By Tom Walker | Head of Sport
The sheer concept of the NBA draft system is guaranteed to produce mixed outcomes for both players and organisations. The 2020 draft class has amplified that statement to the absolute pinnacle of its sentiment.
With the cancellation of the NCAA tournament due to COVID-19, the main showcase for emerging college talent was omitted leaving scouts and coaches somewhat scratching their heads.
Obviously this does not leave those who make the big decisions light handed, given that the scouting process often starts when they players are in high school. It does however remove the opportunity for scouts to see them compete at the highest level of college basketball, and the face to face meetings that quite often influence the final decision.
By many experts and analysts, this draft class has been evaluated as rather weak, with value set to be found in the later rounds as opposed to the lottery selections.
Unlike last year, when Zion Williamson and Ja Morant were certain for the top two spots, this year is a little more ambiguous.
Who is picking where?
The Minnesota Timberwolves hold the first pick, but by all accounts may look to move the pick in favour for a “win now” move, as they look to reach the playoffs with the new tandem of Karl Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russel.
The Warriors, who hold the number two pick, are in a similar predicament. With Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all coming back healthy, the Warriors will have championship aspirations this season. Something a rookie, unless your name is Magic Johnson, cannot really contribute too.
The Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers make up the top 5 picks, but do not be surprised to see that order change come draft day.
Who could go first?
Unlike many years before, it is hard to pen a name into that top spot, especially when the team picking first is still relatively unknown.
It could be between guards Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball, brother of New Orleans Pelicans point-guard Lonzo, or forwards James Wiseman or Onyeka Okongwu.
Bleacher Report and ESPN currently have LaMelo Ball being selected number one on their boards. His six-foot-seven frame is rare for someone in his position, and paired with his playmaking off the dribble and elite passing, he is an exciting prospect for teams.
The downside of Ball is his off the court nature. He has been maligned at times for his work ethic and level of focus. His role in the American reality TV show ‘Ball in the Family’ with his family, may also be a concern for teams scouting him.
If the Hornets for example move up to the number one pick, they have expressed their interest in a big man, with Wiseman being their preferred candidate.
His seven-foot frame and seven-five-foot wingspan, nice post-up game and three-point shot would make him a great centre piece for the Hornets. However, Wiseman was relatively absent in his freshman year with Memphis University making him a risky choice, especially at pick one.
It is an incredibly hard draft class to predict. A mixture of the pandemic and the dubious nature of the talent has muddied the water in terms of player judgement. It will be a night full with twists and turns for sure.