Timberwolves take Edwards first; Wiseman, Ball go nexton November 19, 2020 at 1:40 am

Five months later than it was originally scheduled, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Anthony Edwards with the first pick of the 2020 NBA draft Wednesday night.

The Golden State Warriors took center James Wiseman with the No. 2 pick, and guard LaMelo Ball followed as the third pick to the Charlotte Hornets.

Edwards, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound guard from Atlanta who spent his lone collegiate season at Georgia, joins a young Timberwolves core led by star center Karl-Anthony Towns and point guard D’Angelo Russell. Edwards averaged 19.1 points per game and was the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year.

“I’m just blessed beyond measure to be in this situation,” Edwards said on ESPN shortly after being selected.

Edwards, Wiseman and Ball were all, at different times, projected to be the top pick in the draft. Edwards, however, was the best positional fit for Minnesota — Wiseman shares the same position as Towns and Ball shares the same position as Russell — and had emerged as the likely top pick in the days leading up to Wednesday’s draft.

Wiseman, a 7-foot-1 center who only played three games this season for the University of Memphis, gives Golden State a dose of athleticism to go alongside Draymond Green in the Warriors’ frontcourt, and can potentially help shore up the team’s defense after the Warriors fell to the bottom of the standings after making five straight trips to the NBA Finals due to injuries to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Ball, the younger brother of New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, is a gifted passer who will give the Hornets some desperately needed star power. He has had a winding road to getting to this point, going to play in Lithuania and then Australia before being taken by Charlotte on Wednesday night.

Ball averaged 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 12 games for the Illawara Hawks in Australia’s National Basketball League.

The intrigue in the draft began with the No. 4 pick, where the Chicago Bulls took Florida State Patrick Williams. In the days leading up to the draft, rival teams were unsure what Arturas Karnisovas, the first-year executive vice president of basketball operations in Chicago, would do overseeing his first draft. Ultimately, the Bulls chose the fastest rising player on draft boards leading up to draft night.

Williams shot up from the late lottery to the top five in the weeks leading up to the draft. The ACC Sixth Man of the Year last year, he became the highest drafted Seminole since Dave Cowens was taken fourth by the Boston Celtics 50 years ago.

Wednesday night’s draft was originally scheduled to take place in June, as it typically does, but was pushed back until after the NBA completed its season in a bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic also led to a change in venue for the draft. Rather than taking place in New York, as it typically does each June, it was instead held virtually at ESPN’s campus in Bristol, Connecticut, where NBA commissioner Adam Silver conducted the first round and deputy commissioner Mark Tatum the second as usual.

The delay in holding the draft because of the pandemic both allowed for more time than ever before for NBA teams to prepare for the draft, and also meant prospects have spent more time away from the court upon entering the NBA than they ever have.

As a result, rather than going from the draft to the NBA’s annual summer league in Las Vegas, rookies will instead be going almost straight into their initial NBA seasons, as training camps around the league are scheduled to begin on Nov. 1.

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