the outlook of this Detroit Pistons team. Even though their best player, Derrick Rose, shares a position with Haliburton, the two could coexist with the roster as currently constructed.

To be fair, they would have to — This team does not have enough talent to deploy a different option. Haliburton exploded in his sophomore season at Iowa State, establishing himself as a reliable three-level score and creative facilitator. This is a player who can get a score from just about anywhere on the court.

Unlike many other top prospects, Haliburton doesn’t rely on raw athleticism alone. This isn’t to say that he’s not athletic — Tyrese has some length, size and leaping ability to keep up with his opponents, but it’s his basketball IQ that makes him a no-brainer in the NBA draft lottery.

This pairing benefits the Pistons more than benefits Haliburton himself, but there will be plenty of opportunities for him to run the show. Some may say that having Rose on the roster is a roadblock for Haliburton. I’d argue differently since Rose knows what it’s like to reach superstardom at the professional level. Think of it less like a clash and more like a mentorship. Rose can be to Haliburton what Chris Paul was for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in OKC this season.

Next: No. 8 overall pick

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – JANUARY 28: NBA Draft prospect Devin Vassell #24 of the Florida State Seminoles, who makes sense for the San Antonio Spurs, in action against the Virginia Cavaliers. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – JANUARY 28: NBA Draft prospect Devin Vassell #24 of the Florida State Seminoles, who makes sense for the San Antonio Spurs, in action against the Virginia Cavaliers. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

8. 27. . Small Forward. Devin Vassell

Brace yourself, San Antonio Spurs fans. I know you wanted this one too. However, the new leadership of the New York Knicks cannot afford to screw up this draft pick and Florida State forward Devin Vassell is a sure0thing at No. 8 overall.

A lengthy and athletic player who can guard nearly every position, Vassell projects to be one of the best defenders in the 2020 NBA draft class. Before the NBA and NCAA shut down in March, Vassell hadn’t accumulated much draft hype. After evaluators were given a chance to dive deeper into the segment of games that were played out, it became clear that he’s a draft gem.

Vassell being drafted to the next signals a new era — One that fits with a newly signed head coach Tom Thibodeau and his defensive-minded values. In years past, the Knicks have managed to simultaneously draft good players late and bad players early. The logic doesn’t make much sense, but the final decision in this year’s NBA Draft falls upon a new set of eyes.

There is no expectation that Vassell is going to change the culture of the New York Knicks. However, he can be a symbol of confidence that fans in New York have yearned for since Melo roamed the halls of Madison Square Garden.

Next: No. 9 overall pick

CINCINNATI, OH – FEBRUARY 13: Precious Achiuwa #55 of the Memphis Tigers handles the ball during a game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Fifth Third Arena (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH – FEBRUARY 13: Precious Achiuwa #55 of the Memphis Tigers handles the ball during a game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Fifth Third Arena (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

. Power Forward/Center. Precious Achiuwa. 9. 142

When Wiseman made his departure from the University of Memphis’ basketball program, big man Precious Achiuwa was left with some huge shoes to fill. The versatile power forward put his wide-ranging skill set to use, earning NBA draft praise in the process. Using a strong frame and high motor, Achiuwa battles for position on the low block at every chance. While he doesn’t have the greatest variety of post moves, he knows how to get the job done with a baby hook and a deceptively effective jump shot.

Achiuwa has the potential to step out and hit a 3-pointer when given some space, but he’ll need to work at it as time goes on. To start his NBA career, you’ll want to put him near the basket off of cuts and post-ups. This is something that Washington will be able to do with John Wall and Bradley Beal running the show from the perimeter.

During the course of his career, Wall hasn’t had very many pick-and-roll partners who can explode at the rack. Achiuwa provides that for the very first time as the former All-Star looks to get settled in his first year coming off of injury. There is no reason for Washington not to be a competitive team so long as they can stay healthy. Making this selection affirms their playoff intentions.

In the 2019 NBA draft, the Wizards snagged Rui Hachimura at a great draft range. Achiuwa is a wonderful complimentary player to put next to the versatile power forward in the frontcourt. Each has a physical interior presence that can combat opponents using underrated athleticism and strong finishing ability to the basket. Defensively, Achiuwa gives the Wizards a little bit of nasty — A trait their current roster sorely lacks.

Next: No. 10 overall pick

AUBURN, AL – FEBRUARY 01: NBA Draft prospect Isaac Okoro #23 reacts with Samir Doughty #10 of the Auburn Tigers against the Kentucky Wildcats at Auburn Arena. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
AUBURN, AL – FEBRUARY 01: NBA Draft prospect Isaac Okoro #23 reacts with Samir Doughty #10 of the Auburn Tigers against the Kentucky Wildcats at Auburn Arena. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

66. . Small Forward. Isaac Okoro. 10

The pride and joy of the NBA’s Orlando Bubble, the Phoenix Suns defied all odds and swept their eight-game slate. Now, they will enter the new season with expectations for the first time in 10 years. That is what makes this draft pick so crucial and it’s why Auburn forward Isaac Okoro is a logical choice.

Even though his scoring has a long way to go, Okoro is built like a grown man and plays like one too. The hustle is nearly unmatched for a player so young and undeveloped. Despite playing the small forward position, Okoro is amongst the best rebounders in his draft class. This young man plays hard on every possession and maintains his energy in situations when most players would give up.

Suns fan favorite Kelly Oubre Jr. is on the final year of his contract in Phoenix and his potential cost might not be in line with his team’s budget. The injured forward was a non-factor in his team’s 8-0 run with defensive menace Mikal Bridges breaking out in the process. General manager James Jones may find a better use for that cap space as Okoro develops and fills the gap.

The one major concern for Okoro is his lackluster jump shooting. On this team, most players are reliable jump shooters who can cover up Okoro’s deficiency in that area. Under head coach Monty Williams, Okoro can make an impact by driving to the rim, setting screens, cutting and leaking out on the fastbreak. Phoenix’s scoring load will fall mostly on the tandem of Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton anyway.

One thing is for certain: Okoro can help Phoenix sustain the defensive excellence it flashed in Orlando.

Next: No. 11 overall pick

DAYTON, OHIO – DECEMBER 17: Obi Toppin #1 of the Dayton Flyers, who goes to the San Antonio Spurs in NBA Mock Draft version 6.0, dunks against the North Texas Mean Green at UD Arena. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
DAYTON, OHIO – DECEMBER 17: Obi Toppin #1 of the Dayton Flyers, who goes to the San Antonio Spurs in NBA Mock Draft version 6.0, dunks against the North Texas Mean Green at UD Arena. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

. Power Forward. Obi Toppin. 11. 29

A polarizing prospect whose upside scrapes the sky, Dayton forward Obi Toppin is a candidate to plummet on NBA Draft night. There’s not a single organization better equipped to develop a talent like Toppin than the San Antonio Spurs. With the young core prevailing in the Orlando restart, the organization’s direction has become clearer and Toppin can contribute to that right away.

Despite concerns about his basketball IQ, Toppin is one of the top candidates to lead his draft class in scoring. Between his bruising post play, high flying antics and wicked jump shot, Toppin is comparable to a modernized version of a young Blake Griffin. The reigning Naismith College Player of the Year is an impact player who brings offensive versatility and stunning athleticism that the Spurs have never seen from a frontcourt player in the modern era.

For as much star potential as he boasts, there are definitely areas of concern for the team that drafts him. The first of which cannot be taken lightly: Toppin was not a good defender in college. Whether it be in team sets or with individual assignments, Toppin oftentimes seems lost on defense. Don’t allow his raw athleticism to deceive you as he pins and opponent’s shot against the glass — Toppin has a far away to go before being an NBA defender.

With that said, the San Antonio Spurs cannot afford to let him slip anymore. While many of the Spurs’ young players are extremely talented in their own right, none of them project to become stars anytime soon. Great coaching and depth can only take you so far in this league when you don’t have an all-star caliber player. They swung for the fences with Luka Samanic at No. 19 last season and will likely do so again here.

Next: No. 12 overall pick

SUNRISE, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 21: NBA Draft prospect Patrick Williams #4 of the Florida State Seminoles dunks vs. the South Florida Bulls in the 2nd half of the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 21: NBA Draft prospect Patrick Williams #4 of the Florida State Seminoles dunks vs. the South Florida Bulls in the 2nd half of the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

12. 84. . Power Forward. Patrick Williams

Florida State forward Patrick Williams is far from a sure thing, but neither were plenty of great players in this league. Williams aligns with the positionless future of basketball as a high energy defender who can switch onto multiple areas of the court. Offensively, Williams does a little bit of everything including shoot a pretty-looking jumper and soar to the rim for alley-oops.

The Sacramento Kings already have their point guard of the future in De’Aaron Fox, whose job is to set up the offense and pick apart defenses with his pinpoint passes. For a team with such a heavy emphasis on guard play, Williams is an easy selection here. Unlike many other prospects in the draft lottery, Williams does not need the ball in his hands to be effective.

Even though he only shot 32% from deep in his freshman campaign, Williams‘ 83.8 free-throw percentage indicates a strong chance for improvement at the next level. Now more than ever, teams need a big who can defend multiple players of various positions. Williams can do all of that and more similarly to Miami’s Bam Adebayo as a rookie.

An underrated facet of his game is that Williams can initiate offense for his teammates. While he isn’t a great shot-creator alone, Williams has a good eye for finding open teammates and ensuring high-quality shots. The Kings certainly need that as soon as possible.

Next: No. 13 overall pick

LEXINGTON, KY – JANUARY 12: Aaron Nesmith #24 of the Vanderbilt Commodores celebrates in the game against the Kentucky Wildcats. He’s a potential lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LEXINGTON, KY – JANUARY 12: Aaron Nesmith #24 of the Vanderbilt Commodores celebrates in the game against the Kentucky Wildcats. He’s a potential lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

69. . Small Forward. Aaron Nesmith. 13

The Zion Williamson era has only just begun in New Orleans and general manager David Griffin’s demanding job will force him to be innovative. Selecting Vanderbilt forward Aaron Nesmith ensures another impact rookie joins what’s already a competitive roster.

The keyword here is “3-and-D.” New Orleans needs players who can defend on the perimeter while spacing the floor for Zion to operate. Having an efficient shooter like Nesmith on the perimeter ensures that Williamson should have an easy transition going from a scorer to a facilitator. Implementing the masterful playmaking that Zion flashed in his lone season at Duke is the only way to unlock his full potential.

At the end of the day, everything that the Pelicans do needs to be geared toward their star player. Defensively, New Orleans was one of the worst teams in the NBA this season – Especially in the Orlando restart. This team crumbled when pressure was applied after waiting all season for their leader to return from injury. Not only do they need complementary players in place, but the Pelicans need high IQ basketball players who know what they’re doing.

Nesmith is just that. He knows his role and fulfilled well, but isn’t afraid to go out of his comfort zone to help his team win. Beyond that, Nesmith can play at and defend multiple positions in lineups with 2020’s Most Improved Player, Brandon Ingram. A spectacular offensive talent, Ingram hasn’t shown too much as a defender. Nesmith can cover up some of the issues that Ingram‘s lack of defensive intensity impose.

Next: No. 14 overall pick

PISCATAWAY, NJ – MARCH 03: NBA Draft prospect Jalen Smith #25 of the Maryland Terrapins in action against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Rutgers Athletic Center on March 3, 2020. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PISCATAWAY, NJ – MARCH 03: NBA Draft prospect Jalen Smith #25 of the Maryland Terrapins in action against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Rutgers Athletic Center on March 3, 2020. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

14. 18. . Power Forward/Center. Jalen Smith

Clearly, focusing on perimeter players has played out well for the Boston Celtics. It doesn’t look like they’ll head to the NBA Finals this year, but the infrastructure is in place for a strong team that will compete for years to come. However, they need a modernized big man to compete with the Bam Adebayos of the world.

Enter Maryland power forward/center, Jalen Smith. A two-way powerhouse with an NBA-ready physical profile, Smith has all of the tools to be the next hot commodity of NBA centers. Standing at 6-foot-10 with a wingspan bordering on 7-feet-2-inches long, Smith is a smart player who puts all of his tools to use.

When you need a bucket, Smith is there to get the job done. He is one of the better rebounders in the draft class and blocked 2.4 shots per game in his sophomore season. Last year as a freshman, Smith played backup to Hawks center, Bruno Fernando, limiting his playing time and statistical output. As Maryland‘s primary scoring threat as a sophomore, Smith took a major leap and established himself as a borderline draft lottery prospect.

Not only is Smith a valuable defender, but he makes a ton of sense for the Celtics. Starter Daniel Theis is a smart basketball player who plays hard, he lacks the athletic ability to compete with many modern big men. Likewise, Enes Kanter is the human equivalent of a traffic cone on defense.

Smith adds a layer of rim protection and toughness that the Celtics haven’t had since Al Horford departed in the Summer of 2019. Plus, Smith is a respectable floor-stretcher who projects to drain the long ball nicely as a pro. This is one of the safer picks of the NBA Draft lottery.

Next: No. 15 overall pick

LEXINGTON, KY – FEBRUARY 04: NBA Draft prospect Tyrese Maxey #3 listens to head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Rupp Arena. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
LEXINGTON, KY – FEBRUARY 04: NBA Draft prospect Tyrese Maxey #3 listens to head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Rupp Arena. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

15. 38. . Shooting Guard/Point Guard. Tyrese Maxey

After being the only team with the home-court advantage in the Orlando bubble, the Magic are stuck at a crossroads. They have been eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs for numerous years without much hope of improvement in the near future. If they decide to trend young, there is a group in place that the front office can build from.

By selecting Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey with the 15th pick, Orlando solidifies a running mate for former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz. A crafty guard who fights hard on every play, Maxey fits the mold of a Kentucky player in that his basketball IQ and killer mentality set him apart from the pack.

Even though Maxey did not shoot the ball particularly well in his freshman season, some moments proved he has what it takes. This is a player who is not afraid to work his tail off or step up in big moments as he did throughout the season. At 6-foot-3, Maxey is more of a hybrid who can play either the point or the two-guard. His mentality isn’t to pass first or look to score — It’s to make the play that puts his team in a position to succeed.

Some rookies enter the league with a veteran’s mindset despite being younger than most of their cohorts. That is who Maxey is and it’s what Orlando needs at this point in their franchise‘s trajectory. Without Jonathan Isaac, who tore his ACL during the eight seeding games, we don’t know what this Magic team looks like next year.

Maxey is a safe pick no matter which direction the front office chooses to prioritize.

Next: No. 16 overall pick

PHILADELPHIA, PA – FEBRUARY 29: NBA Draft prospect Saddiq Bey #41 of the Villanova Wildcats controls the ball against David Duke #3 of the Providence Friars. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA – FEBRUARY 29: NBA Draft prospect Saddiq Bey #41 of the Villanova Wildcats controls the ball against David Duke #3 of the Providence Friars. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

. Small Forward. Saddiq Bey. 16. 34

How lucky are the Portland Trailblazers to get this pick after the bubble run that they just had? If it hadn’t been for a few key injuries the Blazers could’ve been one of the teams fighting for a spot in the NBA Finals, instead, they’re picking just outside the lottery.

There could be a temptation to go for a big man here. The Blazers could lose Hassan Whiteside in free agency this offseason and given Zach Collins’s injury history it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add some insurance. But adding one of the best shooters in the draft is too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Saddiq Bey is one of the most risk-free players in this draft. He’s durable, he can guard multiple positions at a high level, and he hit 45 percent of his 3-point shots during his sophomore year under Jay Wright.

The biggest knocks on Bey’s game are that he might not be able to create for himself too much at the next level and his shot release is a bit low. But if he’s coming to a team with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum he’s not going to have to take on a hefty playmaking load and the attention that defenses naturally have to pay to those two could give Bey a little more time to get off his incredibly accurate albeit slightly strange-looking shot.

Next: No. 17 overall pick

CHAPEL HILL, NC – FEBRUARY 25: Cole Anthony #2 of the University of North Carolina dribbles the ball during a game between NC State and North Carolina. (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
CHAPEL HILL, NC – FEBRUARY 25: Cole Anthony #2 of the University of North Carolina dribbles the ball during a game between NC State and North Carolina. (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Cole Anthony. 17. 86. . Point Guard

After using their first pick on Anthony Edwards, the Wolves continue to fill up their backcourt with a blue blood point guard in Cole Anthony from the University of North Carolina.

There was a time where Anthony was being talked about like he was a top-ten pick but an underwhelming season at UNC cause his draft stock to dip significantly. But Anthony’s struggles this year were more related to his supporting cast than they were to his shortcomings.

At his best, Anthony can run a deadly NBA offense. He’s got every move you could want from a point guard in his bag. He can work in pick and roll, he’s deadly around the rim, and he’s got a variety of step back and sidestep moves in his arsenal to create space to get his shot off.

He’s not the best defender but it’s not for a lack of effort. He’s aggressive against his fellow point guards but he’s only 6’3″ so if he gets switched onto a bigger opponent he’s going to be in trouble. But look at who the Wolves could come out of this draft with. Anthony, Edwards, KAT, and D-Lo, that’s a dangerous offense being put together up there in Minnesota.

Next: No. 18 overall pick

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 20: The first-round draft board is seen during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 20: The first-round draft board is seen during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

79. . Center. Aleksej Pokusevski. 18

Aleksej Pokusevski is one of the biggest mysteries in this draft class. You watch him play and you’re amazed by his length and shooting ability, but there are legitimate concerns about his ability to make it through a full NBA season at this point.

Thanks to the brilliance of Luka Doncic the Mavericks are already way ahead of schedule. They’ve got a legitimate MVP candidate on their team and he’s only 21 years old. They can afford to take a home run shot on Poku.

If everything works out, Poku could serve as a playmaking big man alongside Dwight Powell and Kristaps Porzingis. He’s a danger from behind the arc and can provide some rim protection at times as well.

The Mavericks have to get him in the weight room though. This isn’t a pick that’s going to show returns within the first year, maybe not even within the first two years. But if Dallas can add a top-level free agent in the summer of 2021 and then add a filled out Pokusevski to their roster for the 2021-22 season they could be a real title contender.

Next: No. 19 overall pick

EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 09: NBA Draft prospect Josh Green #0 of the Arizona Wildcats reacts after hitting a shot during the first half against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 09: NBA Draft prospect Josh Green #0 of the Arizona Wildcats reacts after hitting a shot during the first half against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

147. . Small Forward. Josh Green. 19

The Brooklyn Nets don’t need much out of this pick. With a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving returning in 2020, they’re well-positioned to contend for a title next year. Now they just need to add a few complimentary pieces to fill the roster out.

It’s hard to find a more complementary player than Josh Green. He’s a phenomenal 3 – and – D player, a tremendous athlete, and he knows his role.

He’s not going to create his own shots but in this offense, he shouldn’t have to. With Durant and Irving leading the way and Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie playing key roles, Green can confine his offense to hitting spot-up threes, making timely cuts, and getting out in transition. These are all things he already does very well.

This isn’t a splashy pick but the Nets don’t need that right now, they need willing defenders who can knock down open three’s when asked to do so. Green fits that description perfectly.

Next: No. 20 overall pick

LUBBOCK, TX – JANUARY 18: NBA Draft prospect Desmond Bane #1 of the TCU Horned Frogs shoots the ball during the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at United Supermarkets Arena. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX – JANUARY 18: NBA Draft prospect Desmond Bane #1 of the TCU Horned Frogs shoots the ball during the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at United Supermarkets Arena. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)

. Point Guard. Desmond Bane. 20. 110

The Miami Heat got to the Conference Finals by leaning on several players who are outperforming expectations. Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo were both unleashed and improved by the Heat culture, could Desmond Bane be the next player to go through a similar experience?

Bane isn’t some wide-eyed freshman coming to South Beach, he’s a 22-year-old player with four years of Big 12 experience under his belt. He’s smart, strong, an aggressive defender, and plays damn good team basketball. Sounds like a Miami Heat guy to me.

Bane is comfortable playing with or without the ball in his hands. He’s a knockdown shooter – he hit 43 percent of his college three’s- and he makes good decisions in pick and roll. With Goran Dragic approaching unrestricted free agency, the Heat backcourt could need replenishing soon. Herro looks capable of taking on some of those playmaking duties but adding a veteran player like Bane to back him up wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Kira Lewis has been mocked to the Heat in several other mock drafts but he’s further away from being ready to contribute than Bane is. And the Heat have proved they’re ready to compete for a championship right now. Bane likely won’t be the piece that takes them there but he’s going to be a quality role player on an NBA team for a long time.

Next: No. 21 overall pick

LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 15: Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins guards NBA Draft prospect Tyrell Terry #3 of the Stanford Cardinal at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 15: Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins guards NBA Draft prospect Tyrell Terry #3 of the Stanford Cardinal at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

. Point Guard. Tyrell Terry. 21. 93

The NBA rumor mill is overflowing the Mike D’Antoni to Philadelphia speculation. If these rumors are true, and they certainly seem to have substance, that means that the 76ers offense is in for a makeover. And if there is one thing that we know every D’Antoni offense needs its 3-point shooting.

Enter Tyrell Terry, one of the best shooters in this draft class. Terry hit 40 percent of his 3-pointers in his lone season in Pao Alto and he hit them from everywhere on the court. The young man from Minneapolis has near Lillard range.

Terry’s flown below most radars for much of the year for a variety of reasons. He didn’t play at a traditional basketball powerhouse, he played on the west coast and didn’t get as much visibility as other point guards in this class, and he’s very undersized. At just 6’1″ 160lbs, Terry doesn’t grab your attention. Until he starts shooting.

There are concerns about his defensive impact but given the makeup of the 76ers roster, those shouldn’t stop them from taking him. They’ve got great defenders in Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, and Mattise Thybulle, those three should be able to cover Terry’s shortcomings enough for this match to work.

Next: No. 22 overall pick

FAYETTEVILLE, AR – MARCH 9: Kira Lewis Jr. #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide dribbles down the court during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on March 9, 2019. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
FAYETTEVILLE, AR – MARCH 9: Kira Lewis Jr. #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide dribbles down the court during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on March 9, 2019. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

73. . Point Guard. Kira Lewis Jr.. 22

The Denver Nuggets owe the Houston Rockets a thank you. After making the Conference Finals the Nuggets are back in a position to load up on even more talent, courtesy of what was the Rockets pick. They should use it on Kira Lewis Jr.

Lewis is an absolute blur in transition, he might be one of the quickest players in the NBA when he makes his debut. He combines this speed with a variety of crossovers and other dribble moves to find his way to the rim.

He’s got a way to improve as a shooter. He only hit 36 percent of his long-range attempts in his two years with the Crimson Tide but his 80 percent rate from the charity stripe indicates that he’s got potential to improve.

As a defender, Lewis has the physical gifts to jump passing lanes and harass his opponent but he’s going to need to tighten up his game to avoid foul trouble at the next level.

One of the most physically gifted point guards in this draft class, Lewis would benefit enormously from learning from Jamal Murray and Mike Malone in Denver.

Next: No. 23 overall pick

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – JANUARY 18: NBA Draft prospect Jaden McDaniels #0 of the Washington Huskies reacts in the second half vs. the Oregon Ducks during a game at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – JANUARY 18: NBA Draft prospect Jaden McDaniels #0 of the Washington Huskies reacts in the second half vs. the Oregon Ducks during a game at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

. Small Forward/Power Forward. Jaden McDaniels. 23. 118

This year’s playoff push showed us that the Utah Jazz almost have what it takes to make real noise in the Western Conference. They put up a good fight against the Denver Nuggets but they’re going to need a few more pieces to truly be contenders.

This is time for a home run swing. The Jazz are saddled with Rudy Gobert’s massive deal and they’re going to have to pay Donovan Mitchell a max deal as well, they need up and coming star talent to go with those two, even if that means taking risks. Jaden McDaniels is that kind of risk.

McDaniels was one of the most exciting prospects in the country when he first arrived at Washington but that hype quickly fell away as his on-court production underwhelmed.

He’s slim, gets into foul trouble, and doesn’t set up his teammates much. But he’s also got a nice handle, prototypical size for a modern-day forward, and can shoot the ball from all over the court. There’s a lot to like about this game but it’s matched by numerous red flags.

This is the dilemma the Jazz find themselves in. McDaniels’s ceiling is very high, but he also has the look of a player who never quite puts it together. Is it worth it to take a risk on him? That’s for the Jazz front office to decide.

Next: No. 24 overall pick

LUBBOCK, TEXAS – FEBRUARY 19: NBA Draft prospect Jahmi’us Ramsey #3 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders looks across the court against the Kansas State Wildcats at United Supermarkets Arena. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS – FEBRUARY 19: NBA Draft prospect Jahmi’us Ramsey #3 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders looks across the court against the Kansas State Wildcats at United Supermarkets Arena. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

Shooting Guard. Jahmi'us Ramsey. 24. 89.

After a disappointing exit to their title chase, the Milwaukee Bucks have some soul searching to do. If they want to prove to Giannis Antetokounmpo that they’re serious about contending for a title they’re going to have to make some changes.

One of the most glaring weak spots in the Bucks playoff loss to the Heat was the play of Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe has underwhelmed in every single postseason exit the Bucks have had since he arrived in Milwaukee. You can’t lay all of the blame at his feet but you can put a good portion of it there.

Adding Jahmi’us Ramsey from Texas Tech would give the Bucks another backcourt player who can create his own looks off the bounce and knock down open shots. The leading scorer for the Red Raiders, Ramsey hi 43 percent of his shots from behind the arc and also found creative ways to get to the rim.

He’s far from a finished product, which could scare away the Bucks as they’re looking to contend right now, but he’s one of the best remaining shooters on the board and the Bucks need help from behind the arc.

Next: No. 25 overall pick

NBA Draft prospect Theo Maledon tries a shot at the point guard contest during an All-Star Game basketball match of the French Ligue Nationale de Basket (LNB) (Photo by LUCAS BARIOULET / AFP)
NBA Draft prospect Theo Maledon tries a shot at the point guard contest during an All-Star Game basketball match of the French Ligue Nationale de Basket (LNB) (Photo by LUCAS BARIOULET / AFP)

. Point Guard. Theo Maledon. 25. 149

When the Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Chris Paul this summer it was a bit of a head-scratching move. Many of us didn’t expect him to stay there for the entire season but there we were in the first round of the playoffs watching Paul and the Thunder surprise everyone and give the Houston Rockets everything they could handle.

Sadly, the Paul experience in OKC might be coming to an end. He’s been linked to multiple title contenders around the league as a trade piece who can take them to a championship. The strongest connection seems to be between him and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Still, the Thunder found success in their three-guard lineup this year and if they want to keep that going they could add Theo Maledon to replace Paul. Maledon is mentored by Tony Parker and has some of his mentor’s craftiness in the paint and pick and roll.

With a 6’8 wingspan, Maledon has the physical gifts to be a plus defender once he learns the game a bit more. This isn’t a splashy pick but the Thunder can take comfort in knowing that if it doesn’t work out they only have roughly a hundred more first-round picks over the next few years to make up for it.

Next: No. 26 overall pick

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 11: NBA Draft prospect Isaiah Stewart #33 of the Washington Huskies against the Arizona Wildcats during the Pac-12 men’s tournament at T-Mobile Arena. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 11: NBA Draft prospect Isaiah Stewart #33 of the Washington Huskies against the Arizona Wildcats during the Pac-12 men’s tournament at T-Mobile Arena. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

18. . Power Forward/Center. Isaiah Stewart. 26

Unlike his teammate Jaden McDaniels, there isn’t much flash or intrigue to Isaiah Stewart’s game. He is what he is, and that’s an industrial-sized refrigerator of a human being who excels at bullying the daylights out of anyone he’s matched up against.

Most young players need to pack on weight to survive a full 82 game season in the NBA. That’s not going to be a problem for Stewart. Not only is he built like a Mack truck, but he’s also got the motor to match. He’s relentless on the offensive and defensive glass and will fight his way through defenders to get his shot off.

All of this does have some downside. Stewart’s relatively one dimensional on offense, he’s not going to give you a floor-spacing threat. He’s also locked into the paint on defense, he’s going to function best as the last line of defense. If you ask him to step out to the perimeter you’re putting him outside of his comfort zone.

The Boston Celtics are already a really good basketball team that plays tough defense and takes no crap. Stewart might be limited in what he does, but he’s good at his somewhat limited skillset. He’d fit right in with Boston.

Next: No. 27 overall pick

PERTH, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: NBA Draft prospect R.J. Hampton lays up during the round seven NBL match between the Perth Wildcats and the New Zealand Breakers at RAC Arena. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: NBA Draft prospect R.J. Hampton lays up during the round seven NBL match between the Perth Wildcats and the New Zealand Breakers at RAC Arena. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Point Guard/Shooting Guard. RJ Hampton. 27. 27.

Having a player with the name recognition of guard R.J. Hampton slip to the New York Knicks at 29 is a major win for an organization looking to establish itself. A 6-foot-5 guard with blistering speed and a wide reach, Hampton opted to play in the NBL this season instead of buying into the NCAA and its stance against compensating players for their time and effort. This is a trend that’s only going to pick up steam now that the NBA is offering a competitive alternative to the NCAA with its G League select team.

Regardless, Hampton is a solid overall prospect who’s probably being picked too late for his value here. There are concerns about his jump shot after he posted an underwhelming 45.9 percent effective field goal percentage in his lone season as a pro, but Hampton is just 19 years old. There’s plenty of time for the jumper to come along once he gets acclimated to the NBA.

A crafty playmaker whose elusiveness is as impactful as his speed, Hampton knows how to use his build and aggression to score near the rim. While the IQ needs to come along for him to fulfill his potential, Hampton has the makings of a strong defensive player later down the line. The fundamentals are on full display when he plays with creative footwork that helps Hampton score against defenders of varying builds.

New York’s point guard situation has been a mess for as long as I can remember and Hampton feels like a step in the right direction for the Knicks.

Next: No. 28 overall pick

CHICAGO, IL – DECEMBER 21: NBA Draft prospect Tyler Bey #1 of the Colorado Buffaloes is seen during the game against the Dayton Flyers at United Center on December 21, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL – DECEMBER 21: NBA Draft prospect Tyler Bey #1 of the Colorado Buffaloes is seen during the game against the Dayton Flyers at United Center on December 21, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Tyler Bey. 28. 20. . Small Forward

It became obvious that the Los Angeles Lakers would be a defensive-minded team when Anthony Davis was traded to join LeBron James. They’re heading to the NBA Finals because of it, but that doesn’t mean they can let off the gas pedal because they made one Finals appearance. With the 28th pic, the Lakers need to take a chance to improve their weakest position: The Small forward.

This, of course, is working under the assumption that you consider LeBron a full-time point guard at this point in his career. Oftentimes, that was how Los Angeles operated — Especially during the regular season. If the front office wants to buy further into that defensive mindset, selecting Colorado forward Tyler Bey is the way to go.

Bey, a junior coming out of the PAC-12, is one of the more NBA-ready players from his class. A mature player with a good head on his shoulders, Bey has the tools to make an instant impact on either side of the ball. Whether it be as a spot-up shooter, rebounder, on-ball defender, or weakside help defender, Bey is always aware and alert on the basketball court.

With some mentorship from two perennial all-defensive candidates in LeBron and AD, Bey could end up being a dependable player in the professional ranks.

Next: No. 29 overall pick

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 27: Elijah Weaver #3 of the USC Trojans guards Nico Mannion #1 of the Arizona Wildcats as he drives to the basket at Galen Center on February 27, 2020. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Once/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 27: Elijah Weaver #3 of the USC Trojans guards Nico Mannion #1 of the Arizona Wildcats as he drives to the basket at Galen Center on February 27, 2020. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Once/Getty Images)

Nico Mannion. 29. 81. . Point Guard

Considering Fred VanVleet is an unrestricted free agent and Kyle Lowry will follow him a season later, it wouldn’t be unwise for the Toronto Raptors to pick up a high-IQ point guard with playmaking upside in the 2020 NBA Draft. For that, the Raptors are picking up Nico Mannon from the University of Arizona — A freshman whose mixtapes took the nation by storm in high school.

Mannion doesn’t look as feisty as he is, but don’t let his appearance and small build fool you — Nico knows how to manage a game. He’s a wonderful pick-and-roll ball-handler with underrated finishing ability and a knack for dropping dimes. On occasion, Mannion will find lanes to the rim and elevate for a powerful slam like you’d never expect from a small guard like him.

No matter what his appearance tells you, Mannion has some dog in him. This is a player who takes big men to the rim and isn’t afraid to elevate and absorb contact. Beyond that, his jump shot indicates promise and in a development system like Toronto’s, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mannion develop into an NBA starter one day soon.

VanVleet is likely on his way out unless the Raptors are willing to spend some serious cash on him this offseason, leaving a gap at the point guard position. Mannion could fill that spot and hopefully develop into a legitimate rotation player soon.

Next: No. 30 overall pick

COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND – FEBRUARY 29: Cassius Winston #5 of the Michigan State Spartans dribbles against the Maryland Terrapins during the first half at Xfinity Center on February 29, 2020. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND – FEBRUARY 29: Cassius Winston #5 of the Michigan State Spartans dribbles against the Maryland Terrapins during the first half at Xfinity Center on February 29, 2020. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

18. . Point Guard. Cassius Winston. 30

He’s never going to be the fastest, strongest, or most athletic point guard on the basketball court, but some guys just know how to play the game. That’s Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston, whose basketball IQ and gritty approach to the game make him a great candidate to defy the odds and make an impact for his team in the future.

More from Air Alamo

Boston loves players who bring some grit to the table and even though they drafted Carsen Edwards last season, there’s a history of undersized guards doing work in Bean Town. As a ball-handler, Winston is as tricky as they come with a killer hesitation and a crossover to match. The 22-year-old senior isn’t afraid to big moments as a defender, shooter, or passer.

There are physical restrictions for the 6-foot-2 guard, but no team knows how to use that to their advantage as Boston does. A 43.2 percent 3-point marksman on 169 attempts at MSU, Boston could anticipate a reliable 3-point output from their newly drafted backup point guard.

Both Edwards and Winston thrive under pressure and putting them in competition for the backup point guard spot could be influential in helping them grow as players. Friendly competition never hurt anyone and it may help bring the best out of these two players in particular.

Next. Top 25 players in Spurs history

There’s still plenty of talent leaking into the second round of this NBA Mock Draft, but we’ll leave that for the San Antonio Spurs to scout and report on.

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