Part 2: Eastern Conference
The NBA’s Eastern Conference has been inferior to the West for what seems like forever. However, the tide is starting to shift back year by year. The Eastern Conference has vastly improved over the last 1–2 years and the gap between the two conferences is closing.
The Eastern Conference is wide-open for the taking. This makes every move made by Eastern Conference teams that much more important. The moves that are made on Draft Night and throughout the offseason could have ripple effects that are felt for years.
Draft Night 2020 should see several moving pieces out of the Eastern Conference. These moves could be the difference between rooting for ping pong balls or watching your team in the NBA Finals.
Here are my predications for what each Eastern Conference franchise may do come Draft Night.
- Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta made a widely criticized trade two years ago that saw them give up Luka Doncic in return for Trae Young. While Trae Young is a butting superstar, Doncic has proved to be the prized possession of that 2018 draft class.
Atlanta holds the #6 pick this year and the options are endless. I have not heard much buzz around them looking to move up or back in this draft. With that in mind, the Atlanta Hawks look to be content with their #6 pick. This could land them the next piece to their puzzle to go along side Trae Young, John Collins, and Cam Reddish.
The names that project to be on the board are Isaac Okoro, Onyeka Okongwu, Obi Toppin, Patrick Williams, Aaron Nesmith, Devin Vassell amongst many, many other talented, young athletes.
I would put my money on the Hawks taking Patrick Williams to help bolster the scoring ability of their front court.
- Boston Celtics
Per usual, the Celtics boast several picks in the draft. They currently hold #14, #26 and #30 in the first round alone. A team that is notoriously successful in the draft and subsequent development of young players.
The Celtics will be involved in one of the larger trades on draft night. Per reports, they are looking to move on from Gordon Hayward. A deal that is gaining momentum would likely send Hayward and the #14 pick to the Pacers in exchange for Miles Turner, Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren.
If they do not pull the trigger on this deal, it would suggest that they value their 3 first round picks. At pick #14, they have the option to select a project player or someone that can contribute right away. I believe the Celtics will look to take the foreign born Aleksej Pokusevski with their lottery selection. As for the #26 and #30 picks, depending who is still on the board, I can see them going after the likes of Malachi Flynn from San Diego State, Leandro Bolmaro from Barcelona, or Tyrell Terry out of Stanford.
- Brooklyn Nets
The new-look Brooklyn Nets hold the #19 overall pick in this year’s draft. After acquiring Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant last season, the sky is the limit. I do not see the Nets looking to move up in this draft as they have plenty of talent to work with already.
This leads me to believe that they will hold firm at #19 and take a player they can develop. I think Cole Anthony would be a great fit here. He could learn under elite level scorers in Irving and Durant that will help his development.
They could also look at more of a project prospect. Somebody that they will have to develop for 2 or more years before seeing results. Players that come to mind at pick #19 would be Theo Maledon, RJ Hampton, or Jaden McDaniels who reminds some scouts of a young Kevin Durant.
- Charlotte Hornets
Charlotte holds the #3 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Michael Jordan and the Hornets are receiving plenty of offers for that pick. However, I believe they will keep it for themselves in hopes of selecting Memphis big man, James Wiseman.
This seems like the right fit for a Charlotte team that has drafted well the last couple of years. They now have a young core of players to build around and I anticipate they add Wiseman to that list.
- Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls finally moved out of the #7 pick where they have drafted the past 3 seasons. They moved up 3 slots to the #4 overall selection in this year’s draft. Chicago has made numerous offseason changes in their front office and coaching staff which leads me to believe that they are looking to make a major splash on draft night.
They have been rumored to be a team that is looking to move into the top 2 picks to select either LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards. However, there has also been just enough buzz surrounding the Bulls moving back in this draft to select Killian Hayes or Isaac Okoro.
I predict that the Bulls will make a significant move on draft night by trading with the Warriors to acquire the #2 overall pick. With this pick, they will target the Ball or Edwards, whichever one remains after the Timberwolves selection at #1. This would be a very exciting move for the franchise and its fans… only time will tell if the move pays off.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
The August Draft Lottery saw the Cavaliers drop the most of any team in the Lottery. They fell 3 spot to the #5 overall pick in this draft. They have been rumored as a team that is looking to move up in the draft to a top 3 pick. However, I do not think they have the assets to do so. If they were to move up into the top 3, they would likely have to part ways with Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman or Darius Garland.
That being said, I see the Cavaliers sticking it out at pick #5 and landing either Obi Toppin or Onyeka Okongwu. If they land either of these prospects, then their conservative decision will be seen as a good one.
Any draftee of the Cavaliers will have the opportunity to contribute right away so we should see the results from any draft night decision rather quickly.
- Detroit Pistons
The Pistons are a team who did not get any luck during the Lottery. They moved down 2 slots to the #7 pick in this year’s draft. With many NBA Draft analysts loving the talent between picks 6–10, I think the Pistons are in great position. They have the option to select the best fit available for their team at #7, or they could see what offers are out there if they decide to trade the pick.
Ultimately, I think Detroit sticks with #7 tried their luck with one of the young athletes that falls to them. If the draft order goes as many predict, I believe the Pistons would jump at the opportunity to select Killian Hayes, or Isaac Okoro. Both very young, athletic guards who bring energy on both ends of the floor.
Look for the Pistons to be active after the draft in trades and free agency. Blake Griffin could be on his way out of Detroit as they look to climb out of mediocrity.
- Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are a team that is poised to make moves come draft night. They have several players on the trade block. Most notably, Victor Oladipo. Recent reports are suggesting that Oladipo openly asked other teams if he could play for them in front of his Pacer teammates.
Oladipo, coming off a severe injury did not have the explosiveness we are used to seeing. However, his name still holds plenty of weight around the league. Expect Oladipo to be moved on, or shortly after draft night. The Pacers do not hold any 1st round picks, so if Oladipo is let go, expect them to move into the top 20 of this draft.
As mentioned above, they are rumored to have their eye on Gordan Hayward. If this move goes down, they will presumably own the #14 pick. With this, they could look at players like Precious Achiuwa or Patrick Williams to fill the void of the players they trade away.
- Miami Heat
The most surprising story from the 2019–20 NBA Season was the Miami Heat. The Heat gave the Lakers a run for their money in the NBA Finals. A team with a bright future, and plenty of talent to build around.
I do not see them making any headlines come draft night. Even with the buzz surrounding a possible trade for Giannis. I anticipate the Heat stick with their pick at #20 where they will have plenty of young talent to choose from.
If he is still on the board, I believe Tyrese Maxey from Kentucky would be a great fit for the ‘Heat Culture’ and could fit seamlessly into this lineup much like Tyler Herro did in his rookie season.
- Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks had the highest of aspirations after yet another dominant regular season. Led by Giannis, the Bucks floundered in the playoffs and were sent home way earlier than expected. They currently sit with the #24 pick in the draft.
I do not see the Bucks looking to trade up to a higher selection. If anything, they will trade out of the #24 pick and acquire a few 2nd round picks as they currently don’t have any. The way this roster is constructed, they seem to have solid contributions from every position. I believe the Bucks will look to add depth to their bench as they do not necessarily need someone that can contribute out of the gate.
- New York Knicks
The Knicks moved down 2 spots after the NBA Draft Lottery in August… Not what they were hoping for, but it is the Knicks… They should have seen it coming.
They do hold a very valuable #8 pick in this draft. I think the Knicks look to move up into the top 3 by trading a combination of their #8 pick and one of their young players like Mitchell Robinson or Kevin Knox. Will that be enough to move into the top 3…? Probably not, but the Knicks will kick the tires on any opportunity to move up to draft the player that will sell the most jerseys.
If they do stay at #8, they should be in good position to land a player that projects to fit well next to RJ Barrett… That player would be Iowa States Tyrese Haliburton. He looks like he will be the selection if the Knicks stay at #8.
- Orlando Magic
Orlando played well inside the Bubble. They have a good mix of veterans and young players under contract that should propel them into success this season.
While their previous lottery pick, Mo Bamba has yet to pan out, they still believe in his talent. He should see a lot more playing time this season which will help him grow into the talent that got him selected in the lottery just 2 seasons ago.
Currently holding the #15 pick just outside the lottery, I anticipate they keep the pick and select a guard. Whether that be Kira Lewis Jr. or R.J Hampton. There will be no shortage of guard talent when Orlando is on the clock at 15.
- Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers are one of, if not the most interesting team in this Eastern Conference. A new coach and front office that should be looking to make a splash on draft night.
That splash could be parting ways with either Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid. I believe that Ben Simmons will be the one that is on the move. The 76ers could gain numerous assets in the form of picks and/or contract-controlled players that can come in and have an immediate impact.
As of right now, they hold the #21 pick. I expect them to dangle Simmons out there to see what offers they receive in hopes to move into the top 10.
- Toronto Raptors
The Raptors are coming off an impressive season. After losing their best player in Kawhi Leonard, everybody counted this team out. However, they battled and made a run in the playoffs.
It was evident that their core of Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet could use a bit more help on the defensive side of the ball. They do hold the #29 pick in the first round of this draft. Names that could be remaining on the board include Vernon Carey Jr., Udoka Azubuike, Isaiah Stewart amongst others. Toronto has a deep roster as constructed. This helps them on draft night as they are not pressured to take any risk. They can play it safe and draft the best fit available for the future of the franchise.
The safe and obvious play for the Raptors is to keep their #29 pick and look to make another splash in the 2020–2021 season. Look for them to take a defensive big man as they may lose Serge Ibaka to free agency.
- Washington Wizards
The Wizards showed some improvement last season. They seemed to have hit on their draft pick from 2019 in Rui Hachimura and expect to have John Wall back for this season.
There is no shortage of trade rumors surrounding Bradley Beal. He seems to be at the center of trade rumors every season. I think the front office wants to experiment one last time with John Wall and Bradley Beal combination. They have not played together in 2 seasons due to Wall’s injuries. It will be exciting to see them both healthy and ready to go come the 2020–21 season.
Washington currently holds the #9 pick in this year’s draft, and I believe they are content staying right there. They will have several talented players to choose from at pick number 9. In My 2020 NBA Mock Draft, I have them selecting Precious Achiuwa. The big man out of Memphis. This will help firm up their front court and give them another young piece to develop moving forward.