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NBA draft: Our experts’ A grades and bold predictions 

Who won the 2020 NBA draft? After the top three picks went off the board in the predicted order — Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves), James Wiseman (Golden State Warriors) and LaMelo Ball (Charlotte Hornets) — the draft started to see some surprise picks later on.

Which teams get an A grade? What were the biggest surprises and disappointments? Our NBA experts answer the big questions and make bold predictions coming out of the draft.

More: NBA draft pick-by-pick analysis | NBA trade tracker


You get to give out one A grade. Who gets it?

Jonathan Givony: The Charlotte Hornets. LaMelo Ball is the best prospect in the draft. Landing him with the No. 3 pick is a huge coup for a franchise that desperately needs some excitement. A lot of work will need to be done to surround him with the right players while Ball develops his frame, defense, jumper and on-court decision-making. But you can’t teach his creativity and star power.

Bobby Marks: The Philadelphia 76ers, who once again taught us that no contract is unmovable in the NBA. They started the night by sending the $60 million of what was guaranteed of Al Horford‘s contract to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Danny Green and Terrance Ferguson. The trade cost the Sixers a future first-rounder and pick No. 34 but saved them close to $20 million in tax penalties this season.

In the draft, the 76ers selected Tyrese Maxey and then traded Josh Richardson and the No. 36 pick to the Dallas Mavericks for Seth Curry. The 76ers not only solved their financial woes but also balanced out the roster. A solid night for new head of basketball operations Daryl Morey.

Kevin Pelton: The Sacramento Kings. I liked the way the Kings let the draft come to them under new GM Monte McNair, something Sacramento hasn’t often done in the past. The Kings were there to stop Tyrese Haliburton’s unexpected slide at No. 12 and landed a pair of second-rounders below where they were projected in our mock draft: 3-and-D wing Robert Woodard II with the 40th pick (after trading down from No. 35) and high-scoring Texas Tech guard Jahmi’us Ramsey at No. 43.


What’s your bold prediction coming out of the draft?

Pelton: Precious Achiuwa plays the most minutes of any rookie in the playoffs. He’s joining a Miami team that made a deep run to last season’s NBA Finals and looks like a perfect fit playing a similar role to Bam Adebayo when Adebayo is on the bench.

Givony: I am confident saying that the 2021 NBA draft will feature significantly more star power at the top. Look for teams to do everything they can to hold on to lottery picks, as there are several players in the 2021 class who would have gotten quite a bit of interest with the No. 1 pick this year if they were eligible.


What was your biggest surprise?

Pelton: That teams continue to put so much value on pure centers in the draft. We’ll see whether Phoenix thinks Jalen Smith (No. 10) can play both frontcourt spots, and the same with Isaiah Stewart going 16th to Detroit. It also looks like Onyeka Okongwu (No. 6) might play some power forward in Atlanta next to Clint Capela. Still, add in James Wiseman and that’s four of the top 16 picks used on players who will see at least part of their action at center. I’m surprised their value remains so high when centers are easily signed in free agency.

Givony: Freshmen in Patrick Williams and Isaac Okoro being picked ahead of more proven players such as Obi Toppin, Deni Avdija and Tyrese Haliburton. I really thought NBA teams were turning the corner in terms of valuing production over potential, but tonight showed that physical tools and upside are still king when it comes to the top of the draft. You won’t find a bigger fan of Okoro than me, but time will tell how those picks turn out.

Marks: That the Celtics did not package all three first-round picks to move up into the top 10. Yes, it takes two to tango when it comes to making a trade, but this is the second year in a row that the Celtics have had three first-round picks and struck out moving up or trading for an established player.


What did you find most disappointing?

Pelton: Cassius Winston dropping to No. 53. It seems like we do this almost every year with a veteran point guard who has proved he can play at the NCAA level. Put Winston in the same category as Fred VanVleet, who went undrafted, and No. 51 pick Monte Morris — both of whom, like Winston, shined in my statistical projections despite their age.

Givony: After the buildup of trade talk in the lead-up to the draft, it was a little anticlimactic to see zero picks moved in the top 12. That just goes to show you how much teams value lottery picks, even in what’s considered a relatively weak draft.

Marks: The missing New York crowd. The hospitality on the ESPN campus was great, but it was not the same as the energy of the Barclays Center. It would have been great to see the Knicks fans react when their team selected Obi Toppin at No. 8.


Who is your early Rookie of the Year favorite?

Marks: Obi Toppin. While there will be a learning curve with Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball, Toppin should see significant playing time for new head coach Tom Thibodeau, especially if Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson are gone in free agency.

Givony: LaMelo Ball. Ball will have every opportunity to put up big numbers in Charlotte, even if he struggles with efficiency early on and the team still has work to do surrounding him with enough shooters and finishers to take advantage of his prodigious passing.

Pelton: Anthony Edwards. The No. 1 pick is the safest bet here. Half of the past 12 Rookie of the Year award winners were taken with the first selection. Edwards probably has a bit more competition for points than most, since he’s joining a team with D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns, but I suspect he’ll find a way to get his.


Which rookie matchup can you not wait to watch?

Givony: Killian Hayes vs. Tyrese Haliburton

Hayes going five spots ahead of Haliburton was one of the biggest surprises for me on draft night. I’ll be fascinated to see how their careers look, even though Hayes will surely be in a much better position to put up numbers early on playing for a Detroit team without much established talent.

Pelton: LaMelo Ball vs. Anthony Edwards

I don’t know if they’ll match up in the traditional sense of guarding each other, but I think Ball and Edwards are the two players who are going to be linked from this draft as presumably the two finalists to go No. 1 overall. Surely Timberwolves fans will be watching closely to see whether their team made the right choice.

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