NBA

LaMelo, Edwards or Wiseman - who will be the first pick in the 2020 NBA Draft?

By Sports Desk November 16, 2020

Just over a month on from the Los Angeles Lakers' victory in the NBA Finals, teams across the league are preparing to replenish their rosters with prospects in the 2020 draft.

It will not be the usual glitzy spectacle that usually greets the world's most promising young players as they fulfil their dream of playing in the best league in the world.

As the NFL did earlier in the year, the NBA has gone virtual for this draft due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the occasion may lack the grandeur of previous years, there is no shortage of intrigue at the top of the draft, with the identity of the first overall pick still unknown.

Three names stand out as the top candidates to be picked first by the Minnesota Timberwolves, who won the lottery to have their pick of the entire draft class.

Here we look at the statistical credentials of that trio and assess their likelihood of being the first player off the board come Wednesday.


LaMelo Ball - Guard, Illawarra Hawks

The younger brother of 2017 second overall pick Lonzo may be an even better prospect, having proven himself in the professional ranks in Australia's National Basketball League.

Ball spent 12 games with the Illawarra Hawks before leaving to focus on his preparations for the draft and made his mark in his short time in New South Wales.

He was named NBL Rookie of the Year after a season that saw him become the youngest player in league history to record a triple-double.

Ball averaged 17 points per game and demonstrated his potential as a facilitator as he finished the season second in the league in assists per game with 6.8

His value on the defensive end was illustrated by his average of 5.7 defensive rebounds, which ranked equal fourth in the NBL.

Having contributed in so many different ways in one of the best professional leagues outside of the NBA, it is no surprise Ball is the bookmakers' favourite to hear his name called first come Wednesday.

Anthony Edwards - Guard, Georgia

Edwards is viewed as the primary challenger to Ball in the race to be the first overall pick after an impressive sole season in college basketball with Georgia.

The competition may not have been at the same level as what Ball faced in Australia but his numbers, at least in terms of scoring, are comparable.

He averaged 19.1 points per game for the Bulldogs, though he was not as prolific in terms of assists or rebounds.

Indeed, Edwards finished the 2019-20 season with 2.8 assists per game while he averaged 5.2 rebounds. Focusing solely on defensive rebounds, Edwards produced 4.5 per game.

Yet the quality of Edwards' play in his brief collegiate career is reflected by his points/assists/rebounds per game average of 27.1 being fifth in the Southeastern Conference last season.

Like Ball, Edwards is a versatile all-round talent. Ball's performances in Australia suggest he may be the more NBA-ready prospect, but it may come down to whether evaluators are more comfortable picking a player on the basis of 12 games in a foreign league or Edwards' 32 at a lower level.

James Wiseman - Center, Memphis

In terms of sample size, Wiseman is the wildcard. He played only three games for Memphis last season but his frightening blend of size and athleticism gives him upside plenty of teams will be willing to bet on.

The 7ft 1in Wiseman is blessed with a monstrous wingspan and has drawn comparisons to DeAndre Jordan and Hassan Whiteside.

His potential was there for all to see in his minimal time on the court for the Tigers.

Wiseman had a points/assists/rebounds average of 30.7 across his three games, dominating on the boards as he put up 10.7 total rebounds per game.

He is an outsider to be the first overall pick unless a center-needy team decides to take a big gamble on his skillset and trade into the first overall pick.

That appears unlikely but, even if he is not the first player off the board, there is a strong chance he will hear his name called second.

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