The NBA Draft took place last Wednesday, marking the start of the already exciting 2020 NBA offseason. In such a strange year, prospects from both college and overseas have patiently waited to be drafted since early spring. And to make this situation even more unprecedented, these new draftees will now have to get acclimated quite quickly for the 2021 season, which starts on Dec. 22. Enough talking, though — let’s get into the draft.
For a few months leading up to the draft, there had been a consensus top-three class of elite prospects: Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, and Lamelo Ball. To no surprise, these hoopers were the first ones off the boards, making for a chalk beginning to the draft. Although these top three all have elite qualities and traits, they are all respectively very different.
Atlanta native and SEC Freshman of the Year Anthony Edwards went No. 1 overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves, giving them a formidable trio of Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Edwards — all great scorers. After trading away Andrew Wiggins last year, the Wolves lacked wing scoring, and often relied on rookie Jarrett Culver to be that guy for them down the stretch. In Edwards, they are getting quite easily the best player in the draft, and the potential for a future offensive superstar who can score effortlessly at all three levels of the court. And while he certainly needs to devote more effort on the defensive side of the ball, once he learns to utilize his 6’9” wingspan, opposing wings are going to be in trouble. His college coach Tom Crean said he’s “never had a player like Edwards before,” which is heavy praise coming from someone who coached Victor Oladipo and Dwyane Wade. For the first time in a few years, the Wolves could have a deep playoff run to look forward to.
Just hours after announcing the devastating news of another brutal injury to future Hall of Famer Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors selected James Wiseman second overall. Some wondered whether the injury to Klay would sway their pick, but they did the right thing by taking the best player available in Wiseman. Standing 7’1” with a 7’6” wingspan, the former top-ranked ranked high school player will be a seamless fit into the Warriors pick-and-roll offense, and will provide them with a much-needed shot blocker — something they’ve been missing in their starting lineup since Kevin Durant arrived at Golden State.
The polarizing Lamelo Ball had his name called next by the Charlotte Hornets. Lamelo will be a very intriguing watch in the NBA due to his lack of competition playing overseas and controversial route to the league. The sky’s the limit for Ball, however, as he has elite size for a guard, and from day one will be one of the league’s best passers. In his experience playing for professional basketball teams, he has proven no moment is too big for him, but ultimately his ceiling will come down to whether or not he’ll become a more consistent shooter and work on his mechanics just a bit. Pairing Ball with the newly signed Gordon Hayward and Devonte’ Graham will make for one of the more exciting backcourts to watch this year.
After this first trio of picks, there was a bit of a lull, as there were no trades until the back half of the second round. In the past two NBA Drafts, there had been five trades within the first 10 picks combined, but this time, potentially due to the lack of tape on prospects due to COVID-19, no teams seemed eager to move up.
One draft-day faller was Dayton’s Obi Toppin, who was selected by his hometown New York Knicks at eighth overall. After winning the Wooden Award last year and shooting the rock at an astounding 64 percent, he seemed like a top-five lock. While he may lack lateral quickness, he is a terrific all-around scorer and will hopefully assist the Knicks’ trek back to contention in the coming years.
While there were undoubtedly many hidden late-first- and second-round gems drafted last Wednesday, I think one of the more underrated selections to value was Tyrese Maxey to the Philadelphia 76ers at 21st overall. Part of the reason the Sixers haven’t had great success with both Embiid and Simmons is because of the lack of floor spacing, which was exacerbated with the departure of JJ Reddick last offseason. Although not an elite outside shooter, Maxey excels both in shooting off the dribble and catch-and-shoot, and does so with swagger and confidence — something currently missing in Philly. His 83 percent from the free-throw line demonstrates his shooting ability, and if he can continue to improve upon that 3-point stroke, Daryl Morey will look like a genius in his first draft in Philadelphia.
Many players found new homes last week, and with such a quick turnaround to the start of the season, don’t be so surprised if it takes the rookies some time to become accustomed to the pace and size of the NBA game. With already so many trades and new free agent signings, however, there is no doubt this season will be another exhilarating one. Last year, rookie Ja Morant took the Grizzlies to the play-in game out of nowhere — who will that rookie be this year?
Photo courtesy of Katie Dugan / Gamecock Central