Five months later than originally scheduled, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Anthony Edwards with the first pick of the 2020 NBA draft Wednesday.
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 college season at Georgia, joins a young Timberwolves core led by star center Karl-Anthony Towns and point guard D’Angelo Russell. Edwards led all Division I freshmen with 19.1 points per game last season and was the SEC Freshman of the Year.
Edwards joins Markelle Fultz as the only players in the lottery era to go No. 1 overall coming from a program with a record of .500 or worse in his final college season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Bulldogs went 16-16, including 5-13 in the SEC.
“It is an indescribable feeling,” Edwards said on ESPN shortly after being selected. “My family is emotional. I feel like when I get off of here, I am going to be emotional. I am just blessed beyond measure to be in this situation.”
Edwards, Wiseman and Ball were each, 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 emerged as the likely top pick in the days leading up to Wednesday’s draft.
He has sharp long-range shooting touch, an ability to score off the dribble and a nose for driving to the basket — plenty to overshadow his uneven one-and-done college season.
“We really challenged him on who he’s been to this point and what he’s going to become into the future,” Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said. “The passion for who he wants to become is something that we’re excited about.”
Wiseman, a 7-1 center, played only three games last season for Memphis because of eligibility issues and a 12-game suspension due to rules violations. He gives Golden State a dose of physical skill to go alongside Draymond Green in the Warriors’ frontcourt and could help shore up the team’s defense after the Warriors, following five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, fell to the bottom of the standings amid injuries to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Wiseman was emotional after being taken with the second pick. He said he believes he can adapt quickly to his new team’s vaunted culture.
“It’s great in terms of my concept because I can be able to learn, be able to grow my game, being able to adapt in that type of environment, which I can,” Wiseman said. “And just going in there and just learning, just helping grow my game. … I just had to bust out in tears because I’ve been through a lot of adversity in my life. But I’m ready to go into Golden State with a great mindset, with a different mindset, ready to go in there and just learn as much as possible, grow my game and just adapt and just work my tail off.”
Wiseman said he already has a relationship with Curry and is looking forward to working with the rest of the organization’s core.
“I have a great relationship with Steph,” Wiseman said. “Obviously, I went to his camp, so he taught me a lot. When I was in high school, he taught me a lot about the game of basketball, gave me a lot of information. I actually took a picture with him, so that’s my guy.”
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 this point, playing in Lithuania and then Australia before being chosen by Charlotte on Wednesday.
He averaged 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 12 games for the Illawarra Hawks in Australia’s National Basketball League.
“He’s a very young, talented player who plays the kind of pace that we like to play,” Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “He has a flare to his game that maybe has some entertainment to it, maybe more so than some other players. [But] that’s not why we drafted him. We drafted him because of his size and length and the way he can handle the ball and the way he pushes the ball.”
LaMelo and Lonzo, who was the No. 2 pick in 2017, are the first pair of brothers in NBA history to be drafted in the top five, per Elias research.
LaMelo said he didn’t consider falling to the third pick a letdown.
“I definitely feel great falling to [Charlotte],” Ball said. “But the way I’ve fallen down, I never looked at it like that because, like I say, whatever happens happens, and I feel like it’s God’s plan. So wherever he wanted to put me, that’s where he put me, and I feel like he’s going to let me blossom there.”
The intrigue in the draft began with the No. 4 pick, with which the Chicago Bulls took Florida State forward 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.
After the lottery played out without a single trade, several were made over the back half of the first round.
Wednesday’s draft had been scheduled to take place in June, as it typically does, but it was pushed back until after the NBA completed its season in a bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic also led to a change in venue for the draft. Rather than taking place in New York, as is typical, the draft was held virtually at ESPN’s campus in Bristol, Connecticut, with NBA commissioner Adam Silver conducting the first round and deputy commissioner Mark Tatum the second as usual.
The delay of the draft because of the pandemic allowed for more time than ever for NBA teams to prepare and means prospects will have spent more time away from the court upon entering the NBA than any draft class before.
As a result, rather than going from the draft to the NBA’s annual summer league in Las Vegas, rookies will be going almost directly into their initial NBA seasons, as training camps around the league are scheduled to begin Dec. 1.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.