With the top pick, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Anthony Edwards, a shooting guard from Georgia. The 19-year-old Edwards averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 32 games before the coronavirus pandemic brought his freshman season to an abrupt halt during the SEC conference tournament.
Known for his physical presence on the ball and his scoring ability, Edwards will join a core in Minnesota that includes franchise center Karl-Anthony Towns and all-star guard D’Angelo Russell. The SEC Freshman of the Year watched the draft from his home in Atlanta, where he was flanked by paintings of his mother and grandmother, who both died after battling with cancer.
“I’m feeling very joyful and excited just because of the fact I had my mother and my grandmother next to me,” Edwards said on a Zoom conference call with reporters.
Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas added Edwards, known as “Ant Man,” to one of the youngest rosters in the NBA that also includes 2019 lottery pick Jarrett Culver. While Edwards has the potential to be an all-star caliber scoring talent, Minnesota will need to coax more consistent production and better defensive focus from the Atlanta native.
Ultimately, the selection of Edwards came down to fit for Minnesota. The presence of Russell made it difficult to select LaMelo Ball, a ball-dominant lead guard with strong passing skills who played professionally in Australia last year. With Towns in the middle and locked into a max contract, the Timberwolves and Memphis center James Wiseman never showed much mutual interest.
“I feel like I’m going to fit perfect with those guys because Russell likes to play off the ball sometimes, and I can play on the ball,” Edwards said. “When he wants to play on the rock, I can play off the ball. And [Towns] is the best three-point shooting big man in the league. So I feel we can’t go wrong with that, a lot of pick-and-pops, pick-and-rolls and such.”
The Timberwolves did execute a trade to acquire Ricky Rubio from the Oklahoma City Thunder for James Johnson and Aleksej Pokusevski, who was selected with the 17th pick. Minnesota also received two late first-round picks in return. Rubio, a fan favorite who spent the first six years of his career with the Timberwolves, will return as a trustworthy backup to Russell.
With the second pick, the Warriors selected Wiseman, who played just three games before he ran afoul of NCAA rules. A talented two-way center with the potential to be a star, Wiseman fills a hole in Golden State’s frontcourt but he hasn’t played in a competitive game in more than a year.
“Just fit in my role, stay humble and be coachable, which I am,” Wiseman said from his home in Nashville. “I’m focused on success. I mean, rookie of the year is something that I do want on my list.”
The 19-year-old Wiseman will join a veteran-dominated roster that aspires to return to championship contention immediately with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Those hopes might have taken a hit Wednesday when Thompson suffered an undisclosed leg injury while working out in Los Angeles. If Thompson’s injury proves serious, Wiseman’s development will take on added importance for the Warriors this season.
The lack of movement at the top of this year’s draft suggests that teams were not enthralled with this year’s class. After the 2019 class featured two franchise players in Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, the 2020 class was viewed as a down year by comparison. Meanwhile, the 2021 class is headlined by potential franchise players in Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green. The 2022 class is expected to be led by Emoni Bates, a 16-year-old forward who has already drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant.
Ball, the younger brother of New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, went third to the Charlotte Hornets. After leaving high school to play professionally in Lithuania and Australia, Ball called it a “straight blessing” to play for an organization owned by Michael Jordan.
“I don’t even have enough words to say,” Ball said. “I feel like I can go out there and play basketball. I feel like I was born to do this.”
In a surprise, the Chicago Bulls used the fourth selection to take versatile forward Patrick Williams from Florida State. The Cleveland Cavaliers selected defensive-minded forward Isaac Okoro out of Auburn with the fifth pick.
After USC center Onyeka Okongwu went sixth to the Atlanta Hawks, French guard Killian Hayes went seventh to the Detroit Pistons and Dayton forward Obi Toppin went eighth to the New York Knicks, the Washington Wizards selected Israeli forward Deni Avdija at nine.
The pick marked the second straight year that the Wizards have selected an international forward in the lottery after taking Japan’s Rui Hachimura last year. Avdija becomes the highest-selected Israeli player in NBA Draft history.
“For me to represent my country and be in the highest spot possible, that’s amazing,” Avdija said on the ESPN broadcast. “I’m super excited and ready to get my game to the next level.”
The NBA held its draft from ESPN’s studios in Connecticut with the prospects following along remotely from across the country. The event was delayed by 146 days due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the league made several adjustments to the broadcast to accommodate the prospects. Thirty top prospects were gifted hats for all 30 teams and equipped with a phone, tablet, light, and pair of headphones to help capture their live reactions and interviews.
— Ben Golliver
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