The 2020 NBA Draft was one of the most disrespected draft classes in recent memory. The narratives were there are no superstar talents at the top, all the top three prospects, Anthony Edwards, Lamelo Ball, and James Wiseman, were not worthy of going that high in most years, and that they had massive bust potential. People were going as far as to comparing the draft class to the 2013 draft, the infamous year in which Anthony Bennett, Otto Porter Jr., Cody Zeller, and Alex Len were top five picks. With these negative narratives surrounding the names of these rookies combined with how they had no summer league, no offseason training with their teams, and having to play literally four weeks after getting drafted, these rookies were set up in a major disadvantage. It is still early, so nothing is set in stone, but at this very point, this rookie class seems to be much, much better than 2013. As a matter of fact, I would go as far as to say the top of this draft is great. What Anthony Edwards and Lamelo Ball have done once they had time to get their feet wet following a sharp turn between the draft and the start of the season has been sensational. Let’s take a dive mainly on those two, who have shown true flashes of greatness.
When Anthony Edwards was taken first overall, although the majority agreed with that selection, there were major concerns about Edwards. The main questions that circulated around Anthony Edwards were related to his shot selection, defensive awareness, and the biggest indictment of all; did he have the drive to be great? All of these questions often led to fans and analysts comparing Edwards to Andrew Wiggins, which makes sense because when you hear those concerns the media flooded into Edwards’ name, the direct comparison was easy to make, but that comparison is far from the truth.
First of all, the personality and drive questions need to be put to bed. Not only does Anthony Edwards not have drive and personality issues, but I don’t know if you can definitely say there is a rookie that shows more joy, fire, and personality than Edwards. That personality is clear when you simply watch his post-game press conferences, where you could find him complimenting someone’s Irish accent, invading others players’ post game press conferences, or enjoying Popeyes. It is also noticeable on the court, where he plays with consistent aggression and emotion.
Not to mention, Edwards has improved more than arguably any rookie in the draft. Pre All-Star Break, he averaged 14.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 2.5 APG on a poor 37.1%. In the 30 games Post All-Star break, Edwards is averaging 23.7 PPG. 5.4 RPG, and 3.2 APG on 44. 7% from the field. Those are All-Star numbers. The fact that Edwards is younger than Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, and Jalen Suggs, being a freaky 6’5″ and 230 pounds with his strength, explosion, ability to shift gears, with every NBA move in the book and still having room to grow defensively, it is scary the heights Edwards could take as he matures. Edwards has the potential to have multiple scoring titles in this league and if he maximizes his raw athleticsm on the defensive end, that is a superstar.
Lamelo Ball also had questions, even more so than Anthony Edwards. It didn’t have much to do with his passion for basketball, it had to do with his actual basketball ability. He has a naturally unorthodox shooting form and in the 12 games in the NBL, he shot 25% from three. With his brother Lonzo’s shooting struggles early in his career, very few believed in that jumper. People also questioned his ability to defend at the next level. It seems like these concerns were overblown as well; Lamelo Ball is currently shooting 37.3% from three on over five attempts. Also, out of the players who have shot over 100 threes from 27+ feet, Lamelo Ball is shooting the best percentage from that range in the league. He is not only an acceptable shooter, he looks like he has a chance to become an elite shooter in this league.
His defense has also been better than expected. He hasn’t dominated on that end by any means, but his engagement on that end has been very solid, as he leads all rookies in steals per game and his instinct stealing the ball in passing lanes and stripping defenders is well beyond his years. He is also tall, lengthy, and quick to just be pushed around on that end.
Arguably the most impressive aspect of Lamelo Ball is he has been able to do all that he’s done while playing on a competitive team. Rarely a rookie puts up the volume Lamelo Ball has with his efficiency on a team that is in the playoff conversation, which Charlotte is. Especially when Lamelo Ball has often been the tertiary playmaker on the Hornets as there are other talented ball handlers such as Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier.
When you add the very good shooting and better than anticipated defense to a 6’8″ point guard that has generational vision, scoring instincts, tremendous instincts on the glass, that is impacting winning, there is a reason why Lamelo Ball is suddenly viewed as a premier young talent in this league that you can build around.
The biggest lessons I would say fans and the basketball world should understand from this draft is to never underestimate talent, don’t fall for narratives, do your own deep research, and understand contexts. Sure, Anthony Edwards took bad shots in college, but that Georgia team relied on him so much to be the hero and they had such little spacing for him to operate in. There wasn’t much he could do about that. His engagement was on and off at times, but that is super common for a 18 year old playing against players he is much more talented than. Also, he was never an Andrew Wiggins type prospect. Even at Georgia, he showed a level of charisma and energy that Wiggins’ naturally doesn’t have in his personality. That personality alone should have never put him in the same conversation as Andrew Wiggins.
Lamelo Ball did shoot inefficiently in the NBL, but he only played 12 games in a foreign professional league as an 18 year old, and his efficiency also steadily improved as the year went on before he got hurt. Lamelo Ball also earned the reputation as a shot maker from deep his entire life, so why should the first few games in a brand new league completely diminish that reputation when he was coming back into his own at the end? I get Lonzo Ball struggled shooting in the league and they both had interesting forms, but they are still two entirely different people with different personalities and play styles. Lonzo was a player that lacked confidence when he didn’t see a few go in, Lamelo Ball has the confidence where he always believes it is going in, and with his natural touch, follow through, and range, he was bound to shoot It just fine at the next level.
At the end of the day, even with some of the takeaways I want you to have from this article, every draft is unpredictable, they are just fun guessing games many people like to participate in for the thrill of guessing right on a 19 year old who has his own unique path with zero NBA experience. It is just so great to see how Lamelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and other rookies are proving people wrong to where it’s hard to project the 2020 draft class to be necessarily weak anymore. There’s a very good possibility and if it ends up being a really good, this class could go down as one of the best in recent memory.