Ideal No. 1 Picks for Every NBA Lottery Team


The NBA Draft lottery has been delayed indefinitely while the league is reportedly exploring a return to game action as lockdown restrictions begin to ease in some locations around the country.

What a resumed season would look like exactly is unclear. Only a couple weeks ago it was fair to wonder whether the season would be canceled and the draft pushed back, given the extraordinary circumstances. Some NBA greats even called for it. A delayed draft still seems likely since it would be less than ideal to have teams drafting new players while a season or playoffs are still going on.

In any event, as always the draft order will be determined by the lottery. Which teams will be in the lottery? If the regular season were to end today, it would be these 14 teams. The teams with the four worst records have the best shot at the top pick, but of course the lottery's ping pong balls could spit out any number of seemingly countless combinations, and often has.

Rather than take a stab at a draft order that assuredly won't in fact be the final order, here's a look at the ideal first overall picks for each team should they win the lottery. This exercise might be especially relevant this year, in what is considered a weak draft class and therefore one harder to project.

LaMelo Ball
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LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawarra Hawks of NBL (Australia)

Atlanta Hawks
Detroit Pistons
New York Knicks
Washington Wizards

Ball has pretty consistently remained in the top three on most big boards during the leadup to the draft, a nod to the demand for playmaking abilities like the ones he flashed in Australia's National Basketball League -- even though he struggled with his shot. Also working against him could be big brother Lonzo's slow development as a pro, plus his father's antics. But a relatively weak class and an adequate showing in the NBL as a teenager has kept LaMelo near the top.

The Hawks could use a floor general behind Trae Young, while the Knicks are seeking their long-term answer to develop behind the underrated Elfrid Payton. Derrick Rose is a free agent after next season, and the Wizards might be thinking about life after John Wall if he's not the same player when he returns from injury.

Aaron Nesmith

Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt

Golden State Warriors
New Orleans Pelicans

Nesmith is rocketing up draft boards on the strength of a standout sophomore campaign in which he made over half his threes -- on eight attempts per game -- in 14 games before his season was cut short by a right foot injury. He's probably the best offensive wing prospect in this class, and would fit well on a deep, offensive-minded Warriors team that is a little thin at that position behind Andrew Wiggins. He could also fill a similar role with the Pelicans, behind 2019 breakout star Brandon Ingram. You better be able to score it if you want to break into the Pelicans lineup.

It'd be a pretty big upset if Nesmith went in the top five based on most big boards that I've seen, but top 10 looks possible.

Issac Okoro
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Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn

Cleveland Cavaliers
Minnesota Timberwolves

The Cavaliers and Timberwolves have promising young cores, and Okoro could be a strong addition to either one as a dogged wing defender and glue guy. Scouts are said to salivate over his defensive versatility, as well as his build and athleticism at 6'6" and 225 pounds. It's not the splashiest pick, and some might prioritize Florida State wing Devin Vassell as the stronger defender given his better counting stats in the college ranks, but you can't teach Okoro's athletic talents, and young teams need guys like Okoro, who can help turn promise into wins.

Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv of Israeli Premier League

Chicago Bulls
Sacramento Kings

Like Ball, Avdija seems to be holding firm on most big boards, in the 3-8 range, despite somewhat limited exposure to scouts and teams while playing abroad in Israel's Premier League. By reputation, Avdija is a skilled combo forward who can handle the ball, shoot and pass. There's not a ton of those when you look around the league. The Bulls have the aging Thaddeus Young in the frontcourt, as well young vets with murky futures in Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter. In Sacramento, Avdija would carve out a similar role to that of Nemanja Bjelica.

James Wiseman
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James Wiseman, C, Memphis

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets would be tempted to snag Ball or Anthony Edwards if they landed the top pick, but a center would probably be a better fit in the near and long terms given that they have some intriguing pieces in the back court. Cody Zeller is a nice role player as a backup center, but he's scheduled to hit free agency after next season. Wiseman, an athletic wonder and a major development project, averaged nearly five blocks per 30 minutes in a minuscule sample before his college career came to an unceremonious end. The Hornets could use that sort of interior presence while Miles Bridges and PJ Washington spread things out in the front court.

Tyrese Haliburton
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Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State

Phoenix Suns

Is Haliburton a No. 1 talent? Probably not. This would be a pretty extreme example of a team drafting fit over overall potential. One again, the Suns are likely to be a trendy pick again next season, particularly if they can land an instant contributor in the draft. Halliburton is an intriguing combo guard type whose versatile offensive game would complement all-world scorer Devin Booker. Halliburton was both a marksman as a shooter and a skilled distributor at Iowa State, two skills that should come in handy to balance out Booker's high-usage, high-volume profile. Haliburton rail thin and will probably get pushed around in half-court defense, but in college he used his long arms and high IQ to rack up steals.

Anthony Edwards
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Anthony Edwards, G, Georgia

Portland Trail Blazers
San Antonio Spurs

Arguably the best pound-for-pound prospect in this class, Edwards has highly projectable size, athleticism and tools. His shot didn't fall as much as one would like in his lone season in Athens, but don't mistake Edwards for a development project -- his shooting stroke is pretty, and his feel for the game is apparent. Even as a true freshman, Edwards looked like a men among boys at times with Georgia. My only concern would be his size -- he's listed by several sites at 6'5" and 225 pounds at just 18 years of age. He's nearly as big as Okoro, a small forward. Will Edwards remain at guard if he grows another inch and puts on more weight? Is his future at the 3?