Anthony Edwards doesn’t love basketball. It doesn’t matter — not to the Timberwolves.
Despite his eyebrow-raising comments to ESPN that football is his first love and basketball is just his job, Minnesota still selected the 6-foot-5 shooting guard No. 1 overall in Wednesday night’s virtual NBA Draft, pairing him with All-Stars Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell.
Edwards, a one-and-done star out of Georgia who averaged 19.1 points and 5.2 rebounds, said he’s not really into watching basketball.
“But don’t get me wrong, basketball is my No. 1 because I feel like it’s going to get me through a lot of the stuff I need to get through,” said Edwards, who has drawn comparisons to Dwyane Wade. “And it’s what I do. It’s a job. I feel like I’m working right now. I love it.”
Edwards was followed by 7-foot-1 center James Wiseman going second to the Warriors. Wiseman, who was considered the top prospect in his class at this time last year, appeared in only three games for Memphis due to a eligibility dispute with the NBA. In those games, he averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game, showing his immense potential, albeit in a tiny sample size.
The first two picks weren’t major surprises. There was some question if it would be Edwards or point guard LaMelo Ball No. 1, but the expectation was that Wiseman would go second to the Warriors unless they traded the pick, giving them a rim protector and above-the-rim finisher to fill a void in the paint.
There were reports Golden State was talking to the Bulls about swapping picks and landing forward Wendell Carter Jr., but in the end, the Warriors stayed put and opted for Wiseman.
The rest of the draft was expected to be wild, littered with trades and unexpected selections. A few hours before the draft even began, there was a deal, ESPN reported, with the 76ers sending Al Horford and his onerous contract, the rights to Serbian point guard Vasilije Micic, a 2025 first round pick and a second rounder in this year’s draft to the Thunder for sharpshooter Danny Green and wing Terrance Ferguson.
Then, 45 minutes before the draft began, the Rockets dealt the 16th overall pick and wing Trevor Ariza to the Pistons for a future first round pick to clear salary-cap space to use their mid-level exception in free agency, according to ESPN. As part of the deal, Houston also acquired a second round pick from the Pistons, who now own a pair of first round picks, Nos. 7 and 16.
The buildup to this draft was unique, without an NCAA Tournament, a true combine or in-facility workouts due to the pandemic. It was pushed back five months. Everything about it was different, from the virtual setting to the aftermath. Players have to report to training camp in two weeks. There is no Summer League.
Each team was given 10 individual player workouts to attend, where it was allowed to send up to three executives, but they were controlled by agents. Teams were not allowed to dictate anything for the aforementioned workouts. A large majority of the prospects hadn’t played in a game since early March, creating an ample amount of mystery considering how long they have been idle.
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“It should lead to a lot more misses,” one veteran NBA scout said. “There are guys that are going to walk into training camp and be a totally different guy that who you thought you drafted.”
The lack of in-person evaluations created uncertainty leading up to the draft. There was such a negligible difference between prospects after getting through the top of the first round. The chance for players to separate themselves was taken away.
That also fed into the idea that this draft has depth. While lacking stars, several scouts and analysts believe it is flooded with rotational pieces, players that can develop into role players, but may never be All-Stars.
“I think there’s a lot of value further down in this draft that’s going to prove out over the long run,” ESPN college basketball and draft analyst Jay Bilas said