NBA

NBA draft storylines: Will Minnesota Timberwolves pick LaMelo Ball first overall?

In an unusual year, expect an unusual NBA draft. 

Instead of in June, the draft is in November. Instead of days after the NBA Finals and months before the start of the following season, it’s a month after the Finals and just a month before the season is scheduled to start on Dec. 22. 

Instead of a Las Vegas Summer League and normal training camp to prepare for the NBA, rookies will have just a limited training camp before they are thrown into regular-season games. Waiting for them will be the likes of reigning Finals MVP LeBron James, who entered the league 17 years ago. Projected top-five pick Obi Toppin – among the oldest top-flight prospects in this draft – was just 5 years old when James played his first NBA game. 

Final NBA mock draft: Anthony Edwards locks in at No. 1, newcomers crash top 10

LaMelo Ball: How he went from misunderstood to can't-miss NBA draft pick

Here are the top five storylines headed into Wednesday’s NBA Draft:

NBA Draft will be conducted from ESPN studio

Because of COVID-19, the NBA is conducting its 2020 draft virtually for the first time, with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum announcing the first- and second-round selections at ESPN's studios. Normally, the draft is held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. ESPN will also have live look-ins from 17 team draft rooms.

Draft prospects were sent hats of all 30 teams and given the necessary technological tools for video and interview purposes after they are drafted. Thirty prospects received media kits that included a Microsoft Surface tablet, Beats Powerbeats Pro earbuds, iPhone with tripod, Ring light, and a Beats Pill wireless speaker.

Where will LaMelo Ball go?

LaMelo Ball at the 2019 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

Ball is regarded by many team executives as the most talented player in the draft. For a point guard he has great size at 6-7 and he is an exceptional passer. But his unique journey from California high school to Lithuanian pro team to prep school in Ohio to pro league in Australia with his dad LaVar Ball orchestrating decisions has it difficult to fully assess what he can bring to a team.

It’s possible to envision scenarios where Ball goes No. 1 to Minnesota, No. 2 to Golden State or No. 3 to Charlotte. It’s hard to see that kind of talent dropping out of the top five, which would make LaMelo and Lonzo the first brothers drafted in the top 10 in NBA history.

What do Minnesota Timberwolves do with No. 1 pick?

The Timberwolves have been coy with their plans, but top-three prospect James Wiseman said on Monday that he hasn’t met with the Timberwolves, which indicates they are leaning toward LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards.

It could also be a smokescreen, and Minnesota could take Wiseman only to trade him and try to add another quality starter alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. Regardless of what happens, the Timberwolves want a player who can help them win now and compete for a playoff spot.

Israel’s Deni Avdija leads strong class of international players

The 2019 draft was a quiet year for international players. That could change on Wednesday, starting with Israel’s Deni Avdija and France’s Killian Hayes. If Avdija, who is a projected top-five pick, goes in the top 22, he will become the highest-drafted player from Israel, and if Hayes goes in the top seven, he will be the highest-drafted player from France.

SportsPulse: Former Israeli Premier League player Tamir Goodman breaks down the game of 19-year-old Deni Avdija and explains why years of professional experience makes him one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft.

USA TODAY

This year’s draft could also break the record for most players selected from Africa (five). While the NBA expands into China and India, Africa remains a continent that attracts attention of NBA talent evaluators. Precious Achiuwa, who was born in Nigeria and moved to the United States as an eighth grader, is a projected first-rounder.

What will Celtics do with their first-round picks?

Boston has three first-round picks – No. 14, No. 26 and No. 30 – plus the No. 47 pick in the second round. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge isn’t immune to making a big trade, and there is speculation that Ainge is trying to bolster the roster after Boston lost in the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in four seasons.

With Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum as young centerpieces, don’t be surprised if Ainge tries to package picks and a player in exchange for another All-Star caliber player. 

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