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The NBA draft is a staple of the league’s summer offseason. However, this year, it’s likely not going to occur until the fall.
On Friday, the NBPA announced its approval of the NBA’s return-to-play plan, which includes a resumption of the 2019-20 season for 22 teams. Under this format, the draft lottery wouldn’t take place until late August, with the draft not happening until mid-October.
The three teams that will have a 14 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick are the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves. Five other teams’ seasons are also over: the Atlanta Hawks (12.5 percent chance of landing No. 1 pick), Detroit Pistons (10.5 percent), New York Knicks (9 percent), Chicago Bulls (7.5 percent) and Charlotte Hornets (6 percent).
The other six lottery teams won’t be decided until after the NBA finishes its regular season.
In the meantime, here’s a mock of how the first round of this year’s draft could unfold (teams ordered from worst record to best), followed by a closer look at the three teams with the best odds to land the No. 1 pick.
NBA Mock Draft, 1st Round
1. Golden State Warriors: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
2. Cleveland Cavaliers: James Wiseman, C, Memphis
3. Minnesota Timberwolves: LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawarra Hawks
4. Atlanta Hawks: Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC
5. Detroit Pistons: Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton
6. New York Knicks: Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm
7. Chicago Bulls: Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
8. Charlotte Hornets: Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv
9. Washington Wizards: Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn
10. Phoenix Suns: Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State
11. San Antonio Spurs: RJ Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers
12. Sacramento Kings: Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
14. Portland Trail Blazers: Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State
15. Orlando Magic: Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn Nets): Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis
17. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies): Patrick Williams, PF, Florida State
18. Dallas Mavericks: Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington
19. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers): Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL
20. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers): Jaden McDaniels, SF/PF, Washington
21. Denver Nuggets (via Houston Rockets): Josh Green, SG, Arizona
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City Thunder): Jalen Smith, PF, Maryland
23. Miami Heat: Vernon Carey Jr., PF/C, Duke
24. Utah Jazz: Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver Nuggets): Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Olympiacos
26. Boston Celtics: Leandro Bolmaro, SF, FC Barcelona
27. New York Knicks (via Los Angeles Clippers): Tre Jones, PG, Duke
28. Toronto Raptors: Xavier Tillman, PF, Michigan State
29. Los Angeles Lakers: Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks): Jahmi’us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech
Teams Most Likely to Land No. 1 Pick
Golden State Warriors
After reaching the NBA Finals each of the previous five seasons (and winning three championships during that span), the Golden State Warriors took a major step back this year, going an NBA-worst 15-50. Injuries played a big role in that, as Klay Thompson missed the entire season and Stephen Curry was limited to five games.
If Curry and Thompson return to form in 2020-21, then the Warriors could be set up to have a quick turnaround, especially considering they’re set up to add one of the top players from this year’s draft class.
Georgia shooting guard Anthony Edwards is the current favorite to be selected with the No. 1 pick, and he could be a nice fit in Golden State. After losing Kevin Durant in free agency last year, the Warriors could use a talented wing player to complement Curry and Thompson in their lineup.
According to The Athletic’s Anthony Slater, Golden State has yet to set up a pre-draft meeting with Edwards. But with extra time before the draft, that could change, especially if the Warriors are lucky in the lottery and will be the first team on the clock this year.
Since losing to the Warriors in the NBA Finals in 2018, and losing LeBron James in free agency that summer, the Cavaliers have been in a rebuilding phase, looking to construct a new core. And although they were on pace to have more wins this season than the year before, they still struggled, going 19-46.
Cleveland has a pair of young guards to build around in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, who it drafted last year with the No. 5 overall pick. And although it likely has its starting post players in place for next season (Andre Drummond and Kevin Love), it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Cavs pursue a big man to add to their young core in this year’s draft.
One of the top frontcourt players available in the draft is Memphis center James Wiseman, who could benefit from a smaller role to begin his NBA career after playing only three games at the college level. While Drummond and Love start, Wiseman could come off the bench, gain experience and learn from a pair of veterans.
It’s possible the Cavaliers would go a different route if they land the No. 1 pick (perhaps taking Edwards or top point guard LaMelo Ball), but Wiseman could be available if their selection is elsewhere in the top five, making it the most logical move for them.
In the past 16 seasons, the Timberwolves have only made the playoffs once (in 2018), and they lost their only series during that appearance. This season, they went 19-45, a clear step back after winning 36 games the year before.
Although Minnesota is going to be picking early in the draft, it already has a few strong players to build around in point guard D’Angelo Russell and center Karl-Anthony Towns. By adding one of the top players in the draft class, the Timberwolves could be in position to make positive strides as soon as next season.
A fun possibility to think about is Minnesota being in position to draft LaMelo Ball, who it could pair with Russell in the backcourt. Ball is an exciting prospect who teams could want to trade up to try to acquire, so it might take some lottery fortune for the Timberwolves to land the 18-year-old point guard.
If Ball does begin his NBA career in Minnesota, though, he has the potential to form a dominant trio with Russell and Towns that could help the Timberwolves get on the right track in the near future.