From: Las Vegas
LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards: Who should Timberwolves take at No. 1?
Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz
With the Minnesota Timberwolves securing the No. 1 selection in the 2020 NBA draft over the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, the spotlight turns to the pick: Who will the Wolves take in the top spot?
Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball are atop our big board and latest mock draft as ESPN draft experts Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz discuss who Minnesota should take -- and who it will take.
Who should the Timberwolves take?
While the 2020 NBA draft is reputed to be one in which teams might not mind slipping a few spots -- considering the high cost of a top pick's rookie scale contract and the extreme uncertainty surrounding the top prospects -- Minnesota surely is excited to have first choice.
Even in the best of times, the Timberwolves have existed in one of the thorniest economic situations of any NBA team -- and this is not the best of times for the league or the franchise. Now the Timberwolves are for sale, adding further uncertainty. Will new ownership be in place before the draft? If a sale is close, a prospective owner will probably want a say in how the team handles its second No. 1 overall pick. (Karl-Anthony Towns was the other in 2015, although the team also obtained 2014 top pick Andrew Wiggins via trade.)
Ball has a great case to go No. 1. He is a supersized point guard with a prodigious feel for the game and makes things incredibly easy for teammates with his passing ability. He is the best ballhandler in this draft, but he also loves to empower teammates and has no problem operating off the ball as well.
Ball also is going to make his new team more relevant nationally and globally. Drafting a player who both sells tickets and helps the team return to the playoffs, eventually if not immediately, is the best-case scenario for Minnesota.
Of course, a backcourt of Ball and D'Angelo Russell, with Towns in the middle, would make it difficult for Minnesota to build a good defense. But if Edwards is the other top candidate because of his offensive talent at shooting guard, then his inconsistency and defensive apathy offer no great contrast. As Edwards said in his introduction to the NBA audience on Thursday, "I had a lot of bad games" in his one season at Georgia.
Ball's instincts for rebounding, getting in passing lanes and even blocking shots at times suggest he has plenty of potential as his frame continues to fill out. He experienced another growth spurt recently, and Ball will probably look significantly different physically into his 20s than he does now.
If I'm the Wolves, give me Ball for his talent, for his marketability, for his overall approach to the game and for his long-term potential. -- Jonathan Givony
Who will the Timberwolves take?
If I were Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas, I would draft LaMelo Ball first overall for the reasons Jonathan Givony outlined above. Marketability aside, Ball's combination of size, passing instincts, creativity, touch and comfort in a starring role carries great on-court intrigue. You could put every other prospect in this draft in a gym with the best trainers in the world for a year straight and they still wouldn't be able to make some of the instinctual reads he can with the ball. I believe that if Ball had played 30-plus games in a major NCAA conference this season, there wouldn't be much debate at the top.
But if the question is who I think the Wolves will take, I lean toward Anthony Edwards. When a 6-foot-5 shooting guard has exploded for 37 points against Michigan State, 32 at Florida and 36 at South Carolina (though all in losing efforts), that creates a firmer impression and more confidence that the player's skills will translate. It's simply easier to gauge Edwards' talent when you've seen him against Isaac Okoro and Auburn; Aaron Nesmith and Vanderbilt; and Tyrese Maxey and Kentucky. Watching Bruce Pearl, Tom Crean, Jerry Stackhouse and John Calipari patrol the sidelines in those games gives scouts who have years of experience watching college games a way to understand the level of Edwards' play and competition.
Ball's highlights are eye-popping but might have less impact when his darts are landing in the hands of Sunday Dech or Todd Blanchfield in cities halfway around the world. The Australian NBL has good players but is less familiar to NBA scouts and executives. The perception gap becomes more pronounced when we factor in the lingering questions about Ball's highly unusual path to the NBA and how eager he would be to help turn around a struggling franchise.
For Minnesota, there also is the question of fit. Ball will be at his best when a team hands him the keys and surrounds him with 3-and-D wings, a speedy creator and an athletic roller. But Russell is a methodical player who takes his time setting up in the pick-and-roll. Simply put, they both like the ball in their hands and would have to make stylistic adjustments. Of course, they can make it work, but I could see the Wolves thinking twice, especially when the player they'd be taking the ball away from in Russell is one of Towns' best friends.
Edwards would infuse the Wolves with a level of pop -- physicality, explosiveness and scoring punch -- that they're missing. Every move he makes is an NBA move. Step-backs, pull-backs, you name it, he can get to his shot against the best defenders in the world.
And I'm a fan of Edwards' long-term upside. He didn't bring it every night at Georgia, but when dialed in, there was no scorer more explosive in the country. When watching his best games, you start to think of Victor Oladipo, Donovan Mitchell and occasionally even James Harden.
So while I agree the Wolves should take Ball first overall and never look back, I can certainly see Minnesota becoming more comfortable taking Edwards, the collegiate star who is the more natural fit on paper. -- Mike Schmitz