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The Emergence of the Next Generation Leaders

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Six strong guards highlight to the class of 2020 entering the NBA. Where do they go now? How many are true number one guys? Who falls to the rest of the lottery now?

What could have been in the 2020 NBA Draft? In this piece, we’ll redraft the lottery from four years ago, with a few changes in the top 14 picks.

14. Payton Pritchard – Boston Celtics

Actual draft position: #26 overall to Boston

Original pick: Aaron Nesmith

Why break something if it’s working? Payton Pritchard went to the Celtics at the tail end of the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft and has developed into a very good piece of the Celtics rotation. This Celtics team has been the best in the NBA through the All-Star break. And Aaron Nesmith was not a contributor on the same level as Pritchard. So why change anything for the Celtics? They looked poised to win for years to come, and Pritchard, although he’s not a starring guy for them, is also a part of that core.

13. Saddiq Bey – New Orleans Pelicans

Actual draft position: #19 overall to Brooklyn

Original pick: Kira Lewis Jr.

Kira Lewis Jr. has the second-least minutes played in his career of all first-round draft picks from 2020. It’s safe to say that was a pretty big swing and miss for the Pelicans. But a solid rotational piece that’s still available here in the redraft is Saddiq Bey. While Bey has never really lit the world on fire or looked like a true number one or two option, he’s a threat to score and can also provide solid defensive help. Bey is a floor raiser for a team, and with the amount of injury and roster rotation that the Pelicans have gone through the last few years, Bey is a guy who could’ve helped provide some stability and grown into the roster a little more than Lewis Jr. did.

12. Deni Avdija – Sacramento Kings

Actual draft position: #9 overall to Washington

Original pick: Tyrese Haliburton

This was hands-down the best original pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Haliburton at 12 is unbelievable value, regardless of how you evaluate the Kings trading Haliburton to the Pacers. Obviously, Haliburton isn’t available at 12 in a redraft, but Deni Avdija still is and could likely succeed in Sacramento more than he has in Washington. Avdija is a long wing with great versatility on the defensive end and a very good playmaker. He’d be lethal operating with De’Aaron Fox in a pick-and-roll. But this year, he’s slowly shown some scoring and efficiency improvements as well, and it would likely be a great piece for this young Kings team to build with.

Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija (8) drives with the ball against New Orleans Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado (15) during the second half at Smoothie King Center
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

11. Cole Anthony – San Antonio Spurs

Actual draft position: #15 overall to Orlando

Original pick: Devin Vassell

Cole Anthony hasn’t developed into a world-beating guard, but he’s absolutely electric coming off the bench for Orlando. His scoring and playmaking have grown and stayed consistent even when minutes off the bench have fluctuated. Anthony is the kind of ballhandler and playmaker the Spurs fundamentally lacked in year one of the Victor Wembanyama era. Anthony’s drive and distribution skills would allow for a much more efficient Spurs offense this year, even if he were still coming off the bench. He’s shown impressive adaptability around the young Magic stars, and there’s no reason to think he couldn’t for the Spurs too.

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10. Jaden McDaniels – Phoenix Suns

Actual draft position: #28 overall to Los Angeles Lakers

Original pick: Jalen Smith

Jaden McDaniels is the perfect Swiss Army Knife player for the modern NBA. Long, incredible defensively, and an emerging offensive threat. The fact that he is a starter on the best team in the Western Conference so far this season, the Minnesota Timberwolves, should be more than enough to convince you of his value. Jalen Smith has found his stride as a player as well, but as far as fit for the Chris Paul-Devin Booker Suns teams, McDaniels could’ve been a real difference maker as defensive stopper and offensive X-factor.

9. Devin Vassell – Washington Wizards

Actual draft position: #11 overall to San Antonio

Original pick: Deni Avdija

Devin Vassell got drafted into the bottomless pit of despair that was the early 2020s San Antonio Spurs, but he may be one of the lone players to survive the rebuild with Victor Wembanyama. Vassell’s length, quickness, and shooting have made him a valuable NBA player and will keep him valuable for as long as he is healthy and able to play. It’s not exactly like getting drafted by the Wizards would be a career-trajectory shift for Vassell regarding situations he could’ve been drafted into. But it’s possible that having a guy like Vassell informs the Wizards’ offseason moves. As a result, they’re not sinking as much money into tank commanders Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma and are constructing a more complete roster.

8. Obi Toppin – New York Knicks

Actual draft position: #9 overall to New York

Original pick: Obi Toppin

This may be a bit awkward, considering we’ve already established here in real life that Toppin was not an incredible fit for the Knicks under Tom Thibodeau in the 2020 NBA Draft. However, Toppin is still a very good player and is demonstrating that for the Pacers this year. Often starting on one of the most exciting teams in the Eastern Conference, Toppin is averaging career-best in points, assists, and rebounds. He brings a higher level of defense to a team that desperately needs it. The Knicks and Pacers are both on the rise in the wake of moves made around this selection. And given the little renaissance both teams are in right now, why not run it back?

7. Onyeka Okongwu – Detroit Pistons

Actual draft position: #6 overall to Atlanta

Original pick: Killian Hayes

The Detroit Pistons haven’t really hit a home run on any draft picks in the last couple of years, which is why they’re competing with the 2012 Charlotte Bobcats for the worst NBA team ever. And unfortunately, Killian Hayes is not one of the exceptions. While Onyeka Okongwu wouldn’t necessarily be a franchise-altering centerpiece, he’s still a solid foundation they could help build. An effective big-man playmaker for Cade Cunningham to pick and roll with would be a huge asset to the Pistons. While seventh is a bit of an unfortunate position in this redraft, it’s not as unfortunate as actually drafting here and having Immanuel Quickley, Desmond Bane, Tyrese Haliburton, and Tyrese Maxey all on the board and going with a different guard altogether.

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Atlanta Hawks forward Onyeka Okongwu (17) celebrates after shot against Golden State Warriors during the third quarter at State Farm Arena
Jordan Godfree-USA TODAY Sports

6. Immanuel Quickley – Atlanta Hawks

Actual draft position: #25 overall to Oklahoma City Thunder

Original pick: Onyeka Okongwu

Well, drafting the sixth-best guard at #6 overall in normal circumstances would be a little…questionable, but as you’ll see, the guard depth in this draft is just stacked. Quickley is a sparkplug. He is quick, with an effective drive and a very nice shot. Quickley can score in bunches and would’ve been a fun pairing with Trae Young in the backcourt. While he was just traded, if anything, he’s showing that when given the opportunity to start, he has even more in him. As an actual starter in Toronto now, his scoring and rebounding are both up marginally, while his assist numbers have nearly doubled. It’s a guards league, which is why, in a redraft, the Hawks should take Quickley.

5. LaMelo Ball  – Cleveland Cavaliers

Actual draft position: #3 overall to Charlotte

Original pick: Isaac Okoro

While the Cavaliers’ original pick earned All-Rookie honors, and the Cavs are in the midst of a solid season this year, they can do better in this redraft. Isaac Okoro is good, but his game and his numbers haven’t grown in the way you’d hope from a lottery pick in the seasons since his rookie year. LaMelo Ball, on the other hand, would’ve still been a risky selection in the 2020 NBA Draft. He’s played almost a full season’s worth of games less (262-181) than #1 overall pick Anthony Edwards just three and half seasons into his career. However, when healthy, Ball has flashed the talent that made him one of his generation’s most heralded high school prospects. Availability is the best ability, and Ball has really struggled on that front. But with a little luck, he can and will be healthier in this redraft and would provide a real spark to a Cavs team that was not in a good place in 2020.

4. Desmond Bane – Chicago Bulls

Actual draft position: #30 overall to Boston

Original pick: Patrick Williams

Patrick Williams is still on the Chicago Bulls, the team he started out with, and still a part of their rotation, which, in the NBA, is an accomplishment for a player in year four. However, so is Desmond Bane. And while Bane was traded to the Grizzlies, he quickly established himself as a central figure in the Grizzlies’ rebuild. Bane had a good rookie year that earned him All-Rookie honors, and his numbers have only improved since. He is critical to the Grizzlies’ success when they are healthy, and the extent of his upside is still unknown. Bane going near the top of this redraft is a no-brainer.

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3. Tyrese Maxey – Charlotte Hornets

Actual draft position: #21 overall to Philadelphia

Original pick: LaMelo Ball

LaMelo Ball was Rookie of the Year in 2021, an All-Star in 2022, and has only put up better numbers in the following years. So why isn’t he the point guard the Charlotte Hornets want in a redraft? Well, Ball has struggled to stay on the court and available over the last few years, and Tyrese Maxey has exploded this year into a star in his own right alongside Joel Embiid. In the absence of James Harden, Maxey has filled the void left by the former MVP. He’s averaging over five points more per game, a handful of assists and rebounds less, and half the turnovers Harden had last year. Not to mention, he’s averaging over a steal per game this year, too. Maxey is on the verge of taking a leap that could finally get the 76ers over the hump, and that’s the kind of guy that the Hornets have been looking for across the last several decades.

2. Tyrese Haliburton – Golden State Warriors

Actual draft position: #12 overall to Sacramento

Original pick: James Wiseman

Oh, what could have been for the Golden State Warriors with this pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Even grabbing LaMelo Ball, who went #3 to the Hornets over James Wiseman, could have drastically altered the final stages of the Golden State Warriors dynasty. But getting someone like Tyrese Haliburton would have been electric. Haliburton is busy establishing himself as one of the brightest young stars in the league in Indiana right now.

Meanwhile, James Wiseman is out of Golden State, contributed nothing to their 2021-22 title, and is a routine DNP – Coach’s Decision on one of the worst teams in the league. While there may be questions about coach Steve Kerr’s ability to develop young talent, Haliburton would’ve had every opportunity to shine as the Warriors’ stars returned from injury. Haliburton certainly could’ve played the Jordan Poole sixth-man role and likely supplanted Klay Thompson as a starter at some point in the last year or two.

 Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) shoots the ball against the Toronto Raptors in the first half at Scotiabank Arena
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

1. Anthony Edwards – Minnesota Timberwolves

Actual draft position: #1 overall to Minnesota

Original pick: Anthony Edwards

It’s hard to argue with the last few years of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ development. Maybe you’d take someone like Haliburton or Maxey on a redraft, but Anthony Edwards is the face of the Timberwolves’ ascendence to the top of the Western Conference halfway through the 2023-24 season. Edwards has the drive to be great that sparks the entire roster to follow in his wake. He provides Minnesota with a true number-one option on offense. Now that the Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns pairing has taken off on the defensive end, it alleviates the pressure on the other end to capitalize off their strengths. Edwards has only raised his stock through his first All-Star season last year and impressive play internationally in the FIBA World Cup. He is poised to be a star for years to come.

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