There are three players who have remained consistently at the top of most mock drafts throughout the college basketball season and now through the COVID-19 pandemic. Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman are all familiar names, but there are two other players who could potentially hear NBA commissioner Adam Silver call their name as the No. 1 overall pick: Dayton’s Obi Toppin and Israeli forward Deni Avdija.
Who is picked No. 1 will depend on which team lands the top selection in the draft lottery. This is a year in which there is no consensus top pick like Zion Williamson last year. Teams like the Golden State Warriors might be leaning toward Toppin and Wiseman, while Atlanta could be targeting Edwards to join Trae Young in the backcourt. The Cleveland Cavaliers have drafted two point guards in consecutive drafts, so Avdija or Toppin could be who they are targeting, and the New York Knicks picking LaMelo Ball No. 1 overall would be a very Knicks thing to do. Here’s the case for all five players being picked No. 1 and what they’ll bring to an NBA team next season, whenever that will be.
Anthony Edwards: 6-5, 230
Position: Shooting guard
Best team fit: Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves
Many mock drafts have Edwards going No. 1 regardless of which team lands the top pick. Edwards is NBA-ready with a strong frame and a great jump shot. In his one year at Georgia, he averaged 19.1 points and 5.2 rebounds. Edwards is a high-volume shooter who needs to improve his shot selection; he shot 40.2 percent from the field but only 29.4 percent from three. During his breakout performance against Michigan State at the Maui Invitational, he took 16 threes, making seven of them. Edwards scored 33 points in one half of basketball, garnering the attention of the NBA scouts in the stands and basketball fans everywhere.
“I think I’m the No. 1 draft pick in this class, but everyone has their opinion. And I’m sure if you asked the other guys at the top, James [Wiseman], LaMelo [Ball], they think they’re No. 1, too. None of us are working to hear our name called second. We all want to be the best,” Edwards told Yahoo Sports.
Obi Toppin: 6-9, 220
Best team fit: Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers
Toppin was the Naismith Player of the Year and the breakout star in college basketball this past season. In his two seasons at Dayton, Toppin scored 1,096 points and averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Toppin had a Anthony Davis-like growth spurt, going from 6-foot-5 his junior year in high school to 6-9. Toppin has great speed in transition and plays above the rim. He was one of the flashiest dunkers in college hoops, making a mid-major school must-watch basketball.
In a unique draft year, teams have a full season of games to scout Toppin, and that could give him a slight edge over Wiseman, who only played three college games, and international players like Ball and Avdija. Ja Morant went No. 2 last year, showing that mid-major stars can be instant-impact players at the next level. Toppin might be the safest pick at No. 1 because he’s a little more polished than other players at the top and he’s good from the outside for a player his size, shooting an impressive 52.4 percent from three.
LaMelo Ball: 6-7, 181
Position: Point guard
Team: Illawarra Hawks (National Basketball League)
Best team fit: New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons
Ball is a serious contender for the No. 1 pick due to his length and size. He needs to get stronger and fill out his frame but he’s still young — turning 19 years old in August — and his raw talent is so impressive. Ball is the youngest brother of Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball and might be the most talented player out of all three brothers. Ball has had an unusual path to the NBA after being pulled out of high school at 16 years old to play professionally in Lithuania. He then came back to the U.S. to play one year at PACE Academy, and this past year he was playing for the Illawarra Hawks in Australia’s National Basketball League. Ball averaged 17 points and seven assists in 12 games. He was the first player in the NBL since 2005 to post back-to-back triple-doubles late November.
Does Ball believe he should be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft? “Most definitely. I believe in myself and I’ve worked hard to get here,” Ball told Yahoo Sports. “Just in the way I believe in myself, I think I’m the top pick.”
James Wiseman: 7-1, 235
Best team fit: Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks
Wiseman averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in only three games at Memphis. His season came to an end after the NCAA suspended him for 12 games due to recruiting violations. Three games is a small sample size for scouts, but every NBA team was in and out of Memphis practices before the season even started. Wiseman was also one of the top players at the McDonald’s All America Game and Nike Hoop Summit — two high school events that allow NBA scouts to attend. In the Hoop Summit, Wiseman had 12 points and an impressive six blocks.
At 7-foot-1, his presence in the lane is impressive and even in an NBA era in which the game is getting smaller, Wiseman will still see early minutes next season. “There’s no denying Wiseman is talented and he could very well be an All-Star down the road,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports.
Deni Avdija: 6-9, 220
Team: Maccabi Tel Aviv
Best team fit: Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers
Avdija is the best international player in this draft and could be the best Euro player in the NBA since Luka Doncic. At just 16 years old, Avdija became the youngest player to play for the senior Maccabi Tel Aviv team. He has won two gold medals for the Israeli youth national team, including the 2019 FIBA U20 European Championship, where he was named tournament MVP. In early February, Avdija had a career-high 26 points — shooting 9-of-12 from the field — and six rebounds against Hapoel Eilat. He runs the floor extremely well for a player his size and has great confidence in his game after playing against grown men the last three years.
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