Unlike last year, when Zion Williamson was expected to be and was the No. 1 choice of the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA draft, there is doubt about the top spot this year as Wednesday’s draft approaches.
The top three players in the draft appear to be point guard LaMelo Ball, who played professionally in Australia’s National Basketball League last season; Georgia freshman two-guard Anthony Edwards; and Memphis center James Wiseman. All three are 19.
Minnesota selects first, followed by Golden State, and Charlotte. The 76ers have five selections, No. 21 in the first round, and Nos. 34, 36, 49, and 58 in the second round.
Ball has been a known commodity for years. His brother, Lonzo, now on the Pelicans, was the second overall pick of the 2017 draft by the Los Angeles Lakers.
During his NBA Zoom interview with the media on Tuesday, the 6-foot-7, 194-pound LaMelo Ball said he has worked out for four teams: Minnesota, Golden State, Charlotte and Detroit, which selects seventh but has been rumored to be looking to trade up.
Unlike his father, LaVar, known for his outlandish comments, LaMelo Ball gave short answers and was to the point with the media.
When asked why he should be the No. 1 pick, he answered, “I feel I am the right man for it. I feel I was born for this whole thing going on.”
Ball has taken an unconventional route to the NBA. He spent his first two seasons playing high school ball at Chino Hills (Calif.) He then signed a pro contract to play in Lithuania with Vytautas Prienal of the Lithuanian LKL. In eight games, Ball averaged 6.5 points and 2.4 assists in 12.6 minutes per contest.
He resumed his scholastic career as a senior in 2018-2019 at Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio. Since the school was not a member of a state athletic association, even though he was a former pro, Ball was allowed to play on the team. However, several schools dropped Spire from their schedules because it had a former pro player.
Ball played this past season for the Illawarra Hawks in Australia in the NBL and was named the league’s rookie of the year. In 12 games, he averaged 17.0 points and 7.0 assists in 31.4 minutes. He shot 20-for-82 (.244) from three-point range, which is his weakness.
“When you go overseas, it is a whole new different style of play, something you just add to your arsenal,” Ball said. “So I feel like it helped me in that aspect.”
The top pick is expected to be Ball or Edwards. Most experts have Wiseman heading to Golden State at No. 2. But with all the trade activity going on in the NBA, the Warriors, who are in a win-now mode, could be tempted to trade the pick.
Wiseman said he has worked out for only Golden State and Charlotte. Edwards said he has worked out for the top three teams, Minnesota, Golden State, and Charlotte.
Edwards (6-5, 225) is known for his unworldly athleticism. In his lone season at Georgia, he averaged 19.1 points and 5.8 rebounds. But he shot 29.4% from beyond the arc.
Wiseman (7-1, 240) played only three games with Memphis before receiving a 12-game NCAA suspension for “recruiting inducements his family received” before he enrolled at Memphis.