Head to Head: Who Will Be the NBA’s Top Five Draft Selections? Pearce’s Top 5

By Ethan Pearce, Assistant Sports Editor

 

5. Cleveland Cavaliers | Onyeka Okongwu | USC | C

After the success of Heat center Bam Adebayo in their run to the Finals, Okongwu’s stock has been rising. The comparison is hard to miss; a versatile defender, coming along as a playmaker, athletic, good post-game and a great handle for his size. He’s an inconsistent shooter and is a little small for the position, but he has an overall very good skill set for his size and will only get better. Cleveland doesn’t need guard play after taking Darius Garland and Collin Sexton in the last two drafts. A center makes sense for them here, and they’d feel pretty good about coming away with a player with this much potential.

4. Chicago Bulls | Isaac Okoro | Auburn | F

The Bulls need wings. They’ve recently drafted guard Coby White and center Wendell Carter Jr., both of whom the team should still have faith in. They have been treading water as a lottery team for a few years, but this team with a proud history is hungry to win. Enter Isaac Okoro. A great defender with solid shot selection and who knows how to move the ball. He is a do-it-all wing who looks like he has a high floor. Like most of these top prospects, though, his shot needs to improve. Still, he should have value as a winning player who fits right in with this young Bulls roster.

3. Charlotte Hornets | James Wiseman | Memphis | C

Rumors are saying that Charlotte loves Wiseman, and I think they’ll get him. This roster has no clear direction since Kemba Walker left in free agency. They have some solid young pieces in Miles Bridges, PJ Washington and Devonte’ Graham, but they lack a player with true star potential. They should take whoever they believe is the best player available. That’s what they get here in Wiseman, who will come in and immediately be the core of the team. He is an athletic marvel who was heralded in high school for his high motor and strong frame. He didn’t play many games in college due to eligibility issues, so it’s tough to grade him based on what we’ve seen recently. If his defensive IQ improves and his shot stays solid, he can be a really good center in the NBA. The Hornets will likely stay and pick at three unless they feel they need to trade up for Wiseman, but either way, I think they’ll get their guy. 

2. Golden State Warriors | Deni Avdija | Maccabi Tel Aviv | G/F

This one might be controversial, but in my opinion, it’s been trending this way for a while. Avdija is a relatively unknown prospect from Israel, but he may have the most potential out of anyone. A good playmaker with good size and skill, high defensive IQ and strong intangibles, Avdija looks like the type of player the Warriors would love. I think Golden State’s need for a center is overblown and they will likely pick one up in free agency, which is why I steered away from Wiseman here. This is a rare situation where a team picking at the top of the lottery also has a title-ready roster. Golden State is only here because of major injuries to the Splash Brothers which knocked them out for the season, and with the team coming back healthy, they will be right back in contention. So in my opinion, they will draft a player they believe is ready to win now, or they will trade down for more win-now pieces. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what the Warriors might do, and I still think the most likely option is to trade down with a team that has fallen in love with Wiseman or Ball. If they stick here and make the pick, though, it makes sense to go with the guy who has a high basketball IQ, projects as a solid defender and brings playmaking off the bench. His shot still needs to come around, but he has a high ceiling and will be able to play right away. 

1. Minnesota Timberwolves | Anthony Edwards | Georgia | G

Edwards is probably the best prospect in a class where no one is sure about anything. He is extremely athletic with a strong frame and a ton of bounce. Still very raw, he needs to get more consistent with his shot selection and improve his playmaking. For a guy as young as he is, it makes sense to bank on him to improve from where he is right now. He is a natural fit on a young Wolves roster and would be a nice backcourt mate for D’Angelo Russell. I should also mention that Minnesota has put this pick into the trade market and there’s a chance they could trade down in order to get more win-now players. They don’t have their first round pick next year, so this team is looking to compete in a strong Western Conference. Edwards would help with that, but maybe another team is looking to get ahold of him and breaks the bank to trade with Minnesota. Whether it’s the Timberwolves or someone else picking here, Edwards is a likely choice. 

You may notice the lack of LaMelo Ball in my top five. Ball’s draft stock is falling after reportedly doing poorly in interviews and he is a flawed prospect. Questions about his shot, defense and even personality have him slipping down draft boards. There’s still a chance one of these teams takes him, or another team may even trade up to get him. For now, though, I’m dropping LaMelo Ball out of my top five.

 

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