Hours before the 2020 NBA Draft, there was a trade. Forty minutes before the first pick Wednesday night, there was another deal. It was a preview of the wild night ahead. After the first three picks
Hours before the 2020 NBA Draft, there was a trade. Forty minutes before the first pick Wednesday night, there was another deal.
It was a preview of the wild night ahead.
After the first three picks in the first ever virtual NBA Draft — Georgia shooting guard Anthony Edwards to the Timberwolves at No. 1, 7-foot-1 shot-eraser James Wiseman to the Warriors at No. 2 and the last of the Ball brothers, LaMelo, to the Hornets at No. 3 — everyone’s mock drafts became obsolete. Stunning selections followed. There were more and more trades.
The predictions, by many experts and scouts, of chaos were accurate.
“Everything was up in the air because of this year,” forward Jalen Smith, a surprise selection of the Suns at No. 10. “It wasn’t a traditional draft.”
The upheaval started in earnest with Florida State combo forward Patrick Williams, a player who averaged just 9.2 points and 4.0 rebounds this past season and wasn’t even a regular starter for the deep Seminoles, going fourth to the Bulls. That pick threw off the entire first round, or at least altered the way it was supposed to end up. It led to National Player of the Year Obi Toppin falling to the Knicks at No. 8 and forward Deni Avdija going to the Wizards at No. 9, ]the highest-ever draft spot for an Israeli. Both players went several picks after they were supposed to be off the board.
Tyrese Haliburton, the sharpshooting point guard from Iowa State, who was rated by most as the second-best point guard in the draft after Ball, dropped to 12th, and now will join DeAaron Fox and Buddy Hield in a loaded backcourt with the Kings.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was Maryland’s Smith going 10th to the Suns. The big man, who is capable of shooting 3-pointers and blocking shots at a high rate, offers a nice compliment to Deandre Ayton. There was doubt Smith would even go in the first round. There was a similar sentiment about Washington one-and-done prospect Isaiah Stewart, an old-school forward who was drafted 16th by the Pistons.
• NBA Draft Tracker: Picks and analysis
“Pretty much once I got drafted by them, it was a surreal moment,” Smith said. “It was a crazy feeling. This whole night coming in I told my family I wasn’t going to cry, and they kept telling me you’re going to cry, even though I didn’t think I would. Once that moment hit, those tears kept falling.”
The 76ers were among the most active teams. Philadelphia began the flurry of trades earlier in the day, ESPN reported, by 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. Later, the Sixers acquired more shooting with Seth Curry from the Mavericks for Josh Richardson and the 36th overall pick, which became Colorado wing Tyler Bey, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Many thought the limitations created by the COVID-19 pandemic — the elimination of a true combine, in-facility workouts and the NCAA Tournament — could lead to an upside-down draft. Multiple scouts said there was a small difference between many prospects, partly due to the absence of evaluating events and also the depth of the draft.
It will obviously take time to make evaluations, for this year’s draft more than for most. The players taken won’t have a summer league to get their legs underneath them. They will report to training camp in two weeks and games will begin three weeks after that. It will show, one scout said, which players love basketball and have been diligently working on their game.
“Obviously it’s been different. Life is crazy right now,” Haliburton said. “But I’m not going to sit up here and complain to you by any means about what’s going on. At the end of the day I’m in the NBA.”
After all the waiting, months and months of training, the dreams of this year’s class were finally realized. The road to this point was certainly unique and unlike any other group of prospects had to navigate.
“A lot of people look at it as it took too long to get drafted,” Edwards, the No. 1 pick, said. “I look at it as it gave me just enough time to get to where I needed to be right before I needed to report to where I was going.”