Five months delayed and comprehensively reformatted by the ongoing pandemic, the NBA‘s long-awaited 2020 draft is set to begin on Wednesday night with top picks like Georgia’s Anthony Edwards and Memphis’ James Wiseman vying to be taken first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Like the NFL Draft in April, the NBA is introducing the new class of rookies into the league using a virtual format to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection.
Likewise, the pandemic already wiped out the traditional end of a college career and the usual start of a pro one. So instead of being a month into their rookie seasons, Edwards, Wiseman, LaMelo Ball, and the rest of the class of 2020 are only just embarking on their careers.
Georgia’s Anthony Edwards heads to the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Missouri in Columbia. Edwards could be picked first Wednesday
LaMelo Ball of the Hawks drives against Finn Delany of the Breakers during the round 9 NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Illawarra Hawks at Spark Arena on November 30, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand
Although his college career was brief, scouts are excited about seven-foot James Wiseman
‘I feel like it was better for me,’ Edwards said of the delay. ‘I haven’t complained, I haven’t tripped about it at all. I just felt like it was better for me because more time for me to get better and get ready for the NBA.’
The freshman guard from Georgia is one of the leading candidates to be picked first by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ball, a guard who skipped college to play professionally overseas, and 7-foot-1 Memphis freshman center Wiseman are the other headliners in the class.
The draft is usually held in June in New York, where Adam Silver announces the first-round picks. The top players sit at tables in the front of the arena and when their names are called, put on a hat with the logo of the team that picked them and walk onto the stage for a handshake and a photo with the commissioner.
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Golden State Warriors
- Charlotte Hornets
- Chicago Bulls
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Atlanta Hawks
- Detroit Pistons
- New York Knicks
- Washington Wizards
- Phoenix Suns
- San Antonio Spurs
- Sacramento Kings
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Boston Celtics (via MEM)
- Orlando Magic
- Houston Rockets (via POR)
- Minnesota Timberwolves (via BKN)
- Dallas Mavericks
- Brooklyn Nets (via PHI)
- Miami Heat
- Philadelphia 76ers (via OKC)
- Denver Nuggets (via HOU)
- New York Knicks (via UTAH)
- New Orleans Pelicans (via IND)
- Oklahoma City Thunder (via DEN)
- Boston Celtics
- Utah Jazz (via LAC)
- Oklahoma City Thunder (via LAL)
- Toronto Raptors
- Boston Celtics (via MIL)
This time, Silver will be announcing the picks from the ESPN campus in Bristol, Connecticut. Players have been shipped boxes of hats for wherever they will be watching to choose the one they need when their name is called.
It’s not the draft night they wanted, but the excitement of becoming a pro player won’t diminish. Not when they’ve been waiting since March, when sports stopped just days before the selection of the NCAA Tournament field, to start playing ball again.
‘I mean, playing in games, I missed it a lot. But at the same time, this extra time, it’s only helping me,’ said forward Obi Toppin, the national college player of the year from Dayton.
‘I feel like I’m more prepared and mentally prepared for when the time comes, and I feel like when I’m on the court and that jump ball goes up, I feel like I’ve been waiting so long that it’s going to be an amazing feeling.’
The Golden State Warriors have the No. 2 pick, a chance to add a top young player to a team that reached five straight NBA Finals before tumbling to the bottom of the league when Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were injured. Charlotte picks third, followed by Chicago and Cleveland.
The teams lacked some resources to evaluate players, without the normal draft combine in Chicago or the ability to invite players to their facilities for meetings and workouts. Perhaps that’s partly the reason there is no consensus No. 1 pick this year like Zion Williamson in 2019.
‘I would say the analysis is fair. There is no guy that has separated themself from the pack, from public or external view,’ Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas said.
Edwards believes the lack of an NCAA Tournament hurt the players. They couldn’t make a final collegiate statement like Ja Morant did when he turned in a triple-double in an upset victory for Murray State in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament. That helped secure him as the No. 2 pick behind Williamson and he was a runaway winner of the Rookie of the Year award after nearly leading Memphis to the playoffs.
PLAY-IN TOURNEY ON, OLYMPICS LIKELY OUT FOR NBA IN 2020-21
The 2020-21 NBA schedule will feature a play-in tournament and an NBA Finals that could run all the way until July 22 — keeping some players from competing in the Olympics.
The league’s 75th season, delayed and shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic, will begin December 22 and look like none other. The NBA announced Tuesday how it will make up the 72-game schedule, which won’t be entirely known until well after it’s started.
Teams will play 42 intraconference games, with each club facing the others within its conference three times apiece. Teams will play the remaining 30 games against the opposite conference — one at home and one on the road in a return to cross-country travel and playing in arenas after completing last season in a ‘bubble’ environment.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver had a difficult task negotiating the details of the upcoming season with the National Basketball Players’ Association amid the pandemic
When that’s finished, the play-in tournament, approved Tuesday by the board of governors on a one-year basis, follows involving the teams with the seventh through 10th-best records in each conference. They will play for the final two playoff spots in the East and the West.
The league debuted the play-in tournament this year at Walt Disney World, though it only featured the Nos. 8-9 teams in the Western Conference. Portland knocked out Memphis to earn the final seed in the playoffs.
This time, the team with the seventh-best record in each conference will host No. 8 in one game. The winner secures the No. 7 seed, while the loser hosts the winner of a game between No. 9 and No. 10. The winner of that game gets the final playoff spot.
The league plans to announce the first half of the schedule around the start of training camp in early December. The second half will be unveiled during the latter part of the first half, featuring the remaining games along with any that needed to be postponed because of the virus.
If all goes according to plan, preseason games will be held December 11-19. The first half of the season then runs December 22 through March 4, followed by an All-Star break March 5-10 — though the All-Star Game in Indianapolis was scrapped.
The second half is March 11 to May 16, with the play-in tournament May 18-21. The postseason could then last for two months from May 22 to July 22.
That almost certainly eliminates a number of players from considering going to Tokyo for the postponed 2020 Olympics. The Summer Games are set to begin July 23, with the qualifying tournaments for the remaining four spots in the men’s field scheduled to run from June 29 to July 4.
Wiseman wouldn’t have had that chance anyway. He averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in three games after arriving as the nation’s No. 1 recruit, then was suspended by the NCAA for eligibility reasons and announced he was leaving the program to prepare for the draft.
‘Of course I wanted to win a national championship, of course I wanted to establish that situation with my teammates,’ he said. ‘I love my teammates, I actually text them every day. But you know how life happens. Like, stuff hits you out of nowhere, but I feel that me just being there gave me a lot of mental toughness, gave me a lot of maturity as a person.’
He worked out for only the Warriors and Hornets, suggesting the Wolves may be choosing between Edwards and Ball with 2015 No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns entrenched as their man in the middle.
If it’s Ball, he ends a run a 10 straight one-and-dones to be the No. 1 pick. Blake Griffin in 2009 is the last non-college freshman to be the top selection.
Ball didn’t do college at all, playing professionally in Lithuania and Australia. It certainly wasn’t the smoothest path to the NBA, which perhaps makes him the perfect player to handle a year when everything else about the draft process has been upended.
‘I feel like I’m just the right man for it,’ Ball said. ‘Like I said, I feel like I’m born for this whole thing going on.’
CANADA IS REVIEWING RAPTORS’ PLAN TO PLAY IN TORONTO AMID CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
The Canadian government is reviewing a proposal from the NBA and the Raptors to play in Toronto amid the pandemic.
A spokesman for Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Tuesday officials have been in contact with the Raptors and will continue to engage with them ‘in the coming weeks.’ Raptors general manager Bobby Webster told Sportsnet television the team needs to know ‘in the coming days. This is not a next week type thing.’
The Raptors and the NBA need an exemption to a requirement that anyone entering Canada for nonessential reasons must self-isolate for 14 days. The U.S.-Canada border remains closed to nonessential travel.
The Canadian government is reviewing a proposal from the NBA and the Raptors to play in Toronto amid the pandemic. (Pictured: Longtime Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry)
A spokesman for Health Minister Patty Hajdu (pictured) said Tuesday officials have been in contact with the Raptors and will continue to engage with them ‘in the coming weeks.’ Raptors general manager Bobby Webster told Sportsnet television the team needs to know ‘in the coming days. This is not a next week type thing’
The federal government denied the Blue Jays’ request to play in Toronto earlier this year because health officials didn’t think it was safe for players to travel back and forth from the United States, one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. The number of cases in both countries, but particularly in the U.S, has surged since then.
Drake shouts from his courtside seat during the second half of an NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on November 25, 2019 in Toronto
‘The health and safety of Canadians is our government’s top priority and reducing the spread of COVID-19 must always be top of mind,’ Hajdu’s office said in statement. ‘We understand that many Canadians are eager to see their favorite professional teams return to play. We are reviewing a proposal from the NBA and the Toronto Raptors for the resumption of NBA basketball in Canada.’
The NBA season is set to open Decemebr 22, with training camps beginning in about two weeks. Time is running out for the Raptors.
‘We are working on, as everyone knows, a kind of parallel path here which is we want to stay in Toronto but as we all know time is of the essence and we are also working on a path to play elsewhere,’ Webster said on a call with reporters Tuesday.
‘We want to be in Toronto. We want to play here. But we are also realistic about the timing and respectful of the protocols. … It doesn’t necessarily affect our operations. We all know we’ll run a basketball team and the 72 games will get played. But just where that is probably more of a — as everyone can imagine — drain on personal decisions and families which always looms large in this industry.’
Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto and the medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Sinai-University Health Network, doesn’t think the Raptors should be allowed to play in Canada. Nor does he expect the government to approve it.
Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors players kneel for the Canadian national anthem prior to a game inside the league’s bubble at Disney World outside Orlando last August
‘I anticipate the Raptors will have to play south of the border,’ Morris said. ‘The logistics, the optics, make no sense.’
Morris calls the U.S. a disaster and noted there won’t be a bubble in the NBA this time. This season will require teams to travel in the U.S.
The Blue Jays failed to persuade the federal government to grant exemptions and played home games in Buffalo this year. Two cities in Florida — Tampa and Fort Lauderdale — along with Nashville have been reported as potential destinations for the Raptors.
The Canadian government requites a comprehensive public health plan and written support from local health officials. The plan is being reviewed by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
(The Associated Press)