The 2020 NBA Draft is still over a week away, and it’s already been very weird. And not just because the Golden State Warriors — who have won the Western Conference five times in the last six seasons — are sitting in the passenger seat, holding the second overall pick.
It’s a weird draft because there was no conclusion to the NCAA season, no March Madness to judge players on, and limited workouts and combines due to the coronavirus. And it’s a weird draft because there hasn’t been a consensus top player, or even much of a consensus with regards to prospect tiers.
Two players — LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman — had unconventional paths to the draft even before the coronavirus, and those same two have bounced all around big boards and mock drafts. Over the last few months, both have spent their fair share of time away from the top of the mock drafts, and their fair share of time at the very top.
And for Ball, it seems as though he’s at the very top at the right time.
For a while, most mock drafts had Georgia guard Anthony Edwards projected as the top pick. It was becoming so common that Edwards seemed to be the only projected lottery pick who hadn’t been mentioned in the same breath as the Warriors.
But now the tide has changed. According to a report from ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, Ball is expected to be the first name to leave the lips of commissioner Adam Silver on Nov. 18.
Here’s what Givony had to said (full article is on ESPN+, which you can purchase here).
Unless a surprise trade completely disrupts the top of the draft, LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman are likely to make up the top three in some order, according to conversations with multiple team executives, scouts and agents. Most NBA front offices are operating under the assumption that Ball is going No. 1 — either to the Minnesota Timberwolves or a team that trades up to select him.
If reports are to be believed, the Warriors are decently high on Wiseman. But, assuming they keep the pick, it’s very difficult to imagine them selecting anyone other than Edwards if he’s still on the table.
Ricky O’Donnell’s latest mock draft for SB Nation follows this path, with Ball going first and Edwards being taken by Golden State. Here’s part of what he had to say about why the Warriors won’t let Edwards slip through their fingers.
The 6’5 guard is the best raw athlete in the class, blending extraordinary quick-twitch burst in tight spaces with rare explosiveness in the open floor and around the basket. When Edwards is feeling it, he can also be one of the most impressive shot-makers in this draft ... Golden State still feels like the best place for Edwards to grow, where he can learn how to play off-the-ball next to Stephen Curry and Co. and won’t be expected to carry the organization from day one. If Golden State can re-wire how Edwards plays the game, he should be a useful piece in the short-term and potentially a building block long-term.
Edwards is certainly not without his issues (O’Donnell’s full write-up mentions the “disaster” that was his shot selection last season) but feels like a clear fit on a Warriors team that is decisively lacking in reliable guard options off the bench. And while reliable centers — Wiseman’s position — can almost always be found for the veteran’s minimum (hello JaVale McGee!), that’s not proven to be the case for guards.
But as we’ve seen in the past, draft intel can change on a dime. Ball may be the favorite to be taken first right now, but by the time the draft rolls around he might have fallen out of the top three. At the risk of sounding like John King or Steve Kornacki, whom I’m sure you’ve all seen enough of for at least the next four years, we’ll just have to wait and see the outcome.
Edwards sure would be nice though.