Originally, this was just going to be the top-30 prospects in the 2020 NBA draft class. I decided that, since everyone in the universe has their own big board and they can only differ so much, I’d make mine a little bit more specific. Instead of doing the top-30 overall prospects, I’ll break it into three tiers: tier one are the 14 (because, theoretically, the Hornets could pick anywhere from 1-14) prospects that could be taken with the Hornets’ lottery pick, and tiers two and three each consist of eight prospects that could/should be available for the Hornets’ second-round picks, 32 and 56.
Prospects are ranked in accordance with their fit on the current Hornets’ roster at their respective draft picks, meaning this does not represent what I view as the top-30 in the draft, just the 14 best fits for the lottery pick, eight for pick 32 and eight for pick 56.
1. LaMelo Ball, G, Illawarra Hawks (Australia)
LaMelo Ball slides in seamlessly to Charlotte’s first or second unit. If he starts alongside Devonte’ Graham, Graham’s offensive load gets significantly lightened and he’s no longer the only initiator on the floor. If he comes off of the bench, Ball and Malik Monk are a rim-attacking backcourt with the size and speed to run teams off of the court. Ball’s vision, quickness and coordination in a 6’ 7” frame with the potential to develop into a 3-point threat — both off-the-dribble and spot-up — gives him the highest ceiling in the NBA draft.
2. Onyeka Okongwu, C, Southern California
Whichever team selects Onyeka Okongwu on draft night will be happy with their choice for years to come. Of the top prospects, Okongwu has the highest floor due to his superior rim protection, athleticism, and touch around the rim. He’s a great rim-runner and would immediately become the starting center in Charlotte. Okongwu may never be an All-Star, but All-Defense is not out of the question. If he develops a 3-point shot down the line, he probably ends up as the best all-around player in the draft.
3. Killian Hayes, G, ratiopharm Ulm (Germany)
The more I watch of Killian Hayes, the more I think he’d be a great fit with the Hornets as a combo guard. His 3PT% with ratiopharm Ulm is low, but I don’t think that carries over to the NBA. He has good form and could someday be an excellent shooter, especially off-the-dribble and movement. He has pick-and-roll command unlike most guards in this draft. He generates steals with really quick hands and solid decision-making on the perimeter. Devonte’ Graham is currently the only Hornet that can smoothly run the offense. The man needs some help.
4. Anthony Edwards, G/W, Georgia
Anthony Edwards is as close to the “consensus” No. 1 prospect in this draft class as there could be. Unconscious pull-up shooting and high-level explosiveness will carry him through his early days in the NBA as he learns to play without the ball in his hands as often. There are concerns with his feel for the game and mental drive, and those show when he gives uninspiring effort on defense, takes poor shots or fails to make reads as a ball-handler a bit too often. The Hornets lack a self-creating scoring threat on the wing, and Edwards does that. If the Hornets vault to the first pick, my guess is Mitch Kupchak takes Edwards.
5. Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State
One of the most fun prospects to watch before a fractured left wrist ended his sophomore season, Tyrese Haliburton is popular among Hornets fans. He can play point guard or on the wing on offense, and if he adds some strength he’ll be able to defend positions 1-3. He can’t score off the dribble and has no blow-by speed, but his spot-up 3-point shot is silk and he makes crazy manipulative passes. He’s the type of player that will find a way to help the team no matter who he’s on the floor with. Haliburton likely be available if the Hornets stay at pick eight.
6. Devin Vassell, W, Florida State
Every team needs 3&D players, and Devin Vassell is the best 3&D prospect since Mikal Bridges in 2018. There is skepticism over whether he develops into anything more than that and whether that’s worth the risk in the top-10, but Vassell can hit the occasional pull-up jumper and has good-enough court vision, too. His team defense is outstanding; it’s hard not to notice his impact on that end. He could be thrown into the starting lineup, both improving the defense and giving Terry Rozier more shots as the sixth man. Vassell is a “safe” pick in an otherwise unpredictable draft.
7. Tyrese Maxey, G, Kentucky
Tyrese Maxey is much like Hayes; the more I watch, the more I like him. He’s a fast and explosive combo guard that plays with an edge. He shot poorly in college from long range, but again, I buy into his shot form and confidence — he’ll be a fine shooter in the NBA. He played a lot of two-guard at Kentucky which didn’t allow him to exemplify his court vision with the ball in his hands a lot, and I think he could do more of that at the next level.
8. Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (Israel)
Deni Avdija would be the highest international prospect ever selected by the Hornets if he were to be their lottery pick. His positional overlap with Miles Bridges and PJ Washington could hinder the development of all three of them, but Avdija’s skillset differs from theirs and would be an asset for the Hornets. His transition playmaking and scoring are elite for this draft class, and he’s a solid spot-up shooter. He has some vertical pop, but lacks speed and a pull-up game. Avdija isn’t the best fit in Charlotte, but it’s interesting to think about.
9. James Wiseman, C, Memphis
Mainstream draft analysts love James Wiseman, but almost anyone who isn’t getting paid by ESPN or Bleacher Report to write about draft prospects is much lower on him. He leaves a lot to be desired as a rim protector in a functional defensive system, isn’t overly quick, doesn’t pass the ball or really even attempt to, and his offensive output is limited to dunks and put-backs. He does move well in the open floor and has shot mechanics that inspire some confidence. Nonetheless, I mocked him to the Hornets in ATH’s mock draft volume one because I think some team in the lottery will fall in love with his height and strength.
10. Aaron Nesmith, W, Vanderbilt
Aaron Nesmith is the best shooter in the draft. He shot a whopping 52.5% 3PT on 9.2 3PA per 40 minutes, and shot 51.2% from the field. He won’t offer a lot on offense outside of 3-point shooting, but he can spot-up or pull-up and moves well without the ball. His defense will be better than it was at Vanderbilt in my opinion, but he doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of playmaking. I could see Nesmith getting some attention from the Hornets as a potential shooter off the bench if they fall in the lottery. James Borrego likes shooters.
11. Cole Anthony, G, North Carolina
I’ve moved from extremely down to just averagely down on Cole Anthony being a Hornet. I don't necessarily buy into him as a point guard, but his functional strength, defensive versatility and long-range shooting make me think he could have a future as a combo-guard in the NBA, especially with a floor-spacing facilitator like Devonte’ as his backcourt mate. The problem with Anthony is that he’s not compatible with Malik Monk or Terry Rozier; that shouldn’t prevent a team from drafting a talented player, but the chances that Anthony is available as well as being the best player/fit when the Hornets are on the clock is slim.
12. R.J Hampton, G/W, New Zealand Breakers (Australia)
R.J. Hampton is an intriguing prospect. Along with Ball, he spent his post-high school season in the NBL. His shooting percentages were pretty bad (40.7% FG/29.5% 3PT/67.9% FT) in 20.6 minutes per game, but he did convert on 46.8% of his shots from two-point range. He would be a weird fit with the Hornets because he’s not a shooting threat, can’t defend small forwards and needs the ball in his hands a lot to be an efficient offensive player, which may hinder other young Hornets. If the coaching staff buys into Hampton’s jump shot and strength development, I won't argue with it.
13. Isaac Okoro, W/F, Auburn
Isaac Okoro is a bit like a young Michael Kidd-Gilchrist; which is not a ringing endorsement, but MKG was a good player back in the day. The bright side with Okoro is that his jumper mechanics aren’t terrible, he’s a great slasher and he’s an underrated playmaker, so there’s some hope that he can raise his 28.6% 3PT. In this draft, Okoro’s defense, passing and potential as a small-ball four are worth gambling on; unless you’re the Hornets. It wouldn’t be easy to get Okoro consistent playing time when Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, Cody Martin and Caleb Martin are all competent defenders while being better shooters than he is.
14. Obi Toppin, F/C, Dayton
Obi Toppin was the best player in college basketball last season, winning both the Naismith and Wooden awards. He jumps very high and can stretch the floor beyond the 3-point line. I’ve said this many times before; there’s no way all three of Toppin, Washington and Bridges reach their fullest potential on the same team, and that is the entire point of drafting. They all project as stretch-forwards in the future. Toppin isn’t laterally quick enough to defend on the perimeter, nor is he strong or aggressive enough to defend centers. The three of them can’t be on the floor together without it being a severe liability. I don’t think Kupchak is drafting Toppin with the intention of trading Washington or Bridges to give him more minutes, either. Toppin may end up being good, but it wouldn’t happen with the Hornets.
1. Devon Dotson, PG, Kansas
I’ve written about Devon Dotson in ATH’s mock draft and latest mock draft roundup, so I’ll keep this short; the Hornets need someone to set the table on offense for the second unit. Dotson does that while being an ample point-of-attack defender. I don’t care if Dotson is a mediocre shooter, because that won’t be what he’s asked to do.
2. Daniel Oturu, C, Minnesota
Out of the plethora of late-first/early-second round centers, I think Oturu fits the best with the Hornets. He’s a nice compliment to Cody Zeller off the bench with his shot-blocking and aggressiveness on the glass. He shot 36.5% from distance at Minnesota last season, but he went just 19-52 total on the season. With more volume and less wide-open jumpers, he’s likely not the same shooter. Oturu would be solid value if he’s available at pick 32.
3. Grant Riller, G, Charleston
Grant Riller will probably be No. 1 in Tier 2 by the time the draft comes around. He’s one of the best rim attackers and finishers in the draft class, and he has the burst and quickness for it to translate to the NBA. His Euro-step is excellent and he has the dexterity to finish amongst the trees. Riller is a pickpocket on-ball defender and high-level off-the-dribble creator. He’s the next-best fit after Dotson among late-first/early-second round guards. Watch him play if you can.
5. Nate Hinton, G/W, Houston
With a bigger role as a sophomore, Nate Hinton improved. His 3PT% went from 33.7% to 38.7% even with higher volume, his BPM leapt from 7.3 to 10.0, and his multi-positional defensive versatility was a crucial element as to why Houston had such a good defense last season (21st in KenPom). Hinton could play a role similar to what Cody Martin played as a rookie, but with more scoring potential.
5. Zeke Nnaji, F/C, Arizona
Zeke Nnaji strikes me as a prototypical NBA combo big that can play the four in a “big” lineup and the five in a “small” lineup. He’s one of the few bigs in this draft that you could call a legitimately good shooter. His energetic style would be a nice change-of-pace from Zeller.
6. Paul Reed, F/C, DePaul
Paul Reed is a Swiss Army knife. He’s primarily a four in the NBA, but I think he could be a small-ball/stretch-five if his 3-point shot becomes consistent and he adds some bulk. He’s a good pull-up shooter for a big man and he plays sound team defense. His playing time would overlap with PJ and Miles, so I doubt he ends up in Charlotte, but he is good.
7. Jordan Nwora, W, Louisville
I can already hear the boos. Jordan Nwora fits the “typical Hornets draft pick” bill to a tee; an established, high-profile upperclassman that played for a traditional school. I wouldn’t hate it if he were to come to Charlotte, though. He can shoot from long-range, crashes the boards hard for a wing, and has a near 7-foot wingspan that helps him stay in front of more-athletic players.
8. Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas
Most of my reasoning for including Udoka Azubuike is that it’s extremely unlikely that Kupchak doesn’t consider him in the early-second round, provided he’s available and the Hornets didn’t pick a center in the lottery. He fits the Hornets Draft Pick Profile as well as a position of need. He’s a big body to anchor the paint on defense, but he can’t venture beyond there and he doesn’t do much more than catch the ball on the block, turn to the hoop and lay it up on offense.
1. Myles Powell, G, Seton Hall
I didn’t expect this to happen, but I’ve become a Myles Powell guy recently. His understanding and use of angles on drives to the rim is great stuff to watch. He shot just 30.6% from 3-point land as a senior at Seton Hall, but he’s a career 34.6% shooter on 7.8 3PA per game. I think the jump shot becomes more efficient as a non-focal point for opposing defenses. He could be a good microwave bench scorer some day.
2. Desmond Bane, G/W, Texas Christian
Desmond Bane is a really good movement catch-and-shoot player with a solid pull-up to boot. He is deadly from mid-range and shoots extremely high percentages from 3-point land (43.3% 3PT career). I’d place a substantial bet on Bane’s shot translating to NBA 3-point range and him becoming a knock-down shooter with some defensive versatility. “Desmond Bane” is also one of the coolest basketball player names ever.
3. Elijah Hughes, W, Syracuse
I already Stan’d for Elijah Hughes in my mock draft and I’ll do it again. He has the size, strength and quickness to defend in the NBA despite not getting to show it often in Jim Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone defense. He has range on both his spot-up and pull-up jumper. At pick 56, you just want NBA talent to work with, and Hughes is an NBA talent.
4. Amar Sylla, F/C, Telenet BC Oostende (Senegal)
Amar Sylla might be one of the least-known prospects among non-draft nerds. He’s a mobile 6’ 9” combo forward with a rail-thin frame that is mostly a transition scorer at this point, but if he can put it together, he could be a versatile defender and off-ball movement scorer. Sylla would spend a lot of time in Greensboro honing his game against players with strength (or weakness) more similar to his.
5. Ashton Hagans, G, Kentucky
I’ve seen Ashton Hagans mocked to the Hornets with pick 56 quite a few times, and I think that’s a steal. Getting any guard with size that can defend and make plays at an above-average level with four picks left in the draft is a home run pick in my eyes. Hagans can’t shoot and will struggle to create his own shots in the NBA, but this late in the draft, every player is flawed.
6. Immanuel Quickley, G, Kentucky
I really wanted to put Immanuel Quickley higher than this, but I’m showing restraint. He can hit any type of 3-point shot, and he gets to the free throw line. I could see Quickley developing into a steady ball-handling bench shooter somewhere down the line. That type of player will be extremely important when the Hornets are in the playoffs in a few years.
7. John Petty, W/G, Alabama
The latest ESPN mock draft had the Hornets selecting John Petty with the 56th pick. He’s not much more than a long-range shooter at this point, but points are points, and he can score points. Petty could be a rotation-level 3&D player some day with good size for a wing, and he has pretty cool hair.
8. Neemias Queta, C, Utah State
Neemias Queta’s freshman season was much better than his sophomore season, which has caused him to fall on draft boards. Most of that was due to a knee injury that held him out for the first nine games of the season, but he also didn’t improve much after that. He still needs to get a bit stronger and work on his touch and feel around the basket. Queta would be a fun project for the Greensboro Swarm development staff.
I’m sure that whoever reads this has a big board that is different than mine. Feel free to post it in the comment section so we can all argue about who’s right (me) and who’s wrong (everyone else in history). We can occupy some of our time with Hornets draft talk. I’ll keep updating these as more prospects make their draft decision.