2020 NBA Draft

Hornets Notes: Player Development, Draft, Needs

The 25-47 Wizards finished the 2019/20 season with a lower winning percentage than the 23-42 Hornets, but because the Wizards were ahead of Charlotte in the standings as of March 11, they earned an invite to the 22-team restart in Orlando. The Hornets, having been left out of the restart, are at a significant developmental disadvantage as a result, in the view of general manager Mitch Kupchak.

“All those young players got to Orlando and started practicing. It was almost like their second year,” Kupchak told Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “If nothing comes about for us, and we start our season in December or whatever, when our players step on the court that will become the beginning of their second season. For the teams in Orlando, when they step back on their court, it will be basically the feeling of a third season.”

While the teams in Orlando have been able to participate in group workouts, intra-squad and inter-squad scrimmages, and eight seeding games apiece, the Hornets have been limited to individual workouts in recent months. Kupchak tells Bonnell that there has been good attendance at the team’s practice facility, but suggests it’s not easy to keep players motivated when their options are so limited.

“We’re trying to keep them, as best we can, interested,” Kupchak said. “Just imagine that all you can do is take jump shots for five months. That’s all you’re allowed to do. That’s going to get boring. It’s hard to keep their interest.

“… We’re hopeful that there will still be some structure coming our way,” Kupchak continued, referring to ongoing plans for OTAs for the league’s bottom eight teams. “But it’s been tough. Our young guys understand that health-and-safety is No. 1. But as a young person with a game like basketball that you love to play, it’s hard. They want to work, they want to get better.”

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • Not participating in the restart may negatively impact the Hornets’ player development, but it’s improving their draft outlook. Charlotte will hold better lottery odds than the Wizards because the bottom eight teams were locked into their spots prior to the restart. Additionally, as Bonnell writes for The Charlotte Observer, the Hornets are now assured of receiving the Celtics’ second-round pick, which was top-53 protected. It’ll be either No. 56 or 57.
  • In a mailbag for The Observer, Bonnell addresses questions about Malik Monk‘s remaining upside, the idea of DeMar DeRozan as a potential Hornets trade target, and the possibility that Jalen McDaniels will take on a larger role next season, among other topics.
  • Within that same mailbag, Bonnell identifies a dynamic wing player, a rim-protecting big man, and a long-range shooter as the Hornets’ biggest offseason needs.

And-Ones: NBA Finals, Coaching Award, Draft, Goudelock

The NBA has established dates for each game of the 2020 Finals, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The tentative dates could potentially be moved up if both the Eastern and Western Conference Semifinals end early, but for now the plan is tip off this year’s Finals on Wednesday, September 30, with Game 7 landing on Tuesday, October 13.

As Charania details, there would be one day off between every pair of games except for Games 4 and 5, which would take place on Oct. 6 and Oct. 9, giving teams one extra day of rest.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • After announcing earlier this week that it will name an All-Bubble Team and the Player of the Bubble, the NBA said on Wednesday night that there will also be an award for Coach of the Bubble, tweets Chris Mannix of SI.com. Monty Williams (Suns) and Jacque Vaughn (Nets) are among the top contenders for that honor, which will be announced on Saturday.
  • Jonathan Givony, Mike Schmitz, Kevin Pelton, and Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) provide an update on the draft, examining the challenges facing teams evaluating talent and how clubs’ philosophies may be altered as a result of the unusual pre-draft process. According to Givony, due to uncertainty about finances and the G League, some executives say they’ve been seeking out potential second-rounders who would be willing to play overseas rather than signing in the NBA right away.
  • David Aldridge and John Hollinger of The Athletic explore the challenges facing the NBA as it plans its 2020/21 season. We’ve previously touched on some of those logistical and coronavirus-related issues here and here.
  • Former NBA guard Andrew Goudelock, who appeared in 49 games for the Lakers and Rockets between 2011-16, has signed a new contract with Rytas Vilnius in Lithuania, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Goudelock has also spent time with teams in Israel, China, and Italy since last playing in the NBA.

Sixers Assured Of Receiving OKC’s 2020 First-Round Pick

The Thunder‘s last-minute win over the Heat on Wednesday assured that Oklahoma City will send its 2020 first-round pick to the Sixers, as Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets.

That selection had been top-20 protected, and the Thunder had been hovering around the league’s 10th-best record since even before the season was suspended in March. Currently, Oklahoma City is tied with Houston at 44-27, meaning the pick projects to land at either No. 23 or 24, as our reverse standings show.

If OKC loses its final seeding game on Friday against the Clippers, the pick could end up as high as No. 21. However, it can’t get to No. 20, since the Heat and Pacers (both currently 44-28) will play each other on Friday, guaranteeing that at least one of those teams will finish with a worse record than the Thunder. As such, the top-20 protection won’t apply.

The pick will be an important asset this offseason for the 76ers, since they previously traded their own 2020 first-round pick to the Clippers (who flipped it to Brooklyn). If the Thunder’s first-rounder had landed in the top 20, Philadelphia would have instead received OKC’s 2022 and 2023 second-round picks.

The Sixers originally acquired the Thunder first-rounder in 2016 in exchange for Jerami Grant. Philadelphia sent it to Orlando during the 2017 draft to acquire Anzejs Pasecniks‘s rights, but later acquired it back in its 2019 Markelle Fultz trade with the Magic.

And-Ones: Edwards, Gillespie, Westphal, Williams

Georgia freshman guard Anthony Edwards is the lukewarm favorite to be chosen with the No. 1 overall pick this offseason but opinions about his game vary widely, as Sam Vecenie of The Athletic notes. In a poll of eight college coaches, some believe Edwards will be a perennial All-Star in the mold of Bradley Beal. One of the coaches that Vecenie spoke to believes he might be nothing more than an average role player. Edwards’ ability in pick-and-rolls makes him at least a top-five player in this class, Vecenie concludes.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Baylor power forward Freddie Gillespie has interviewed with half of the teams in the league, including his hometown Timberwolves, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. Gillespie is considered a marginal second-round prospect. He’s currently ranked No. 73 overall by ESPN and 15th among players at his position.
  • Hall of Fame guard Paul Westphal has been diagnosed with brain cancer, former ESPN Sports Reporters host Mike Lupica tweets. The 69-year-old Westphal, who was inducted last year, also coached Phoenix, Seattle and Sacramento after his playing career ended in 1984.
  • Victor Williams has been named CEO of NBA Africa, according to a league press release. Williams, an investment banking executive with extensive experience growing businesses across the U.S. and Africa, will be based in the league’s Johannesburg office. In this newly-created role, Williams will oversee the league’s basketball and business development initiatives in Africa.

2020 NBA Draft Lottery To Be Held Virtually

As expected, the 2020 NBA draft lottery won’t take its usual form, with representatives from the 14 lottery teams all brought to a single location where the league reveals the results. Instead, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), it’ll be a virtual event, with reps from the lottery teams appearing via video.

This year’s draft lottery, originally scheduled to be held on May 19, will now take place on August 20, next Thursday. We checked in on the lottery last week, noting that the top eight spots in the lottery standings are locked in, having been filled by the league’s bottom eight teams as of March 11.

Since then, the Wizards have secured the ninth spot in the lottery standings by virtue of being eliminated from playoff contention in Orlando.

The remaining spots in the lottery standings, Nos. 10-14, will be filled by the Kings, Pelicans, and the three other Western teams that don’t ultimately make the playoffs. They’ll be sorted based on their record as of March 11, so the Suns would have the 10th-best odds if they don’t make the postseason, while the Grizzlies would have the 14th-best odds if they don’t make it.

The Warriors, Cavaliers, and Timberwolves will have the best chance to land the No. 1 overall pick, at 14.0% each. Once the lottery order has been determined, teams can start ramping up their preparations for the draft, which will take place on October 16.

2020 NBA Draft Lottery Update

The 2020 NBA draft lottery, originally scheduled for May 19, will now take place on August 20, two weeks from today. Besides happening three months later than usual, this year’s lottery also figures to look a little different, since the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will almost certainly make it impossible for the NBA to bring representatives from the bottom 14 teams to a single location.

As we wait to see what the league has in mind for this year’s event, here are a few updates and reminders on the 2020 NBA draft lottery:

The bottom eight teams are already locked into their lottery spots

Much has been made in the last 24 hours about the Wizards (24-44), who are participating in the NBA’s summer restart, slipping below the inactive Hornets (23-42) in the Eastern Conference standings.

Fortunately for Hornets fans – and unfortunately for Wizards backers – the lottery odds for those two teams won’t hinge on which team finishes with the better overall record. For the NBA’s bottom eight teams, one silver lining of not getting an invite to Orlando this summer for the restart is that their spot in the top eight of the lottery has been locked in, based on the league standings as of March 11.

The Hornets will have the eighth-best odds and the Bulls will have the seventh-best odds even if the Wizards go 0-8 this summer and fall below both teams in the standings.

The race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference could impact the lottery odds

With the non-Orlando teams frozen in the top eight lottery positions, the other six spots will be determined by two factors:

  • Which six teams in Orlando don’t make the playoffs.
  • What their records were as of March 11.

This is great news for a team like Phoenix. Having won their first three games in Orlando – as the Grizzlies lost their first four – the Suns are very much alive in the race for the No. 8 seed in the West. It will still take a strong finish and some luck for the Suns to qualify for a play-in tournament, but let’s suppose they do.

In that scenario, if the Suns win the play-in tournament and earn a postseason spot, their first-round pick would be 15th overall, best among the playoff teams, since they entered the hiatus with a 26-39 record, worse than Orlando or Brooklyn.

If they were to lose a play-in tournament, Phoenix would end up with the 10th-best lottery odds, ahead of the rest of Orlando’s non-playoff teams besides the Wizards, who were the only one of the 22 invited teams with a worse record than the Suns as of March 11.

Essentially, if you want to determine the back half of the lottery standings, you just have to sort the 22 teams in Orlando by their March 11 records, from worst to first, then remove the 16 teams that end up in the playoffs.

The Grizzlies could theoretically still keep their first-round pick

The Grizzlies owe their 2020 first-round pick to the Celtics, but it includes top-six protection.

As long as Memphis makes the playoffs, that protection doesn’t really matter — Boston would receive the pick. However, with the Grizzlies’ hold on the No. 8 seed slipping, there’s still an outside chance that they could keep the pick.

Let’s say Memphis falls out of the No. 8 spot and either loses a play-in tournament or altogether misses out on qualifying for a play-in. In that scenario, the Grizzlies would enter the lottery with the 14th-best odds, since they had a better record on March 11 than any of their fellow lottery teams. That would give them a 2.4% chance at moving into the top four, where their pick would be protected.

Those aren’t good odds. In all likelihood, missing the playoffs would just mean the Grizzlies sent the Celtics the No. 14 pick instead of a selection in the 15-17 range. Still, the outside chance at another top pick would at least be a small silver lining if Memphis can’t grab that No. 8 spot. If the Grizzlies do hang onto this year’s pick, they’d owe Boston an unprotected first-rounder in 2021.

Over in the East, the Nets owe a lottery-protected pick to the Timberwolves and would keep it if they fall out of the postseason. However, the Wizards’ struggles have essentially ruled out that possibility. One more Brooklyn win or Washington loss will ensure that the Nets make the playoffs and send their pick to Minnesota.

Current lottery odds

Listed here are the odds for the teams not invited to Orlando, who will hold the top eight spots in the lottery standings.

The numbers in the chart indicate percentages, so the Warriors, for example, have a 14% chance of landing the No. 1 pick and a 47.9% chance of ending up at No. 5. If a team’s odds are listed as >0, that percentage is below 0.1%.

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
GSW 14 13.4 12.7 12 47.9
CLE 14 13.4 12.7 12 27.8 20
MIN 14 13.4 12.7 12 14.8 26 7.1
ATL 12.5 12.2 11.9 11.5 7.2 25.7 16.8 2.2
DET 10.5 10.5 10.6 10.5 2.2 19.6 26.7 8.8 0.6
NYK 9 9.2 9.4 9.6 8.6 29.6 20.6 3.8 0.2
CHI 7.5 7.8 8.1 8.5 19.7 34.1 12.9 1.3 >0
CHA 6 6.3 6.7 7.2 34.5 32.1 6.7 0.4 >0

The tentative odds for the bottom six spots, assuming the Grizzlies hang onto the No. 8 seed, can be found right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NCAA’s Early Entrant Withdrawal Deadline Has Passed

The NCAA’s deadline for early entrants to withdraw from the 2020 NBA draft pool has passed — players had until midnight eastern time on Monday (August 3) to decide whether or not to keep their names in the draft.

That deadline applied to college freshmen, sophomores, and juniors (or seniors with eligibility remaining) who decided to test the draft waters before automatically becoming draft-eligible in a future season. As long as they didn’t sign with a non-NCAA-certified agent, those players were able to weigh their decisions up until Monday night.

As our early entrant tracker shows, we’re still waiting for confirmation one way or the other on a small handful of players, but decisions for most college early entrants have been reported and/or announced. Approximately 65 college early entrants decided to remain in the draft, while about 90 pulled out.

The NCAA’s early entrant withdrawal deadline – which had originally been scheduled for June 3 before the coronavirus pandemic forced it to be pushed back by two months – only really applies to college players.

The NBA’s own withdrawal deadline doesn’t arrive until October 6, so a player who has decided to remain in the draft can still pull out before then, and many international early entrants will do just that. But if a college player withdraws from the draft between now and October 6, he won’t be able to recover his NCAA eligibility.

Interestingly, due to pandemic-related postponements, the deadline for early entrants to declare for the draft won’t arrive until August 17. That means that a college early entrant who declared for the draft in the spring and withdrew before Monday’s deadline could theoretically still re-enter if he has a change of heart over the next two weeks. If he does so though, he’ll forgo his remaining NCAA eligibility.

Since the August 3 deadline was the NCAA’s and not the NBA’s, we may not get an official update from the league this week on 2020’s early entrants. For now, we’ll have to rely on our unofficial tracker — the next update from the NBA will likely be issued sometime after its new August 17 early entry deadline passes.

The 2020 NBA draft will occur on October 16.

Draft Notes: Watford, Pons, Petty, Tillman

LSU forward Trendon Watford has decided to withdraw from the draft, Adam Zagoria of the New York Times tweets. The 6’9” Watford is currently ranked No. 73 overall among draft prospects by ESPN. He joins Tigers teammates Darius Days and Javonte Smart, who also opted to pull out of the draft, giving the Tigers a strong group of returnees.

We have more draft decisions with the early entrant withdrawal deadline approaching at midnight ET on Monday:

Xavier Tillman, Nate Darling Staying In Draft

Michigan State big man Xavier Tillman has decided to remain in the 2020 NBA draft and hire an agent, forgoing his remaining college eligibility, the school announced in a press release.

Tillman’s decision doesn’t come as a major surprise, since he’s regarded as a solid candidate to be drafted this fall, ranking 40th on ESPN’s big board of 2020 prospects. As a junior in 2019/20, Tillman averaged a double-double in 31 games (32.1 MPG) for the Spartans, recording 13.7 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, and 2.1 BPG. He was also named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

In a more surprising move, Delaware guard Nate Darling is also keeping his name in the 2020 draft and will go pro, he announced on Twitter.

Darling, who doesn’t show up on ESPN’s top-100 list, appears less likely to be drafted than Tillman, but he had a strong junior year after transferring from Alabama-Birmingham to Delaware. The 6’5″ Canadian led the Blue Hens in scoring with 21.0 PPG on .446/.399/.854 shooting in 32 games (38.3 MPG).

Monday represents the deadline for early entrants in the 2020 draft to withdraw and retain their NCAA eligibility going forward. We passed along updates this morning on several players who have pulled out of the draft within the last day or two.

Since then, at least a couple more prospects have withdrawn. One player who is removing his name from consideration is NJIT guard Zach Cooks, his head coach Brian Kennedy tells Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link). Cooks will be back for his senior season after averaging 19.7 PPG and 5.2 RPG in 2019/20.

Meanwhile, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reports (via Twitter) that Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert is also withdrawing from the draft and returning to school, joining teammate Joel Ayayi among Zags who will be back with the team next season after testing the draft waters.

Jared Butler, Aaron Henry Among Prospects Withdrawing From Draft

A pair of early-entry prospects who were ranked within the top 60 on ESPN’s big board have pulled out of the draft in advance of Monday’s withdrawal deadline.

Baylor guard Jared Butler was one of those two players, announcing in a Twitter video on Monday morning that he has decided to return to the Bears for his junior year. Butler explained his decision in a conversation with ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

“After going through this process, making an important decision for the rest of my life, I truly felt like I couldn’t go wrong with either decision,” Butler said. “It came down to making the most out of my development as a player and as an adult. In the end I felt like coming back to school would set me up in both aspects in a way that I couldn’t deny. Even though the opportunity to reach my dream of playing in the NBA was readily at hand, I think next year it will still be there, possibly even with greater opportunities.”

Butler emerged as Baylor’s leading scorer in 2019/20 as a sophomore, averaging 16.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.1 APG, and 1.6 SPG in 30 games (30.4 MPG). He also showed improvement on his outside shot, making 38.1% of 6.7 three-point attempts per contest. He came in at No. 46 on Givony’s top-100 list at ESPN.com, making him a strong candidate to be drafted had he decided to go pro.

Meanwhile, Michigan State swingman Aaron Henry has also decided to withdraw from the draft after testing the waters, as Givony writes in a separate story. Henry had been the No. 55 prospect on ESPN’s big board.

Henry’s numbers as a sophomore in 2019/20 were somewhat modest — 10.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 2.9 APG in 30 games (29.1 MPG). However, Givony describes him as a “long, athletic wing with strong two-way potential” and points out that he’s in position to take on a larger role for a Spartans team that won’t have Cassius Winston back next season.

“Cassius leaves big shoes to fill. He was asked to do everything for Michigan State,” Henry told ESPN. “I’m hoping to step into a bigger role with the ball in my hands. Things will definitely look different. Everyone is going to need to step up and be a piece to the puzzle. NBA teams want to see me in a bigger role. They want to see me be the man on a team. I’m not afraid of that. Let’s get to it.”

Here are a few more early entrants who tested the waters and have now pulled out of the draft ahead of Monday’s withdrawal deadline: