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The 2020 NBA Draft is less than one month away, taking place about four months later than usual thanks to an elongated season disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. This will be a more unconventional draft than ever given the rigid, health-conscious safety protocols in place for teams meeting with draft prospects, and that’s without even factoring in the lack of an NCAA Tournament for many of these players to improve their draft stock.
There’s plenty of tape on all of these aspiring hoopers, but between all this uncertainty and the lack of a bona fide, can’t-miss prospect in this year’s class, we may see even more trade activity on draft night than normal.
Taking a look at the set order for the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft, here are the five teams to monitor as we eagerly anticipate some blockbuster draft-day moves.
5. New York Knicks
Aside from RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson, neither of whom look like the future face of a winning franchise right now, the New York Knicks’ collection of young talent is largely uninspiring. The Knicks own the No. 8, No. 27 and No. 38 picks in the draft, and in all honesty, using all three on young players with upside to build up their core wouldn’t be the worst idea.
Then again, these are the Knicks. They’re expected to make big moves to restore this once-proud franchise to its former glory, even if those moves are usually unintelligent. If New York wants to move up in the pecking order, it has the extra picks to do so. If it wants to make an ill-fated move for Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook, it can do that instead. The Knicks always a wild card on draft night, and with three top-40 picks, that applies more than ever.
4. Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers have five picks in the upcoming draft, so even though four of them are second-rounders (and all five of them are outside the top 20), general manager Elton Brand is undoubtedly feeling the pressure to make a move at some point this offseason.
The Sixers flamed out in the playoffs, and though Ben Simmons’ injury was a convenient scapegoat, the simple truth is Al Horford and Joel Embiid didn’t work together, Simmons and Embiid still can’t shoot, and their complementary role players don’t complement those two stars at all. Another rookie talent on a team-friendly contract would certainly help as Philly tries to find a way out of Horford and Tobias Harris’ inflated salaries, but the reality is, attaching picks is a necessity for making ambitious moves. The Sixers need to make one happen somehow.
3. Boston Celtics
Danny Ainge has been chided for stockpiling his assets and never using them, and for overvaluing his own draft picks, for years. But with picks at No. 14, 26 and 30 this year, it’s highly unlikely the Boston Celtics hang on to all three of their first-rounders. We’ve said this before, of course, but with another pick at No. 47 and the Celtics looking at double-digit players already under contract for next season, something’s got to give.
Gordon Hayward is opting in for $34.2 million because duh. Daniel Theis’ $5 million will be guaranteed. Brad Wanamaker may be gone as a restricted free agent, but Semi Ojeleye’s $1.8 million team option is cheap. Even if Wanamaker leaves, Enes Kanter opts out and Javonte Green is cut, the Celtics will still have 12 players under contract if everything else happens according to this blueprint. Boston doesn’t have room for 3-4 more rookies, and it could use some help in the middle, which is why a Celtics trade feels inevitable.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves
Teams owning the No. 1 pick don’t always appear on these kinds of lists, but without a surefire, consensus top prospect this year, and with the Minnesota Timberwolves owning picks at No. 17 and No. 33 as well, this is one team that has multiple trade avenues to pursue.
The Wolves already have D’Angelo Russell, which makes LaMelo Ball a weird fit at No. 1. Anthony Edwards is viewed by some as a potential top-flight scorer but dismissed as a very flawed prospect by others. If someone is keen on trading up to the No. 1 spot, Minnesota will certainly hear them out. With three top-35 picks, the Wolves need to start giving Karl-Anthony Towns reason to believe his team will start winning again soon. Don’t be surprised if they move the No. 1 pick for an established talent, trade down for additional assets, or package Nos. 17 and 33 to move up again in the first round. All of it should be on the table right now.
1. Golden State Warriors
There’s been plenty of buzz about LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman and even Edwards, but the truth is, no team should be looking to move its pick for established talent more than the Golden State Warriors. With a healthy Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for the upcoming season, the Dubs are on a mission to prove that bumpy ride in 2019-20 was just a one-year hiatus from running the league.
The Warriors want to get their dynasty back on track, but to do so, they need more help on the wing and with their bench depth. Finding that in an underwhelming rookie class that’s low on high-end talent is a tricky proposition, even at No. 2 in the pecking order. To that end, Golden State should attempt to move this pick for an established NBA talent — or even a star, if possible.
That last part may be wishful thinking because of the lower value of both Andrew Wiggins and the No. 2 pick in this class, but don’t be surprised when the Warriors trade buzz builds to sheer tinnitus in the week leading up to the draft.
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