NBA playoff draft, part 2: Top seeds find their difference makers

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As promised, here is part two of the 2020 NBA playoff draft. You can view a description of the format and the first eight picks here. Only the top four teams from each conference remain. The Miami Heat start part two with the ninth pick of the playoff draft.

Miami is being fueled by its young core, but it takes size and defense to win out in the East. Hassan Whiteside returns to Miami to settle some unfinished business. Whiteside will anchor the defense down low. He ranks first in blocks with 3.1 per game and second in rebounds with 14.2 per game this season. Adding Whiteside’s skillset to this Miami team will benefit it greatly. The Heat are tied with the Jazz for the highest three-point percentage in the league at 38.3%. They will continue to shoot threes at a high clip, and Whiteside’s rebounding will help neutralize poor shooting nights.

Speaking of the Jazz, Trae Young falls in Utah’s lap at pick number 10. Mike Conley hasn’t been able to find his groove with the Jazz. This season he’s averaging below his career average in points, assists, steals and field-goal percentage. Young will give them the all-star caliber point guard they were hoping for. Young is currently fourth in scoring, but the Jazz will greatly benefit from his playmaking ability as he averages 9.3 assists per game, good for second-most behind LeBron James. Utah can definitely use help in that department, since it currently ranks 26th in assists per game. Unfortunately, Young also leads the league in turnovers. This won’t steer the Jazz away, however, since his playmaking and shooting ability are too valuable to pass up.

The Denver Nuggets get their missing piece in CJ McCollum. McCollum is an underrated scorer who will fill in for the regressing Gary Harris. Last season during the playoffs, 55% of McCollum’s field goals were off the dribble. His ability to create offense for himself will be valuable for the Nuggets in the postseason. He’s also an excellent three-point shooter, which gives Nikola Jokic another outlet on offense. McCollum could lead this team in scoring in the playoffs. 

Boston desperately needs a center, and they’re able to snag Andre Drummond with the 12th pick. Enes Kanter and Jayson Tatum are the top rebounders for the Celtics right now and they combine for 14.8 boards a game. Drummond is averaging 15.2 rebounds a game by himself, which will mark the fourth time in five seasons he’s led the league in rebounding. With the upgrade, the Celtics have the size and depth to compete with the Bucks, Sixers and Raptors.

The Clippers know they need an upgrade at center, but they can’t pass up Jrue Holiday here. Holiday is a lockdown defender and a playmaker on offense. He was named to the all-defensive first team in 2018 and all-defensive second team in 2019. Holiday and Paul George might be the best defensive backcourt in the playoffs. Holiday averaged around 20 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds per game this season. The Angeleno is the complete package at point guard and he’ll be looking to bring the championship parade back to his hometown.

The defending champs need another wing scorer to complement Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry. Zach LaVine to the Raptors completes the perfect puzzle. He’s a crafty scorer who can make tough shots from anywhere on the court. While LaVine wouldn’t be able to do what Kawhi Leonard did for them last year, he still gives the Raptors a reliable scoring option aside from Lowry and Siakam. The Raptors will be able to take advantage of the mismatches LaVine helps create in late game situations.

A reunion in Los Angeles is necessary if the Lakers want to bring home the championship. D’Angelo Russell gives the Lakers a reliable third scoring option who can create for others, as well. He’s averaged more than 20 points and 6 assists over the past two seasons. He can lead the Lakers’ offense for stretches when LeBron James is off the court. He’s also made a handful of game winners during his young career (points at elbow vein) and Lakers head coach Frank Vogel can finally banish Rajon Rondo to the bench forever.

The best team in the NBA gets the better and more exciting to watch. The Bucks take Zion Williamson with their final pick. In just 19 games, he’s already shown flashes of how good he can really be. This Bucks team has already surrounded Giannis Antetokounmpo with great shooters and excellent defense and Zion will add his 23.6 ppg to the top scoring team in the league. More importantly, his explosive dunks can capture the momentum in a game at any moment. The Bucks will have home court throughout the playoffs and their home fans will have plenty to cheer about with Williamson and Antetokounmpo leading the way.

That concludes the 2020 NBA playoff draft. This exercise highlights how much talent is left out of the playoffs every year. The hardest part was choosing between the best player available and best fit. If you were in charge, what would you do differently?

Nico Alba covers men’s golf. Contact him at [email protected].