The Minnesota Timberwolves made the University of Georgia outstanding Anthony Edwards the first overall pick in the pandemic-delayed NBA Draft 2020 on Wednesday.
The Timberwolves, who finished 19-45 in the coronavirus-infested 2020 season, selected Edwards, who averaged 19 points per game as a rookie, to bolster a list that includes young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell.
“I feel like I’ll fit in perfectly with these guys because Russell likes to play ball sometimes, and I can play ball,” Edwards told a virtual press conference from his home in Georgia.
“When he wants to play on the mountain, I can play the ball. And KAT is the best three-point shooter in the league. So I feel we can not go wrong with that, a lot of pick-and-pops, pick-and-rolls and such.”
The Golden State Warriors took center James Wiseman with the second overall pick and the Charlotte Hornets – owned by NBA icon Michael Jordan – made guard LaMelo Ball the third pick.
Edwards, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound guard from Atlanta who spent his lone college season in Georgia, joins a young Timberwolves core led by star center Karl-Anthony Towns and point guard D’Angelo Russell.
Edwards led all Division I rookies with 19.1 points per game and was this year’s Southeastern Conference rookie.
The 2020 draft comes five months after it was originally scheduled for June and just under four weeks after LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers hit the NBA Finals after a virus-ravaged season.
And it’s only five weeks before the 2020-21 campaign ends on 22 December.
This means that the NBA’s newest top recruiting face is thrown into the deep end after an unprecedented final stage of his journey to the league.
“It gives a lot of unknowns,” said Golden State boss Bob Myers from a year that saw the influential college tournament “March Madness” interrupted and the chance for NBA hopefuls to show off their talent was limited.
The Warriors, who finished last in the Western Conference after a season marred by injuries to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, suffered another injury scare hours before the draft with what they called a leg injury to Thompson during training, the severity of which was not immediately known.
In Wiseman, they get a player who has not played organized basketball for more than a year. He only played three games for the University of Memphis to aim for the NBA draft.
“This draft process has been the longest for me, so I’ve just been working on my game,” said the 7ft 1in (2.16m) center, which is an impressive presence at the rim. “I’ve actually played pickup games with professionals already, so I’ve gained a lot of experience. But really just focused on myself. I’m really ready to play with these amazing guys.”
The ball will be third
Ball, the youngest of three basketball-playing brothers who already has his own reality TV show, was named a potential top pick.
But irregular shooting ability may have weighed against the 6ft 7in 19-year-old from California whose path to the NBA included stints played professionally in Lithuania and Australia.
He scored 17 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 31.2 minutes in 12 games for Illawarra Hawks in the Australian National Basketball League last season.
The Chicago Bulls took Patrick Williams with the fourth pick, Isaac Okoro went fifth to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks took Onyeka Okongwu sixth overall.
French goalkeeper Killian Hayes, who has played with Ratiopharm Ulm in Germany, went seventh overall to the Detroit Pistons – the highest foreign player taken this year.
Hayes, 19, averaged 11.6 points and 5.3 assists per game in 2019-20 in Germany’s best league and is expected to combine well with last year’s first round, Sekou Doumbouya, who is also from France.
Deni Avdija, 19, became the highest-ranked player from Israel when the Washington Wizards took him ninth.
Avdija, who played for the Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv at the age of 16 and averaged 12.9 points per game during the 2019-20 EuroLeague season, was named by the Wizards a year after making Rui Hachimura the first player from Japan to was prepared in the first round. .
For the first time, two players born in Nigeria – Precious Achiuwa and Udoka Azubuike – were in the first round. Achiuwa was taken 20th by the Miami Heat and Azubuike 27th by the New York Knicks, both came through American collegiate programs, as was Aussie Josh Green who was taken 18th by the Dallas Mavericks.