The NBA draft, set for October 16, 2020, is fast approaching. So, who are the top NBA draft picks this year and what can we expect the draft to look like? This year is going to be a little different because a lot of games, including the NCAA Tournament, have been canceled amid the coronavirus threat. This means there will be fewer “breakout stars” in the final hour of the season. Picks are going to be based on track records and expected potential, with minimal recent stats to work off of.
We’re going to give you the scoop on how the NBA draft works and which players are looking like the top picks for the 2020 season.
Who has the first pick in the 2020 NBA draft?
Golden State is up first for NBA draft picks this year, followed by Cleveland, Minnesota, Atlanta, Detroit, and then New York. Find the full NBA draft order here (and learn how they determine the NBA draft order).
A player may be at the top of the draft pick, but that doesn’t mean they will be picked by the first team on the list. It all depends on what the team is looking for, what their current court environment is like, and how the coaches will be able to develop their players.
How many rounds are there in the NBA draft?
There are two rounds in the NBA draft. So, even though Golden State gets the first pick in the first round, they have the 18th pick in the second round. Both rounds have 30 picks, so there are 60 total selections in the draft. Each team initially gets a total of two picks, but sometimes they get more (or less) if there are any trades happening.
Who can be drafted?
There are a lot of ways players can make it into the NBA. Draft picks had previously been getting younger and younger, until a 2006 collective bargaining agreement required that draft prospects be at least 19 years old during the year of the draft and a year removed from high school for U.S. students. If they haven’t played in college for four years, a player has to prove and declare themselves eligible as an NBA draft pick.
This means a lot of star players will go to play college basketball for at least a year until they can enter the NBA draft, which is why they’re referred to as “one-and-dones.” Some finish out college and/or are drafted after two, three, or four years. It’s becoming more common for players to play in college longer, both to get their degree and to hone their skills so they’re ready for the NBA league.
Not everyone who declares eligibility makes it into the NBA draft, though. Check out these top 25 NBA draft withdrawals. This year, 92% of the 156 underclassmen who declared for the NBA draft have withdrawn and will return to school to hone their skills, improve their record, and continue learning the game.
So, who do we expect to be the top projected picks for the NBA draft in 2020?
1. Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
Anthony Edwards is considered to be the first pick for the NBA 2020 season. He’s just a freshman, and he was originally set to graduate high school in 2020. He’s one of the youngest players for this draft, and he doesn’t have the polish of some other players, but pickers are definitely recognizing his talent and potential.
This 6’5”, 225-pound guard has unmatched power and speed, while still able to control his finishes. He’s done a lot at the foul line for his first four games at Georgia, which has demonstrated his cool-under-pressure attitude. Although he still needs to develop some decision-making skills on the court, draft pickers will leverage him for his longevity of talent and abilities.
Check out this story to learn about Ant-Man’s origins and how he rose to the top two draft picks so quickly.
2. Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
Cole Anthony, the Knicks’ potential top pick, is a powerful point guard with a strong offense. In his NC State debut against Notre Dame, he scored 36 points, and he’s continued to show high-scoring skills, vertical leaping, and game ownership since then. Although he dominates the ball, he’s grown increasingly good at balancing scoring with playmaking, which is making him a force to be reckoned with.
Anthony has strong confidence in himself and a range of skills that scouts have been keeping an eye on. He’s already proven himself at camps, earning a gold medal in USA basketball in 2018 and MVP showings at 2019’s Nike Hoop Summit, McDonald’s All-American Game, and Jordan Brand Classic. With his potential to be an all-star, he’s a safe bet for top five draft picks in 2020.
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3. Theo Maledon, PG, France
Maledon is a skillful point guard who uses smooth movements and playmaking to get the job done. Rather than a selfish point-seeker, he’s more about building a strong team, which a lot of coaches are looking for this year. He’s less about the “explosion” of a point guard and more about carefully calculating the next successful move, pointing to effortless basketball leadership skills. He’s been considered a pro-level draft pick after great performances at the Jordan Brand international game and FIBA, as well as being a starter in the Jeep Elite league and Eurocup at just 17 years old.
4. Deni Avdija, SF/PF, Israel
Avdija is definitely one of the top draft picks following his incredible MVP performance at the U20 European Championships. He helped carry the team to a gold medal with 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.4 blocks, and 2.1 steals, demonstrating his range.
He’s an accomplished player with a lot of experience in every role on the court. For some, this makes him too versed without one specialty, but others see his improving defense meeting his strong offensive game intelligence as a sign of a highly-valuable player. He’s fun to watch, he carries victories on his back, and we think he’d probably be a likely player to help come back from behind and show up for a huge upset in the last few minutes if need be.
5. Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn
Isaac Okoro from Auburn is one of the best defensive players on this list, while also offering effortful offensive versatility. His stats don’t seem as high as other players because he’s more about setting up shots, passing, and fighting the good fight to establish plays that are going to rack up the points. His guard game is “on point,” able to guard just about anyone that hits the court with what seems like ease. He isn’t just a great player in his own right, but he also makes the other players on the team stronger as well. Okoro is definitely someone to keep your eye on.
Recommended read: Most Outstanding NCAA Basketball Scores
6. Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
Nico Mannion, now with the Wildcats, is one of the top draft prospects—and for good reason. From his 23 points and 9 assists during the Illinois game, to the 28 points and 5 assists at the Nike Hoop Summit, Mannion has proved himself a successful offensive player. Nico Mannion needed March Madness to boost his stock a bit, and he seems to be validating himself more and more each time he plays.
Mannion has made his name known with his accurate pull-ups, spot-ups, screens, and step-backs. He’s admired for his balance of shooting (i.e. scoring) and passing, while he’s able to effortlessly evade one-on-one guarding. His defensive abilities have come into question, as his height and weight (6’3”, 190 pounds) seem to limit his abilities against explosive point guards. He doesn’t “burst” with energy, but his low and slow game gets the job done effectively. His appeal on offense is hard to resist, and we expect him to be a later pick in the draft.
7. LaMelo Ball, PG/SG, Illawarra Hawks (Australia)
LaMelo Ball has a lot of hype, so scouts are looking to see if he can deliver. Since he’s out in Australia, this 17-year-old is hoping to be a young scout this year. Still, his shot at the NBA this year is rare (though likely) since he has no FIBA experience and hasn’t played in any of the high school All-Star showcases. Scouts are hoping to assess his professionalism and offense in the coming months to ensure he finds the right footing in the NBA.
This 6’6” point guard has a coordinated layup with high-level shots, and he’s fixing to make an incredible playmaker. Although there are some concerns about his decision making, inconsistent shooting, and on-ball defense, we hope to see this strong player come overseas to American basketball. There are a lot of critics of his style, but we’re huge fans.
8. Jaden McDaniels, PF, Washington
Jaden McDaniels is able to easily switch from offensive ball-handling to smooth defensive concentration. These talents are only growing sharper, and we anticipate his next (and last) season at Washington to hone these skills further. His execution isn’t always consistent, but his baskets seem effortless. His talent alone would put him in the top draft picks, but concerns over his ability to show up in the long-haul of the game may put him later in the draft.
9. Isaiah Joe, SG, Arkansas
Isaiah Joe, with the Razorbacks, has quickly been put on the radar at the beginning of his sophomore year. He has stunning accuracy when it comes to hitting three-pointers, with a deep range that’s fun to watch. He’s heavy on the threes, with nearly 65% of his shot attempts behind the line. This means he’s going to be a fit for a team looking for a knockout in the backcourt. His passing and defense may need development, but we don’t think this will stop him from being a top draft pick in 2020.
Recommended Read: Check out the story of Pete Maravich, the highest-scoring player of all time, before there was even a 3-point line.
Get Ready For the Draft
Who’s your top pick for the 2020 NBA draft? Is anyone from your school eligible or declared? Shop for your campus colors to support your team and your players—and get in the spirit for the 2020-21 NCAA Basketball season!