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Rich Getting Richer: How Playoff Teams Should Approach the NBA Draft

By: Taylor Bechtold

Now that the lottery teams have made what they hope will be franchise-altering decisions to open our 2020 NBA draft, the playoff teams from our data-driven simulation are set to make picks they hope will put them over the top and past the champion Milwaukee Bucks.

In this series, we’ve leveraged 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.

Here, we’ve used 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’re not going to give away everything that goes into our proprietary rankings, but we can reveal that it is derived from volume and rate statistical analysis, popular consensus draft rankings and biographical information.

Commissioner Adam Silver has popped on-screen and the Orlando Magic, who earned the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs before getting swept by the Bucks, are on the clock with the 15th pick of the first round.

Tyrese Maxey drives against Auburn in Lexington.

15. Orlando Magic – Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky, 6-3, 198, Fr.

Maxey certainly has the talent to be a lottery pick, so the Magic appear to get a good value here. Maxey competes at both ends of the court and has the ability to run the point or play off the ball, giving the Magic some much-needed help in the backcourt.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves – Patrick Williams, PF, Florida State, 6-8, 225, Fr.

A big, athletic wing who plays within the offense and is an active disrupter on defense, Williams should be able to help Minnesota right away. The Wolves like the thought of him playing alongside D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns on the offensive end.

17. Boston Celtics – Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt, 6-6, 213, So.

Nesmith was limited to 14 games as a sophomore at Vandy because of a stress fracture in his foot and the coronavirus outbreak, but it was enough to impress the Celtics. Nesmith, a solid defender, shot an eye-opening 52.2% from 3-point range. He should – at the very least – fill the role of a “3 and D” wing.

Saddiq Bey shoots over Georgetown guard Jagan Mosely in Washington.

18. Dallas Mavericks – Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova, 6-8, 216, So.

Looking for the top wing player available, the Mavericks grab Bey to play alongside young star Luka Doncic. Bey is a good fit for the modern NBA as someone who can both knock down a 3 and play solid defense. He shot 45.1% from beyond the arc last season and scouts marvel at his catch-and-shoot ability.

19. Milwaukee Bucks – Jaden McDaniels, SF, Washington, 6-10, 184, Fr.

The loaded Bucks have the luxury of taking on a developmental project, which is exactly what the 18-year-old McDaniels will be next season. Though he struggled in his lone season at Washington, McDaniels ranks 23rd on Stats Perform’s board. McDaniels has flashed solid perimeter skills, and the Bucks can afford to be patient.

20. Utah Jazz – Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama, 6-3, 165, So.

The Jazz hope Lewis can provide some much-needed depth at point guard behind Mike Conley. While he’s small in stature, Lewis is one of the quickest ballhandlers still on the board and he improved his playmaking ability at Alabama. He also averaged 1.8 steals last season – third in the SEC.

Robert Woodard II looks for an opening past Kentucky’s Keion Brooks Jr.

21. Brooklyn Nets – Robert Woodard II, SF, Mississippi State, 6-7, 230, So.

The Nets were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, but they’re going to have much higher expectations next year with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant healthy. They draft Woodard with that in mind. He’s a smart team-first player who should be able to help the team move toward its near-term championship goals.

22. Philadelphia 76ers – Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona, 6-3, 179, Fr.

Though he has defensive weaknesses and only shot 32.7% from 3-point range in his only season at Arizona, the 76ers take a chance on Mannion’s potential. He gives them another ballhandler behind Ben Simmons and his 79.7% from the foul line indicates he should be able to improve from beyond the arc.

23. Miami Heat – Isaiah Stewart, PF, Washington, 6-9, 245, Fr.

The Heat have a wealth of guards and swingmen, but they could use some size to pair with All-Star center Bam Adebayo. Stewart certainly plays big, averaging 17.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in his only season at Washington. Miami lands the top player available on the Stats Perform board.

Jalen Smith dunks against Michigan in College Park, Md.

24. Boston Celtics – Jalen Smith, PF, Maryland, 6-10, 225, So.

Smith gives the Celtics something they needed heading into this draft – a presence in the paint. Smith averaged 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks last season, but he also improved as a 3-point shooter at 36.8% of 2.8 attempts per game. Boston hopes it has one of the draft’s top sleepers.

25. New York Knicks – Jahmi’us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech, 6-4, 195, Fr.

The Knicks take a gamble on Ramsey becoming a star, and why not? Ramsey ranks third among college players in Stats Perform’s All-Star Probability Model, which uses the same components of the draft model to determine the probability of a prospect becoming an All-Star, starter, bench or fringe player in his first four years.

26. Denver Nuggets – Paul Reed, PF, DePaul, 6-9, 220, Jr.

With Paul Millsap entering his 15th season, the Nuggets select Reed as a potential replacement. The DePaul product not only averaged 15.1 points and 10.7 rebounds last season, but he also had 2.6 blocks and 1.9 steals per game. Denver hopes he can improve from 3-point range after shooting 30.8% on 1.8 attempts in 2019-20.

Zeke Nnaji shoots over Washington forward Isaiah Stewart in Tucson, Ariz.

27. Toronto Raptors – Zeke Nnaji, C, Arizona, 6-11, 240, Fr.

With veteran big men Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka both in their 30s, the Raptors hope they can groom Nnaji to step into one of those roles at some point. Nnaji, who averaged 16.1 points and 8.6 boards at Arizona, isn’t much of a rim protector but he has shown nice touch from midrange and could develop into a 3-point threat.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder – Josh Green, SG/SF, Arizona, 6-6, 206, Fr.

The best available “3 and D” player with good length and energy, Green should fit in nicely on the young but contending Thunder.

29. Los Angeles Lakers – Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford, 6-1, 160, Fr.

The Lakers take a flier on Terry, an elite shooter and a high-IQ guard who complements LeBron James very well and has the potential to return lottery value at the tail end of the first round.

30. Boston Celtics – Daniel Oturu, C, Minnesota, 6-10, 240, So.

Intrigued by his high ceiling, the Celtics are thrilled to get Oturu at the end of the first round. Oturu draws Pascal Siakam as one of his Stats Perform player comps.

Best remaining players: Udoka Azubuike, Kansas; Xavier Tillman, Michigan State; Aleksej Pokuševski, Olympiacos B; Tre Jones, Duke; Tyler Bey, Colorado

Matt Moran, Alex Ottenwess and Jon Chepkevich contributed. Data modeling by Matt Scott, and research support provided by Evan Boyd.