NBA Draft FAQ: Plenty of talent to be found after Edwards, Ball, Wiseman

In this Nov. 17, 2019, file photo, LaMelo Ball of the Illawarra Hawks carries the ball up during their game against the Sydney Kings in the Australian Basketball League. (Rick Rycroft, File, AP)

The 2020 NBA Draft is just about a month away and though things around the Association seem quiet now, the eternal hot stove that is the league is sure to heat up soon.

Before that all gets going, however — and because it’s been a little while since we’ve last discussed the draft — here’s a handy little FAQ to get you up to speed on what you need to know about this year’s event.

When is the draft and how will it be held?

The draft is happening Wednesday, Nov. 18 and will be held virtually at ESPN’s facilities because of COVID-19.

Who are the top prospects?

There are three prospects that most boards have as the consensus top picks of the draft: Georgia shooting guard Anthony Edwards; point guard LaMelo Ball, who played the past season professionally in Australia; and centre James Wiseman, who never really saw his draft stock drop despite only playing three games for Memphis after the NCAA ruled him ineligible, and who has since opted to hire an agent to prepare for the draft on his own.

Most mock drafts expect the Minnesota Timberwolves to take Edwards No. 1 overall, but it’s unknown what direction the Golden State Warriors and Charlotte Hornets may look to go at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. Especially since there’s a chance the Warriors could look to shop their pick in order to keep their championship window open with a win-now move as they figure to have all of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green back and healthy for next season.

Another name that could potentially enter the top three is Israeli forward Deni Avdija, who currently plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv and has helped the club to three consecutive Israeli League championships spanning from 2018 to this year (in which he was also named league MVP).

An outstanding playmaker and ball-handler, there’s a chance Avdija could rise in the rankings as his winning pedigree in a highly competitive league overseas combined with his rare size (six-foot-nine) and skill combination makes him an intriguing prospect to watch for.

How strong is this draft?

All year long this draft has, unfortunately, carried with it the notion that it is “weak,” but that’s not necessarily a fair deduction.

Sure, it may lack the surefire star power of previous drafts like last year’s one-two punch of Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, but the beauty of this draft is that, despite the hype around Edwards, Ball and Wiseman, the talent difference between the supposed top guys and players who will be picked outside of the lottery isn’t that wide a gap.

So instead of being down on this draft, it’s better to be excited about it and take the time to learn about all of the players, as this is the kind of class that contains role players whom everyone will eventually know and want to have on their team for the next 10 years or so.

Take, for example, a player like Cassius Winston. This is a player who’s projected to go at the end of the first round or early second round, making him seem like a mediocre prospect, particularly when you consider he played four years at Michigan State, is only six-foot-one and is considered to be just an average athlete by NBA standards.

Yet, there’s still an expectation that he will succeed and could be an immediate contributor on a good NBA team because he can shoot the ball well and is a natural-born floor leader a la guys like Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, who have both become stars in their own right.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Winston will end up with an NBA career like those two Toronto Raptors studs, but it’s worth keeping in mind because in a draft like this one there’s talent to be found everywhere, not just at the top.

Where are the Raptors picking and who’s available there?

And speaking of the Raptors, unless they make moves elsewhere they have a very standard-looking draft ahead of them with two picks at Nos. 29 and 59, respectively, since they finished with the second-best record in the league this past season.

Available to the Raptors at No. 29 will probably be a player like Winston, who could figure to be a decent VanVleet replacement should the team get an indication that VanVleet is looking to move on from Toronto. Other names at No. 29 include Texas Tech combo guard Jahmi’us Ramsey, centres Isaiah Stewart (Washington) and Udoka Azubuike (Kansas) and forwards Robert Woodard II (Mississippi State) and Vernon Carey Jr. (Duke).

At No. 59 there are fewer high profile options to be had, and in that case it may be worth taking a flyer on one of the Canadians in the draft like Karim Mane, who will be looking to make the leap straight to the NBA from Vanier College, a CEGEP program in Montreal.

How many Canadians are in the draft?

According to the list of early-entry candidates, there are three Canadians who have their names in the hat: Mane; Bedford, N.S., native Nate Darling; and Toronto native Isiaha Mike.

There is no guarantee that any of these players will be drafted, but they’re available, so fingers crossed for each of them.

Other lingering questions

Of course, the draft doesn’t run in a vacuum, it’s usually the first major piece of business in the NBA’s off-season. But because of the extraordinary circumstances of the global pandemic, the off-season has not only been severely delayed, it’s also a big unknown at the moment. Here’s a quick rundown of questions that still need to be sorted out.

What will the salary cap for next season be?

It’s difficult to conduct business unless you know what the playing field looks like and right now no one in the NBA has a definitive idea what that could be with the salary cap still up in the air. There are rumours that the cap will remain flat next season, staying at the $109 million it’s at currently, but that hasn’t been officially decided yet.

When will free agency open?

The other big off-season event is, of course, free agency. We still don’t have a date for this yet other than it’ll be sometime after the draft.

When will the 2020-21 season start?

Lastly, and most importantly, we still don’t have an actual start date for next season nor any strong indication how it will run.

The bubble experiment, though ultimately successful, doesn’t seem feasible this time around for a full 82-game schedule given the mental toll it put on everyone who was trapped down in Disney World for the three months it lasted, so an alternative solution will need to be found.

Plus, depending on the start date, there will continue to be questions concerning fans being allowed inside buildings and what travel among teams looks like. So, where does that leave the Raptors? The Canadian government has proven to operate under different COVID-19 rules than the United States has. Will the Raptors have to pull a Toronto Blue Jays and play at a home-away-from-home down south so they can participate next season?

There’s a lot that needs to be answered still on the table right now.

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