The NBA season is still on hold due to the COVID-19 crisis, but the league’s draft is still scheduled for June 25. Teams around the league are putting some pressure on NBA commissioner Adam Silver to push the draft into August or possibly even September.
Regardless, the NBA draft is going to take place and with it comes the question of which players are the best prospects.
The first pick, as well as the next several selections, will probably depend upon which team wins the NBA’s draft lottery, which is still scheduled for Tuesday, May 19. Golden State (15-50) will likely have a great shot at the first pick since it currently has the NBA’s worst record.
Cleveland checks in next with a 19-46 record. Both teams have serious needs as do the Minnesota Timberwolves (19-45), who could find themselves with pick No. 1. Whichever team earns that first pick will play a big role in who goes first.
NBA Draft: The Favorite
The most recent betting odds put the favorite tag on Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards. The 6-foot-5 Edwards is an athletic specimen who can create shots and is a big-time scorer. Edwards averaged 19.1 points and 5.2 rebounds a game for Georgia in earning the SEC’s Freshman of the Year.
Edwards is the -125 favorite to be the first selection in this year’s draft. He is not Michael Jordan, but he is reminiscent of His Airness and is coveted by teams like Golden State, New York, and Minnesota. It would be no surprise if Edwards went No. 1.
NBA Draft: The Wise Man
It may be a wise choice for a team like Golden State to take James Wiseman, the 7-footer who played just three games for Memphis before he left the school due to his alleged role in a recruiting scandal.
Wiseman (+250) could be the No. 1 pick if the team picking first has a glaring need for a big man that can defend the rim. Wiseman is not a shooter just yet, but he can score on the inside.
He’s quick and can run the floor, but his initial strength in the league is going to be his defensive ability. His 7-foot-6-inch wingspan and ability to block shots will go a long way in getting Wiseman drafted. He could eventually develop his offensive game, but not many centers go No. 1 these days.
NBA Draft: On the Ball
One of the rising candidates to be the top pick in the draft is LaMelo Ball, youngest brother of the Pelicans’ Lonzo. Ball did not play college basketball in the U.S. instead opting to play professionally in Australia.
There are many that believe Ball is the best prospect in the 2020 draft. At 6-foot-7, Ball is a pure point guard, meaning he also defends point guards. He is a deadly long-range shooter and, like his older brother Lonzo, has an uncanny ability to distribute the basketball to his teammates. His ability as a passer is very similar to Lonzo, who now plays for New Orleans.
Ball was named the NBL (National Basketball League) Rookie of the Year while averaging 17.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game. Remember, this is an 18-year-old playing against grown men in Australia.
That’s what makes Ball the top value pick at +400. He’s a big guard who can score, pass, and rebound. There is talk that the Knicks would love to have Ball and would trade into the No. 1 slot to get him.
NBA Draft: The Longshots
It’s too bad there was no NCAA tournament. More fans would have become better acquainted with Obi Toppin, an absolute beast on the floor. At 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, Toppin led Dayton to an Atlantic-10 title and what would have likely been a No. 1 seed in March Madness.
Toppin averaged 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game for the Flyers. He projects as a power forward, but he can step out and shoot the 3-pointer. He hit 39 percent from behind the arc last season.
Toppin is also a quality defender and because of his size he makes for an intriguing prospect in situations like Detroit, Minnesota, and Atlanta.
Toppin is also an intriguing bet to be the top pick. His odds at +800 suggest he is somewhat of a longshot, but should the Pistons, T-Wolves, or Hawks hold that top pick he could go first and make for a nice payday. The Hawks (20-47) and the Pistons (20-46) both have a strong shot at winning the draft lottery.
The only other two realistic candidates to go No. 1 overall are North Carolina point guard Cole Anthony and forward Deni Avdija from Israel. Anthony, the son of former NBA point guard Greg, is a 6-3 do-it-all scorer that is extremely streaky.
He averaged 18.5 points and 5.7 rebounds a game for the Tar Heels and missed some time during the season with a knee injury. The injury had healed and Anthony was ready for the ACC tournament before the NCAA ended the season due to the coronavirus. At +2500 to go first, Anthony’s a real stretch.
Avdija is a unique combination of size, ball-handler, and shooter. At 6-foot-9, the Israeli League star can play four positions. He projects as a point forward. He can run the break, attack the rim, and pull up and shoot from long-range.
He could have an immediate impact like Luka Doncic in Dallas, the type of impact that makes his +1400 odds worth a small wager.