NBA Draft Grades: Hornets Strike Gold With LaMelo Ball Selection

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Perhaps there was no true headliner entering the 2020 NBA draft, but the league’s 30 teams selected from group of quality contributors on Wednesday night. The Warriors got their center of the future while the Hornets snagged a franchise anchor, and even teams in the 20s landed likely assets for the coming seasons. There was minimal fanfare surrounding No. 1, and no true blockbuster arose over the course of the night. Yet that doesn’t necessarily equate to a disappointing draft. The depth of this year’s class makes it one of the more intriguing groups in recent memory.

So which teams shined and which teams faltered in Wednesday’s draft? Check out The Crossover’s 2020 draft grades below:

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Minnesota Timberwolves: B

The upside of Anthony Edwards is obvious as he joins the Timberwolves. The Georgia product is the premier athletic talent in the draft, and he could make a defensive impact from the jump. But it’s hard not to wonder just how effectively Minnesota can bring the most out of Edwards. He displayed a questionable motor in college, and joining Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell won’t exactly challenge his intensity. The Timberwolves were put in a tough position as neither James Wiseman nor LaMelo Ball presented a positional fit. Betting on a wing talent like Edwards is likely the sensible move, even if he’s anything but a sure bet.

Golden State Warriors: B+

Golden State was wise to hold its pick considering there was no true star available, and James Wiseman provides both a short-term and long-term benefit. The Memphis product should bring a legitimate impact as a shot-blocker and rim-runner as a rookie, and he has the skill-set to potentially emerge as a future franchise building block. It’s hard to shake the feeling that Wiseman would have been the top pick if he logged a normal college season. He could very well end up the best player in this draft.

Charlotte Hornets: A-

Michael Jordan has suffered his fair share of whiffs early in the lottery. Will LaMelo Ball be the next? It’s unlikely. Ball brings a legitimate floor with his other-worldly court vision, and there’s All-NBA upside at play considering his range and size. Concerns about Ball’s defense feel a touch overblown. His shot selection will refine with time. There will be plenty of streaky stretches as a rookie, but Ball has the talent to finish as the clear top pick in retrospect.

Chicago Bulls: B

Chicago’s selection was our first surprise of the night, but for a team with no real positional need, perhaps betting on Patrick Williams’s upside was a worthy decision. The Florida State product is one of the most physically imposing forwards in the draft, and he has some legitimate stretch for a larger forward. Williams’s size and physicality should make him a natural fit next to Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. Arturas Karnisovas’s first selection should be a productive player, even if his ceiling remains a touch underwhelming.

Cleveland Cavaliers: C

Isaac Okoro is one of the best defenders in the draft, and he’ll fit easily into a roster led by a trio of ball-dominant guards. But tying this selection to the presumed futures of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland may not be the most sensible move. Neither guard projects to be an All-NBA talent, and while Okoro stabilizes this team’s floor, Cleveland’s ceiling remains in question. Okoro will likely be a productive player if his jumper stabilizes even a little bit. But it’s surprising Cleveland didn’t eye an offensive talent like Obi Toppin or Deni Avdija with this pick.

Atlanta Hawks: A-

James Wiseman has the potential to be the best player in this draft, though he might end up as the No. 2 center when all is said and done. Onyeka Okongwu provides elite defensive skills both on the block and on the perimeter, displaying a fluidity and athleticism matched by few players his size. Okongwu’s offensive skill set remains a bit raw. But it’s hard to find a better long-term defensive anchor alongside Trae Young. Don’t be surprised if Clint Capela’s time in Atlanta is short lived if Okongwu develops quickly.

Detroit Pistons: B+

The Pistons have felt like a franchise stuck in mud for far too long, with the wish to reach the playoffs hampering the chance at any real progress. Good on Detroit for recognizing a rebuild is necessary. Detroit added three top-20 picks in Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey, with Hayes representing a potential franchise cornerstone in the coming years. Detroit could have swung for greater upside with its two picks after Hayes, but both Stewart and Bey should be productive players as rookie. Now let’s hope Detroit doesn’t derail its rebuild with an ill-fated trade for Russell Westbrook.

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New York Knicks: C+

There’s a lot to love about Obi Toppin, who by all accounts seems to be a high-character guy. Toppin will bring immediate professionalism to New York, and he should make a considerable offensive impact as a rookie. But does Toppin really represent the chance at a franchise anchor? The Dayton product is 22 years old, and he joins a crowded backcourt with no true point guard. Perhaps Toppin’s offensive polish can overcome the roster construction issues. But New York—and its young talent—will continue to be hampered by the lack of any legitimate floor general.

Washington Wizards: A

The Wizards were quietly one of the most entertaining teams in the league last season, and Deni Avdija should only add to the offensive excitement in the nation’s capital. Avdija is an exceptional playmaker for his size, and he should serve as a nice compliment to Rui Hachimura in the frontcourt. If John Wall returns to near his previous form in 2020-21, Washington could be home to a sneaky playoff contender.

Phoenix Suns: C-

The Suns have now made surprising lottery picks in back-to-back years after drafting Jalen Smith with the No. 10 pick on Wednesday. Smith is a skilled shooter for his size, but his lack of mobility as a defender really calls into question his viability at the four. Deandre Ayton will likely anchor the paint in the desert for much of the next decade. Will there be room for Smith? Perhaps he can become a quality backup five, but it’s hard to imagine him thriving next to Ayton. Cameron Johnson had a strong rookie year after being the surprise of the 2019 lottery. Perhaps Smith can do the same, though I wouldn’t count on it.

San Antonio Spurs: B

The Spurs have stacked their roster with young guards in recent years, making Devin Vassell a sensible addition as San Antonio transitions into a new era. He is a polished defensive product and has a reliable jumper to boot. San Antonio will have boundless length when Vassell and Dejounte Murray share the floor. Consider this pick a nice complementary asset for Gregg Popovich and Co.

Sacramento Kings: A

Tyrese Haliburton doesn’t sport the physical tools of the top players in this draft, but he could be one of the most effective pieces as a rookie. The Iowa State product is a skilled playmaker and unselfish passer, consistently bringing the best out of teammates with limited talent as a college player. Haliburton will be a nice complement to De’Aaron Fox, bringing an intelligence and craftiness that’s well suited to play alongside Sacramento’s lightning-quick star. It’s surprising Haliburton lasted this long. The Kings caught a major break as they look to break a 14-year playoff drought in 2020-21.

New Orleans Pelicans: B+

Kira Lewis was a rising name across the league in the lead-up to the draft, and he found a comfortable landing spot in New Orleans. His impressive speed will be heavily showcased as the Pelicans run the floor with Zion Williamson, and Lewis’s shot-making ability will allow him to play alongside Lonzo Ball. Lewis may not make a major impact as a rookie, but he fits well within New Orleans’s timeline. He should become a quality starter alongside Williamson in the coming years.

Boston Celtics: C+

Boston didn’t opt to find a rim protector with either first-round pick, though they did add a pair of enticing perimeter assets. Aaron Nesmith projects to be an elite shooter off the bench, while Oregon guard Payton Pritchard brings big-game experience after starting 140 games with the Ducks. Neither Nesmith nor Pritchard present the chance at landing a future All-Star. But it’s feasible we see both making contributions to a playoff team in 2020-21.

Orlando Magic: B-

The Magic remain perpetually in need of point guard help, and they took another swing with the selection of Cole Anthony at No. 15. Anthony struggled mightily at North Carolina as a freshman, but his resume as a prep player shouldn’t be ignored. Anthony is an impressive scoring talent with a smooth shooting stroke. It’s worthwhile for Orlando to pair Anthony with Markelle Fultz as it searches for its lead guard off the future.

Dallas Mavericks: A

Josh Green provides immediate help on the defensive end for Dallas, but frankly, I’m more excited about the addition of Tyrell Terry. The Stanford product is perhaps the best shooter in the draft, and he should see a slew of open threes playing alongside Luka Doncic. With Seth Curry now in Philadelphia, Terry is a quality replacement. The Mavericks continue to build around Doncic in impressive fashion.

Miami Heat: B

Precious Achiuwa is far from the most polished big in the draft, but his motor and athleticism make him a perfect fit in Miami. It’s easy to envision him in the frontcourt next to Bam Adebayo, bringing the Heat another mobile big. As the Heat tinker with their roster following a Finals appearance, Achiuwa is a worthy addition.

Philadelphia 76ers: A-

Philadelphia is beginning to re-tool its roster with Daryl Morey at the helm, and the Sixers’ draft night suggests a smooth transition into the Doc Rivers era. Philly added Seth Curry in a trade with the Mavericks, and they’ll add another quality guard with Tyrese Maxey. The Kentucky product should fit in well next to Ben Simmons, likely slotting in as a two-guard at the pro level. Maxey is tough and versatile. He should bring some much-needed pace to Philadelphia’s second unit. After a disastrous 2019-20, Morey and Rivers could very well lead the Sixers to their second Finals this century next season.

Utah Jazz: D+

Udoka Azubuike pummeled opponents in the Big 12 last season, but the Jazz’s newest center likely will have a difficult transition to the pro game. Azubuike will struggle to defend more mobile bigs, and he lacks any legitimate touch or skill on the offensive end. Perhaps the Jazz use Azubuike to spell Rudy Gobert as a lob threat and quality screener. But players of Azubuike’s ilk are really a dime a dozen. The Jazz must covet Azubuike physicality to target him with a first-round pick.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant handles the ball against New Zealand Breakers guard R.J. Hampton during an October 2019 exhibition.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant handles the ball against New Zealand Breakers guard R.J. Hampton, selected by the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night, during an October 2019 exhibition

Denver Nuggets: B+

Denver chose a pair of high-upside prospects with its two picks on Wednesday, and each have a chance to thrive in a quality environment. Arizona big man Zeke Nnaji provides immediate rebounding and shot-blocking, and he has some potential as a floor spacer. Guard R.J. Hampton is the more tantalizing piece. The New Zealand Breakers guard still faces questions regarding his jumper, but he’s an impressive athlete with quality size for a guard. If Hampton pops as a pro, he could be a perfect backcourt complement to Jamal Murray.

Oklahoma City Thunder: B

The Thunder are able to take a risk as they embark on a major rebuild, and Oklahoma City took a swing as they selected Serbian forward Aleksej Pokusevski. The Thunder reportedly are enamored by Pokusevski’s potential, and this is a franchise with more than enough time to see his development through. Perhaps Sam Presti will find an early steal amid his haul of draft picks in the coming seasons.

Toronto Raptors: B+

Malachi Flynn doesn’t have the size or skills of a future All-Star, but he’ll fit right in alongside Kyle Lowry in Toronto. The San Diego State product is as tough as any guard in this draft, and his experience should allow for a smooth transition into the NBA. The Fred VanVleet comps feel a touch lazy, though they’re not entirely misplaced. Flynn should be a quality shot-creator and two-way asset for years to come.

Memphis Grizzlies: B

The Grizzlies didn’t have a first-round pick in 2020, but they still bring in two potential contributors as Xavier Tillman and Desmond Bane join the organization. Tillman can have an immediate impact on the defensive end, and he has nice touch near the foul line and in the paint. Bane provides another ball-handler alongside Ja Morant, and he should be a productive bench piece almost immediately. Memphis continues to build in impressive fashion.

Portland Trail Blazers: C

Washington State product C.J. Elleby has an impressive shooting stroke, but he’s a bit slight with middling athleticism. This is a Portland team that needs more heft and physicality alongside its two leading guards. Elleby doesn’t provide that. Perhaps he’ll find a way to make an impact on the professional level.

Houston Rockets: C+

The son of former No. 1 pick Kenyon Martin comes to the NBA directly out of IMG Academy, where he showed impressive athleticism off the bounce. The 6’7” wing still needs to refine his jump shot, and he faces a steep learning curve ahead. But trusting the Rockets’ player development pipeline is never a bad bet. We could see Martin on an NBA floor at some point in 2020-21.

Los Angeles Clippers: B

The Clippers could have a hole in the frontcourt if Montrezl Harrell departs, and Minnesota big man Daniel Oturu could help fill the void. Oturu brings some stretch on the offensive end, and he’s a legitimate rim protector despite some mobility questions. Perhaps Oturu heads to the G League, but he could be on Los Angeles’ roster on opening night.

Indiana Pacers: B-

Duke product Cassius Stanley is one of the most electric transition scorers in the draft, and he does have a passable jump shot. Stanley brings some overlap with Victor Oladipo’s skill set, though considering his likely role, that won’t be a problem in 2020-21. Let’s see if Stanley can stick in the rotation before assessing his fit in Indiana.

Brooklyn Nets: C+

Brookyln opted to take JuCo product Jay Scrubb with their lone pick in the draft, and Scrubb does provide nice size and a solid scoring arsenal. It’s unlikely we see him on the floor in 2020-21, though there’s some potential here for a future impact player.

Milwaukee Bucks: B

Jordan Nwora joins a roster with championship expectations, and there’s a chance the Louisville product sees the floor early in his career. Nwora is a quality catch-and-shoot threat, and his basketball IQ is impressive. Bet on Mike Budenholzer to find a role for one of the ACC’s top players in 2019-20.

Los Angeles Lakers: No pick