2020 NBA Draft Grades: Eastern Conference
The 2020 NBA Draft concluded on Wednesday night, and there was plenty to take away from it. All 60 picks had purpose, some more than others. Trade chatter also surrounded nearly every selection, which is commonplace, but rarely this much for the top two picks.
The Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors, owners of Nos. 1 and 2 respectively, were in talks to trade their picks all the way up until the clock hit zero. Neither team pulled the trigger. The rest of the lottery followed suit, and not a single pick was traded until 16th.
The lack of movement may have been a good thing. Teams can get trigger-happy with swaps like these, making a change just for the sake of doing so. But some squads definitely should have moved up or down, which I'll get to.
We start with the Eastern Conference.
Boston Celtics: C
If "NBA Draft Bingo" was a thing, the free space would be "Danny Ainge almost makes a trade." This happened once again on Wednesday, as the Celtics were in possession of the 14th, 26th and 30th picks. Rostering three rookies didn't seem to make sense given Boston's roster situation, where 13 contracts were already guaranteed for 2020-21.
But the Celtics couldn't make a trade they liked, opting for Aaron Nesmith at 14. He'll be a good fit as a sniper. Payton Pritchard at 26 was a huge reach. Desmond Bane was a nice comeback at 30, but he was sent to the Memphis Grizzlies. Their best value pick of the night was traded to someone else.
Brooklyn Nets: B+
Brooklyn was in various trade talks for the days, hours and minutes leading up to their first round pick. They finally executed, sending 19 to the Detroit Pistons and receiving Landry Shamet from the Los Angeles Clippers in a three-team deal. Luke Kennard went from Detroit to LA.
Shamet is a great fit with the Nets, who will gladly use his lightning-quick trigger for instant offense off the bench. Lineups with him and Joe Harris will be able to score with anyone. Brooklyn's second round pick, Reggie Perry, has a chance to be a faceup four one day.
New York Knicks: C+
You can never have enough power forwards, it seems. The Knicks made a heavy investment in big men last season, and even with a new front office, they continued that trend on Wednesday, selecting Obi Toppin at 8th overall and Daniel Oturu at 33rd.
Toppin already had his work cut out for him as a defender in the NBA, but now his path to minutes is stonewalled on a team with 26 guys who share his position. Ditto for Oturu, a polished interior scorer who will have a tough time in New York's crowded frontcourt. At least Immanuel Quickley can shoot.
Philadelphia 76ers: A
Philly had one of the best drafts of anyone. The board fell in a way that let Tyrese Maxey slip to 21, and the Sixers were happy to take him. A value pick, who can also dribble and shoot, will do wonders for a team that doesn't have many guys who can dribble and shoot.
Sharpshooter Isaiah Joe had a promise from Philadelphia that was widely reported, but the board was generous enough to let him drop to 49, where the value became justified. Paul Reed at 58 could be the steal of the second round in a few years, an analytics darling at DePaul with ridiculous steal and block numbers.
Toronto Raptors: B+
In a draft where undersized point guards were overvalued, Toronto picked the right undersized guard. Malachi Flynn will be a great role player for the Raptors, a maestro in the pick-and-roll who competes on defense. He's next in line for important backcourt minutes with a competitive Raptors team.
Jalen Harris wasn't a bad pick either. He wasn't a first round talent because of effort issues, but if the Raptors' development staff can get him to try on defense, he'll be another important guard for a team that just lost a key ball handler.
Chicago Bulls: C
Experts anticipated than the draft would really start at Chicago's pick, and boy did that start it. Selecting Patrick Williams as high as 4th overall was a major reach; he's got the brains and brawn to be a good NBA starter for a long time, but he's also a project.
Marko Simonovic is a nice flier at 44, but it doesn't outweigh the Williams pick. Chicago could have easily traded down for him and gotten another useful asset. Arturas Karsinovas' first draft for the Bulls did not go well.
Cleveland Cavaliers: A-
Picking right behind Chicago were the Cavs, who selected the other top-tier, high-character wing in Isaac Okoro. He's been generally considered a top prospect all season, with elite defensive tools and a weirdly effective offensive game. He's a winning player, making him a good fit for a team that hasn't won much recently.
Detroit Pistons: B+
Detroit started off the night with one of the best early picks in Killian Hayes. He's one of the top prospects, argued by some as the best talent in the draft. He's a nice swing to take early in a rebuild. But the Isaiah Stewart pick at 16 was a head-scratcher; he was supposed to go in the late 20s because he's more of an old-school center.
The comeback at 19 was nice though; Saddiq Bey is a rock solid player from a great program. He won't make many highlight reels, but he will make winning plays and prop up an otherwise poor Pistons team.
Indiana Pacers: A-
It's hard to grade a team off a late second rounder, but the Pacers made the best of it as they often do. Cassius Stanley is one of the best athletes in the draft, falling only because he's 21 years old.
You won't get any ageism from me; not with those tools and that background. Stanley was one of the best value picks on the board; only reason this isn't an A is because it was the 54th selection.
Milwaukee Bucks: B+
The Bucks started the night with three picks, but ended with one. Their first round pick, R.J. Hampton, was flipped to the Denver Nuggets for a future first. In round two they added Jordan Nwora, one of the best shooters in the draft.
Then they drafted Sam Merrill, who also would've been a good fit as a shooter, but he was sent to the New Orleans Pelicans. Milwaukee added value and fit on this night with Nwora, which is all they can really ask for.
Atlanta Hawks: A-
People will question how Onyeka Okongwu makes sense with the Hawks, but I argued for his fit with them a few weeks ago. He's a defensive-minded big who can play either the 4 or 5, making him a great fit for Atlanta's death lineups when the time comes.
The Okongwu pick is sneaky-good, just like Okongwu the player. Skylar Mays was also a good add at 50; he should be a contributor on the wing soon.
Charlotte Hornets: A+
Charlotte did a hell of a job to kick off its rebuild. First came LaMelo Ball, arguably the best player in the draft who slipped to 3rd overall. Wing bodies with guard skills don't grow on trees, and Ball enters the league as one of the best 10-15 passers already.
And the hits kept coming in round 2. Vernon Carey would've been a top pick 10 years ago, but he's still a reliable presence at the 5. He'll be a solid player for a young team. Acting as the yin to Carey's yang is Nick Richards, a high-energy roller and screen-setter who will be a fun partner for Ball in the pick-and-roll. Both bigs bring differing skill sets that the Hornets will be glad to grow.
And then there's Grant Riller. The mid-major scoring guard slipped all the way to 56, a surprising slide for one of NBA Twitter's draft darlings. He could be an effective sixth man spark plug for Charlotte for years to come.
Miami Heat: A-
Pat Riley's only pick was, per usual, a good one. Precious Achuiwa could be one of the late first round steals, a multi-positional defender with an energetic offensive game. Him and Bam Adebayo on the same team is a recipe for chaos—in a good way.
Orlando Magic: B+
Another southeast division team with a single pick was the Magic, who picked Cole Anthony at 15. He's a bit of a risk considering how disappointing his lone season at UNC was, but if his AAU indicators hold true, he could be a deadly scoring guard, something Orlando has sorely lacked recently.
Washington Wizards: A-
The Wizards had a nice night. Deni Avdija, one of the top-ranked prospects by many accounts, slipped to them at 9, which could be one of the best value picks of the lottery. Avdija is a jumbo playmaker who should get immediate burn to work out his shooting woes.
Cassius Winston was a solid get at 53, a polished offensive guard who can play a role for the Wizards very soon. He's a steal at that pick, and him and Avdija can both contribute in the short term.