The Cleveland Cavaliers are almost assuredly going to pick around the same spot in the 2020 NBA Draft as they did in the 2019 one. Barring a stroke of luck in the draft order, or a sudden, unexpected dead cat bounce now that John Beilein isn’t in the picture, the Cavs are looking again at not being the worst team in the league, but not being far off.
That means the Cavs are likely to miss out on the top pick, and this year, it’s seeming more and more like that’s actually not a bad thing. Perceived top pick Anthony Edwards has turned into a pumpkin in conference play, and that has left a void at the top of what’s become a very busy but uninspiring top tier. At least six players have a deserving shot at the top overall pick now. That doesn’t include the uninspiring James Wiseman, who surely now will ride good counting stats into a top-five selection.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t good value at the top of the draft, though, and the Cavs can easily get better in this draft if they make a smart decision. There are just looking like there are several traps along the way. To try to help you make sense of who those top targets should be, here is our updated NBA Draft big board. And since we have a more firm understanding of how the tiers of the draft are shaping up, we’re expanding our previous top 30 to a top 60.
Reminder: This is a general ranking of how I see the prospects in this class, unrelated to their fit in Cleveland. I will be discussing potential Cavs fits for many players throughout the board, however.
Tier 0: Potential star level talents
This tier is on hiatus for this year, given there aren’t any confirmed star level talents this year. Someone will get there, at least one player always does. But this is very much shaping up into another “Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, and Victor Oladipo” type draft like 2013.
Tier 1: Starter-grade players with high-variance upside
1. Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
Edwards’s performance has somewhat cratered in SEC play, as he’s shooting just 30.5% from three and his defense has completely fallen off a cliff. But still, he’s the only player in this draft that you can confidently project to being a future 20-point per game scorer at the next level. Edwards’s shot selection has been pretty bad this year, but he has also been THE guy for the Bulldogs, and has not been well reigned in by his coaches. Surrounded by other scorers who will demand both possessions and the creation of looks from him, and Edwards may still be able to grow into a serviceable top option, given that he has every trick in the bag in terms of isolation scoring and getting to the rim. He’s a big body at 6’5” and 225 pounds, and it’s likely he’d be able to play some three next to Sexland and Kevin Porter Jr. The issue of too many mouths to feed is a significant risk with Edwards, but he might be the guy who forces a pecking order for the young guys in terms of scoring load if the Cavs take him.
2. Killian Hayes, PG, ratiopharm Ulm
Of all the point guards in the class, Hayes is probably the best fit for the Cavs to pursue, thanks to his size at 6’6” and defensive versatility. Hayes makes good rotations and has shown the ability to consistently provide deflections at the Eurocup level, and his defense should improve as he continues to get stronger. Offensively he’s a little rough around the edges as a primary creator, but he has good vision and shows the ability to spot up and pull-up from three, even if he’s not hitting consistently now. He’s becoming my favorite Cavs option at the top of the draft, due to his pretty ideal fit with both Sexton and Garland and the upside that he can become a legitimate primary initiator.
3. Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC
Okongwu has barnstormed into the top ten by averaging 3.0 blocks per game, 11.9 rebounds per 40 minutes, and shooting 60.9% from the field, and his projected role is pretty easy to figure out and project with confidence. Bigs as springy as Okongwu with instincts as good as his on defense are likely to be at least rotation players, and there’s a chance he can get to either a Rudy Gobert level as a rim protector or Clint Capela level as a finisher. He’s also started to show some shooting and face-up value, which could open up a new level for his offensive game. He’s not really a Cavs option if Andre Drummond sticks around long-term.
4. LaMelo Ball, SG, Illiwarra Hawks
There’s reasonable fear about Ball’s shooting projection, but his feel for the game and instincts on the defensive end keep him this high. It’s important to remember that the deficits with Ball are potentially improvable. Shooting can be fixed, especially if the player has comfort with it. Defensive awareness does incrementally improve. The things that Ball has going for him — feel, length, touch — generally aren’t improvable. So if you’re betting on one of the players in this tier to become a star level player, Ball is a safer bet from a purely basketball perspective. However, that is never the only aspect to focus on with him, and shutting down from NBL play adds further off-court questions.
5. Deni Avdija, SF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Since our last big board, Avdija has been on a tear, with five straight double-digit scoring games and 58.8 percent shooting for the month of February. It seems that things are clicking for him in terms of learning how to win off the dribble getting to the rim, and his ever-present locked in defense has been more impactful now that his offensive game is translating better. If his shot continues to come around and he’s this aggressive with the ball, he’s certainly a top-five prospect in the class, with an argument to go higher in the right situation. He might be more of a project than initially anticipated, but he definitely has the right attributes to confidently project that development, and even if he’s just a Cedi variant, that’s the type of player you want multiple of on your roster.
6. Isaac Okoro, PF, Auburn
Easily one of the best fits for the Cavs from a team-building perspective if the roster stays relatively the same moving forward. Okoro can play the three or four and he is probably the most versatile defender in the class, with the strength to battle with fives and the footwork and agility to contain guards in isolation. He’s as ideal an option as you’ll find in this class to shore up perimeter defense problems with a small and inexperienced backcourt. Many are unsure of Okoro’s offensive utility because he has pretty bad shooting indicators, but he’s a useful passer, has good touch around the rim, and has shown the ability to put the ball on the floor against a bent defense in ways that may mean his handle has development potential. If he can turn into a potential creator from the elbow in the pros, and offers the defensive capabilities he’s flashed at Auburn, that’s a pretty ideal pick-up in the middle of the top ten.
Tier 2: Probable starter-caliber players
7. Tyrese Maxey, PG, Kentucky
Maxey’s continued to struggle after a hot start, but the defensive awareness, decision-making on offense, and rebounding skill from the guard positions are still exciting skills. There’s confidence for long-term development here even if he’s not performing at a very high level right now; that’s basically the same argument we’re using for Edwards. He probably doesn’t have the playmaking juice to be a full-time point guard, but as a third guard who can play off solid initiators well, he’s a good option. Probably not a good fit for the Cavs but you could justify it, given he’s a big body who might thrive more in an off-ball role.
8. Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State
The weirdest prospect this year by a significant margin. He’s tall, long, and plays with a quirky style that helps him get to the rim well despite mediocre athleticism. It’s still a question of how well he’ll shoot at the NBA level, but he’s proven enough on both ends to deserve lottery consideration. Even though he’ll miss the rest of the year with a wrist fracture, Haliburton has done enough to rise into the top ten, and he is one of the better fits for the Cavs among the point guards due to his size and facilitator-first mentality. If you’re going to have two undersized scoring guards in the rotation, having your third guard be Lonzo Ball-light isn’t the worst idea.
9. Cole Anthony, PG, UNC
It’s hard to really buy much stock in Anthony right now given that nothing that was a problem prior to his injury has really changed. He’s still a horrific finisher, sitting in the 7th percentile of college players at the rim (for the unfamiliar, that means 93% of college basketball players are better than him). His pull-up shooting has been great, but not good enough to break college defenses in the way someone like Nico Mannion can. And while it’s not entirely his fault, the fact that he has not been a steadying hand in UNC’s continued tragic comedy of close losses since returning does raise questions. He’s still a valuable prospect because of the shooting and his legitimately good team defense, but at this point I don’t think he’s on the same level as the top six.
10. Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State
Vassell has continued to rocket up the board thanks to his well-rounded profile. He leaves you with the feeling of “That’s definitely an NBA role player on a good team,” and there are only a few of those guys in this class right now. Finding a big wing that can shoot off the catch and is a phenomenal weakside team defender is one of the hardest things to do in any draft, and Vassell is one of those guys.
11. R.J. Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers
If you watched Hampton in October, you saw a player who was completely lost on the floor. Struggling to make decisions and create separation off the dribble, Hampton looked out of his league. But November Hampton was much stronger, acting much more decisively, finishing better, and really displaying the flashes of his potential on-ball utility. Of course, that month of hot play ended abruptly with an injury, and now he’s done with the NBL. He’s probably a project, but his talent doesn’t allow you to drop him too much further than this.
12. Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
He’s extremely fun to watch because he’s probably the guy with the most flair as a passer at the top of the draft class, but size at 6’3” kind of makes him a non-starter for Cleveland, especially because he has the same issues with finishing as Anthony.
Tier 3: Probable Rotation players
13. Josh Green, SG, Arizona
As much as we like to think otherwise, athletic wings who can shoot and pass don’t grow on trees, and they certainly don’t come with Green’s level of athleticism that often. There’s a certain amount you can forgive about his upper echelon skill play just due to what his athleticism covers for.
14. Xavier Tillman, C, Michigan State
Tillman won’t wow you with any highlight plays, but he also won’t take you out of any plays with bad decisions or late reactions. He is probably best served as a third big on a good team, but he can unlock a lot of options for second units thanks to his potential elbow creation skill and ability to switch on the perimeter on defense.
15. Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton
Toppin is insanely productive, and a legitimately great college scorer. But that’s about all he does at an NBA level, and it’s doubtful he gets enough scoring load, or grows enough as a defender and passer, to be really impactful at the next level. But still, he’s talented enough that he’ll stick in the league, and it’s hard to drop him too much further than this at this point.
16. Kira Lewis, PG, Alabama
Lewis is a solid passer with good shooting mechanics and looks like a capable collegiate point of attack defender. He’s also 170 pounds if you’re being extremely generous, and that really puts a damper on confidence that he’ll finish or defend at an NBA level.
Tier 4: Swing players with large boom/bust potential
17. Patrick Williams, PF, Florida State
Williams would be a nice Cavs target as he shows great ability defending in space and protecting the rim. He doesn’t play big minutes but it’s more Zach Collins syndrome, due to the number of bodies Florida State has than anything else. He’s another player who like Vassell and Avdija has only gotten better as the season goes on.
18. Aaron Nesmith, PF, Vanderbilt
Nesmith’s shooting off screens and ability to punish mismatches are great. He doesn’t pass, which is problematic, but he owns the “best shooter in the draft” label.
19. Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL
Maledon is a creative pick-and-roll scorer, but he’s probably too small to reliably do so in the halfcourt against starter talents. He’s probably best served attacking in open space at a higher pace, and there’s a definite ceiling to him as an initiation threat in ways that Mannion and Hayes don’t have.
20. Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova
Another 6-8 wing who is good at a lot of things, Bey gets extra points for his quirky skill set, which includes a bullying post game and the ability to cut off driving lanes on closeouts better than just about anybody in the class.
21. Paul Reed, PF, DePaul
Reed reminds a lot of Thaddeus Young thanks to his odd ability to hit circus shots and ability to body bigger opponents despite a wispy frame. Adding strength and solidifying his corner three are the keys to him making a big impact at the NBA level.
22. James Wiseman, C, Memphis
The NBA size and play finishing are great tools, but I’m down on his defense because of his lack of flexibility and instincts in space. There just isn’t much inspiring about Wiseman’s game if you’re picking where the Cavs are picking, although I will concede that like Toppin, size and athleticism are probably going to dictate him sticking in the league for awhile.
23. Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford
A Darius Garland variant, Terry is pretty small but is a dynamic pull-up shooter in the halfcourt and can run transition opportunities pretty well. He is a solid long-term point guard prospect who could turn out as one of those late-first round sleepers that props the class up.
24. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, PF, Villanova
With good size at the four and functional athleticism, Robinson-Earl does a little bit of everything, whether it’s creating out of the post or the elbow, crashing the glass to the tune of 9.5 rebounds per game, or creating deflections in passing lanes by playing free safety on defense. Like most of this tier, he needs polishing, but there are several aspects to his game that figure him to be an impactful playoff rotation player in the future if things break right.
25. Jaden McDaniels, SF, Washington
One of the worst finishers for his size in college basketball, McDaniels probably isn’t a high level scoring prospect like some see him as. But he could be of use if a team buys into the idea of him as an off-ball weapon and defensive contributor, where he’s much more impactful.
Tier 5: Potential rotation players
26. Aaron Henry, SF, Michigan State
A phenomenal fit for the Cavs’ rebuild if they traded back into the first round or picked up another pick, Henry is capable of executing as a passer and cutter, can shoot, and is one of the better perimeter defenders in the class.
27. Myles Powell, PG, Seton Hall
Powell’s ability to fit the “veteran leader point guard” mold while projecting well to a high-tempo NBA pick-and-roll heavy offense mean he probably should go in the first round this year, when that archetype is usually reserved for early round two.
28. Scottie Lewis, SF, Florida
A very good perimeter defender with impressive athleticism, but Lewis is a complete project on offense at this point.
29. Kaleb Wesson, C, Ohio St
A mountain of a man who can shoot threes off the catch is an interesting recipe for success. Wesson will likely carve out a small role somewhere.
30 Tyler Bey, SF. Colorado
Bey’s do-everything statistical profile is intriguing in theory, but too often these guys struggle to have the same impact in the NBA.