Welcome to our 2020 NBA draft.
How did we get here? After finishing with the league’s best record during the regular season, the Milwaukee Bucks have marched to their first NBA title in 49 years. Along the way, the once-mighty Golden State Warriors also won – the draft lottery.
Of course, none of this is new to those who have been following along as we use Stats Perform data to provide a glimpse of what could happen if the league was to resume at the point in which play was suspended on March 11. The goal has been to simulate how the rest of the regular season, postseason and NBA draft might pan out.
In a previous article, we held a draft lottery by simply taking the final regular-season records from our simulation and drawing the teams based on the current odds system that was implemented by the league last year.
Now we’re using a variety of metrics to choose players that each team should select in the NBA draft instead of the widely used method of attempting to predict each pick.
We can’t give away everything that goes into Stats Perform’s rankings, but we can reveal that it is derived from volume and rate statistical analysis, popular consensus draft rankings and biographical information.
Following a season in which they ended up with the league’s worst record, the Warriors are on the clock and ready to make the top pick for the first time since selecting Joe Smith in 1995:
1. Golden State Warriors – James Wiseman, C, Memphis, 7-1, 237, Fr.
The Warriors aren’t likely to grab Georgia’s Anthony Edwards considering how little interest they had in keeping D’Angelo Russell. Wiseman only played three games at Memphis, but he still ranks second overall in Stats Perform’s proprietary college projections and has the lowest Bust% (the odds of a player not cracking a certain number of minutes over his first years in the league) of all the top guys.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers – Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia, 6-5, 225, Fr.
With Collin Sexton and Darius Garland already on the roster, the Cavaliers probably aren’t thinking about adding LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes or Tyrese Haliburton. Though Edwards will be in that backcourt mix, he’s more a two guard with star potential as a scorer. Cleveland is smart enough not to pass up Stats Perform’s top-rated college product.
3. Atlanta Hawks – Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC, 6-9, 245, Fr.
With Okongwu, the Hawks have the makings of a fearsome frontcourt. After picking up John Collins in the 2017 draft, De’Andre Hunter last year and acquiring Clint Capela in February, Atlanta adds yet another talented big man. He’s the third-best college prospect to come out of this draft, according to the Stats Perform rankings.
4. Detroit Pistons – LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawarra, 6-7, 190, International
A playmaking guard makes sense for the Pistons, who were starting Brandon Knight at the point when play was suspended. They opt to take a chance on Ball due to his size and instincts, even though – like his brother – his shot is a question mark. Detroit pick-and-rolls will now feature Ball/Christian Wood instead of Reggie Jackson/Andre Drummond.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves – Killian Hayes, PG/SG, Ratiopharm Ulm, 6-5, 187, International
The Timberwolves sought to remake their backcourt when they acquired D’Angelo Russell from the Warriors for 2014 top overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins. Now they have to be feeling good about their future with Russell, Hayes and Jarrett Culver playing together around star big man Karl-Anthony Towns.
6. New York Knicks – Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State, 6-5, 175, So.
The Knicks remain desperate for a point guard. With Ball off the board, they select Haliburton – the top college playmaker in Stats Perform’s rankings. During the 2019-20 season, Haliburton posted some gaudy shooting numbers (50/42/82 splits). If the Knicks pursue Chris Paul in the offseason as recent reports suggest, Haliburton slides in as the perfect backup who can learn and grow on the job.
7. Chicago Bulls – Deni Avdija, SF, Maccabi Tel Aviv, 6-9, 215, International
It’s difficult for new Bulls president Arturas Karnisovas to pass on Avdija at No. 7. The young Bulls have assets in the front and backcourts, and they’re desperate for wing talent with the ability to shoot it from downtown. Avdija is rising quickly up draft boards, and he isn’t likely to slide further than this slot.
8. Charlotte Hornets – Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton, 6-9, 220, So.
Toppin’s stock soared while leading Dayton to one of the best seasons in school history. While some scouts believe he could go as high as third overall, Toppin ranks sixth on the Stats Perform board. A high-flyer who seems to be a perfect fit for the modern NBA, the Hornets are happy to land a potential franchise-changer.
9. Phoenix Suns – Devin Vassell, SG/SF, Florida State, 6-7, 194, So.
The Suns take a chance on Vassell in the hope he can become the “3 and D” swingman they covet. The versatile Vassell also happens to be the top two guard available on Stats Perform’s board. An elite, instinctual defender and solid 3-point shooter, Vassell should fit nicely alongside prolific scorer Devin Booker.
10. San Antonio Spurs – Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn, 6-6, 225, Fr.
The Spurs hope to find someone here who can help them get back into the playoff picture. While Okoro might not make a Tim Duncan-type impact, he’s a strong addition to San Antonio’s other talented young players. Okoro will be able to do it all if he can continue to improve his outside jump shot.
11. Sacramento Kings – RJ Hampton, PG/SG, New Zealand Breakers, 6-5, 188, International
The 2020 draft is noticeably point guard-heavy, but the Kings appear to have their playmaker of the future in De’Aaron Fox. While Hampton certainly has the ability to play the point, the former five-star prospect is likely to be more of a combo guard. His pure talent is too enticing for the Kings to pass up at No. 11.
12. Washington Wizards – Vernon Carey Jr., C, Duke, 6-10, 265, Fr.
The Wizards feel like they’ve got a real steal here in Carey, the fourth-rated player in the Stats Perform model. Though Washington already has Thomas Bryant, both Carey and Bryant can shoot from the outside and they could end up playing together in some stretches.
13. Portland Trail Blazers – Precious Achiuwa, PF, Memphis, 6-9, 223, Fr.
The Trail Blazers go with James Wiseman’s former teammate and the top player available in the Stats Perform model. The selection makes sense since Stats Perform has Al-Farouq Aminu as Achiuwa’s No. 1 comp coming out of college. Aminu left Portland for the Orlando Magic last summer.
14. New Orleans Pelicans – Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina, 6-3, 184, Fr.
Are the Pelicans ready to commit to Lonzo Ball long term? That likely remains to be seen, but it doesn’t stop them from taking Anthony as they continue to stockpile talent. A guy with Damian Lillard as a Stats Perform comp would look pretty good with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram
Keep a watch out tomorrow when we reveal how the rest of the first round unfolded.
Matt Moran, Alex Ottenwess and Jon Chepkevich contributed. Data modeling by Matt Scott, and research support provided by Evan Boyd.