With less than a month until the 2020 NBA Draft finally — finally! — takes place, we’re slowly seeing the rumor mill start to churn as teams enter the home stretch and begin making their final assessments. And with restrictions relaxed on in-person interactions, we’re expecting a steady diet of more rumors leading up to Nov. 18. Clarity is coming as prospects settle into ranges, draft boards get finalized and team’s motives become more clear.
Who am I kidding? Motives remain murky as ever. The fun of draft season is trying to interpret motives with confidence, because they are rarely clear. Smoke screens have smoke screens by now, and even those smoke screens might have an extra layer of fog. The only thing that’s certain is that absolutely nothing is certain.
So that’s why we’re tracking all the latest buzz below: to try and make heads and tails of all the latest draft news and notes and get you caught up with everything you need (and maybe don’t need) to know.
LaMelo Ball meets with Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves, who own the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, met with potential No. 1 pick LaMelo Ball last week and is expected to meet soon with the Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls, according to a report from ESPN. The four franchises all hold the top four picks in this year’s draft. The 6-foot-7 Ball is one of the most electric playmaking guards in this draft, though there is buzz of late suggesting he’s not performing well during interviews. It’s unclear how much of that is just news and how much is noise, but that a top five prospect is meeting with a team that holds the No. 1 pick is certainly newsworthy and worth monitoring.
Atlanta Hawks shopping No. 6 pick
As the Hawks look to upgrade their roster around All-Star point guard Trae Young, a report from The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor this week indicates the team is looking to make maneuvers in a push to win sooner rather than later. Those efforts right now include shopping the No. 6 overall pick with the intention of adding a player who can help the team take the next step this upcoming season, potentially trading it in return for someone who fits with the team’s young core. From The Ringer:
The Hawks are shopping their first-round pick and intend to push for the playoffs, according to multiple league sources. Expect them to also be aggressive in free agency; the franchise wants to win now and capitalize on Trae Young’s emergence.
Hawks GM Travis Schlenk has shown he’s not afraid to deal on draft night, most notably trading Luka Doncic to Dallas in exchange for Young and a 2019 first-round pick. So even if the team stays put in the coming weeks, it’s certainly possible they end up going into the draft still open for business and willing to move down or out entirely for the right package.
Warriors considering Toppin at No. 2
Securing the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft gives Golden State — coming off an injury-riddled season — the chance to add a young talent to a ready-made roster poised to fight for the top seed in the West next season. One player who fits that bill is reigning Naismith College Player of the Year Obi Toppin, who seems to be on the team’s radar, according to NBA Draft insider Chad Ford.
The Warriors have been difficult to peg throughout the process, but there’s been plenty of rumors coming out of Golden State in recent months. They’re reportedly not high on LaMelo Ball or James Wiseman if they stand pat at No. 2, and they apparently like Israeli forward Deni Avdija.
As for what position they’ll target, it remains a mystery, which is only further made murky by a report last month that they aren’t likely to draft a center at No. 2. And that’s assuming they stay put and don’t trade the pick — which doesn’t seem like a lock either.
Knicks doing homework on lottery point guard prospect
The New York Knicks may look to upgrade their point guard position via the draft, and with the No. 8 overall pick, they’ll be in play for some of the draft’s biggest names. Now, barring a blockbuster move, they’ll likely be out of the running to land LaMelo Ball. But Kira Lewis Jr. could be in the mix there, and he recently worked out in front of the team’s brass, per SNY.tv. They’ve also been in contact with Ball, Killian Hayes and Tyrese Haliburton.
Celtics showing interest in RJ Hampton
Forbes.com reported this week that the Celtics had a “good interview” with RJ Hampton, the 19-year-old combo guard who last played in the NBL for the New Zealand Breakers, and that the team wants to bring him in for an in-person workout to better evaluate him.
Hampton struggled playing overseas but has caught the attention of teams with his 6-foot-5 frame, ball-handling skills and athleticism. He’s got a ton of upside as a long-term investment but his draft range is still pretty wide. It wouldn’t surprise me if he went inside the top 10. It also wouldn’t surprise me if he falls into the 20s. A happy medium might be where the Celtics sit with their first pick of the first round, at No. 14. They’re also picking at Nos. 26 and 30.
Wiseman wants Minnesota to pass on him at No. 1
Minnesota has 7-footer Karl-Anthony Towns in the fold, and 7-foot prospect James Wiseman, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, apparently doesn’t want any part of a two-big system next to him with the Timberwolves. Windhorst said in a podcast this week that Wiseman “does not want to come to Minnesota because Karl Towns is there,” and that from what he understands, “Wiseman doesn’t even want to do anything” with the franchise.
Minnesota team president Gersson Rosas said earlier this summer that the team would consider all prospects regardless of roster construction and potential fit problems, leaving the door open to draft the Memphis product. But Wiseman trying to distance himself from the team could play a factor in how the franchise approaches its top pick this month.