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Sport NBA mock draft: Is LaMelo Ball worth the risk as the No. 1 pick?

16:00  29 october  2020
16:00  29 october  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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With the longest season in NBA history now in the books and the 2020-21 campaign officially set to begin Dec. 22, now we turn our attention to the NBA draft – slated for Nov. 18 – five months after its initial date that was pushed back from the coronavirus pandemic.

Right now, it's a toss-up for which player will go No. 1 in the draft – unlike last year's consensus No. 1 pick in Zion Williamson. Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball are the front-runners for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The safe pick would be Edwards because he's a surefire impact player right away. Ball is the riskier pick, but the reward could be higher for the team that takes a chance on the heavily hyped Ball brother. NBA evaluators see Ball's ceiling, but they also see question marks.

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a basketball player with a crowd watching: LaMelo Ball is considered one of the top NBA draft prospects. © Rick Rycroft, AP LaMelo Ball is considered one of the top NBA draft prospects.

Here's USA TODAY Sports' latest mock projection for all 30 teams three weeks out from the draft.

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1. Minnesota Timberwolves • Anthony Edwards • Georgia • Freshman • Shooting Guard • 6-4 • 225 pounds

Edwards is a capable scorer with immediate All-Star ability and two-way upside. He'd be an ideal fit in Minnesota to play alongside All Stars Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell. In a game against Michigan State, he put up 33 points in one half, showcasing his offensive explosiveness that can translate to the pros.

2. Golden State Warriors • LaMelo Ball • Illawarra Hawks (Australia) • Point Guard • 6-7 • 180 pounds

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The 6-7 point guard played only 12 games in Australia's National Basketball League, but it was enough to entice a plethora of NBA scouts and rewrite the narrative his father had poorly written. He has a quick-trigger jumper that still needs accuracy, but his floor vision and court savvy give him franchise-changing potential.

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3. Charlotte Hornets • James Wiseman • Memphis • Freshman • Center • 7-1 • 240 pounds

Wiseman only got to provide a small sample size of his ability as an athletic big man with All-Star potential, as he left Memphis early in the season halfway through an NCAA suspension. But scouts know Wiseman can be a 20-and-10 big man if he's given the right opportunity to blossom.

4. Chicago Bulls • Deni Avdija • Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) • Small Forward • 6-9 • 220 pounds

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  Warriors have interest in LaMelo Ball? LaVar Ball may not want his son LaMelo to be drafted by the Golden State Warriors, but it seems like there is mutual interest between the youngest Ball brother and the team. © Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Could LaMelo Ball end up with the Warriors? Marcus Thomas II of The Athletic reported recently that there are multiple people in the Warriors organization who consider LaMelo Ball to be “super talented.” Thompson believes Golden State’s No. 2 overall pick in the draft will come down to Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman. Though, there’s a belief that trading the No.

The overseas prospect with great size can play multiple positions, attacking the rim like a guard and showing the ability to defend big men in the post. He has a wide-ranging skillset shown as the MVP of the FIBA under-20 European Championship.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers • Obi Toppin • Dayton • Redshirt sophomore • Forward • 6-9 • 220 pounds

At 22, Toppin is older than most of his counterparts, and his high motor and tenacious dunking translate to immediate production. USA TODAY Sports' national college basketball player of the year can do a mix of everything, including stepping out on the perimeter and mastering pick-and-rolls.

6. Atlanta Hawks • Tyrese Haliburton • Iowa State • Sophomore • Point Guard • 6-5 • 175 pounds

A play-making point guard who can defend well. His numbers (15.2 points per game, 6.5 assists, 50% FG, 42% from 3-point range) in 2019-20 don't do him justice. Haliburton has the overall skillset to be the Ja Morant or Russell Westbrook of this draft class.

7.  Detroit Pistons • Isaac Okoro • Auburn • Sophomore • Forward • 6-6 • 225 pounds

The wing has athleticism and a wingspan that could make him an elite defender at the next level, shutting down opposing perimeter forces. His offense is another story and needs work. He'd have time to develop in Detroit.

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8. New York Knicks • Killian Hayes • Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany) • Point Guard • 6-5 • 185 pounds

Hayes, an American-born lefty, is a dynamic and crafty playmaker from France who greatly evolved during his pro season in the top league in Germany in 2019-20. His jump shot is a question mark, but there's time for that to improve in New York.

9. Washington Wizards • Onyeka Okongwu • USC • Freshman • Forward • 6-9 • 245 pounds

Okongwu averaged 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds for the Trojans in 2019-20, showing prowess on the glass and low block. His production and rim protection will be hard to pass up for a Washington team that's struggled on defense.

10. Phoenix Suns • Devin Vassell • Florida State • Sophomore • Forward • 6-7 • 195 pounds

Vassell was one of the most improved players in all of college basketball, spearheading the Seminoles to their first ACC regular-season title. Fittingly, the Suns were one of the most improved teams in the NBA restart. Vassell would fit in nicely with Phoenix's young core, and his game ideally translates as a 3-and-D player in the league.

11. San Antonio Spurs • Patrick Williams • Florida State • Freshman • Forward • 6-8 • 225 pounds

Williams didn’t start one game and didn’t average double figures for the Seminoles but has potential and key attributes as a 6-8 forward: quick, explosive, strong, athletic. He should be able to defend multiple positions in the NBA. Developing a 3-point shot to complement his midrange game would be a big boost.

James Wiseman doesn't want to be drafted by Timberwolves?

  James Wiseman doesn't want to be drafted by Timberwolves? James Wiseman has No. 1 overall pick-caliber talent, but apparently he does not actually want to go with the No. 1 overall pick. © The Commercial Appeal-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC James Wiseman might have a specific reason for not wanting to be selected with the top pick of the draft. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst appeared this week on “The Scoop w/ Doogie.” In the episode, Windhorst said Wiseman does not want to go to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who hold the No. 1 selection in next month’s draft. “Wiseman does not want to come to Minnesota because Karl Towns is there,” said Windhorst.

12. Sacramento Kings • Aaron Nesmith • Vanderbilt • Sophomore • Forward-Guard • 6-6 • 213 pounds

Nesmith could blossom into something special soon. He was already considered one of the best 3-point shooters in the NCAA ranks last season (52.2%). His 2019-20 season, in which he averaged 23 points, was cut short after 14 games due to a right foot injury.

13. New Orleans Pelicans • Precious Achiuwa • Memphis • Freshman • Guard • 6-9 • 225 pounds

Achiuwa possesses the strength to thrive in the NBA at the power forward position, giving him an edge on defense and rebounding. But he will need to develop better as an offensive player. He averaged 15.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks last year for Memphis.

14. Boston Celtics (from Memphis Grizzlies) • Cole Anthony • North Carolina • Freshman • Guard • 6-3 • 190 pounds

The Tar Heels had an unexpectedly horrific campaign and Anthony's knee injury played a major part. His lone NCAA season provided enough of a sample size of his tenacity and unique poise that is reminiscent of a young Derrick Rose.

15. Orlando Magic • Kira Lewis Jr. • Alabama • Sophomore • Guard • 6-3 • 165 pounds

Lewis led Alabama in scoring (18.5 per game) and assists (5.2 per game) and shot 45.9% from the field, 36.6% on 3s and 80.2% from the foul line. He has a great handle and uses it well, with speed to beat defenders off the dribble.

16.  Portland Trail Blazers • Saddiq Bey • Villanova • Sophomore • Forward • 6-7 • 216 pounds

Bey was the Wildcats' best player with a breakout sophomore campaign, averaging 16.1 points and shooting 45% on 3-pointers. He'd be an ideal fit as a role player on any NBA team, adding defense to a roster with growing pains last year.

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17. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Brooklyn Nets) • Tyrese Maxey • Kentucky • Guard • 6-3 • 198 pounds

Maxey (14 points per game) was the key piece on a Wildcats team coach John Calipari felt was a national title contender. His shot needs work, but he has gifts that can't be taught, namely a clutch gene on display for UK in 2019-20.

18. Dallas Mavericks • R.J. Hampton • New Zealand Breakers (Australia) •  Forward • 6-5 • 188 pounds

Hampton didn't benefit from his time in Australia's top pro league like LaMelo Ball did, and his game would have been better spotlighted in the NCAA. But the tools (length, quickness, agility) are there even if the intangibles (jumper, ball-handling, IQ) aren't mastered yet.

19. Brooklyn Nets (from Philadelphia 76ers) • Theo Maledon • ASVEL (France) • Point guard • 6-4 • 175 pounds

Maledon will have plenty of things to work on to adapt to the NBA after his stint in France. He needs to bulk up in strength and expand his offensive game, but his defense looks promising. He's the type of international point guard who could be the diamond in the rough of the draft.

20. Miami Heat • Aleksej Pokusevski • Olympiacos (Greece) • Forward • 7-0 • 205 pounds

Pokusevski has intrigue as a 7-footer who can handle the ball, pass and drive to the rim. He’s just 18 and does not have a lot of top-level pro experience in Europe. He needs to work on his shot and get stronger so he can absorb contact, but there is a skillset that makes him an appealing NBA prospect.

21.  Philadelphia 76ers (from Oklahoma City Thunder) • Tyrell Terry • Stanford •  Guard • 6-3 • 170 pounds

While the exposure of the NBA combine wasn't as intact this offseason due to the pandemic, Terry was one player who used the crucial assessment period – conducted mostly in a virtual capacity – to his advantage by bulking up. He also grew an inch. His three-point marksmanship is what will entice most teams looking to bolster their outside shooting.

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22. Denver Nuggets (from Houston Rockets) • Josh Green • Arizona • Freshman • Guard • 6-6 • 210 pounds

Green played alongside other talented freshmen at Arizona and established himself with his 3-point shot and ability to find his spots in half-court sets. He really improved from 3-point range in the final month of the season (13-for-27) and could turn into a solid two-way player.

23. Utah Jazz • Jaden McDaniels • Washington • Freshman • Forward • 6-9 • 200 pounds

McDaniels will be a fit in the modern NBA because of his defensive versatility, but he needs to develop as a shooter. He has a strong network to help him adjust to the pros, including his cousin, Juwan Howard.

24. Milwaukee Bucks (from Indiana Pacers) • Jalen Smith • Maryland • Forward • 6-10 • 225 pounds

Smith considered leaving after his freshman season, but returning gave him a chance to showcase his talent. He rebounds, runs the court, blocks shots and can score. He has good hands and footwork, and while he does damage in the low post, he can step out and drain 3-pointers, too.

25. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Denver Nuggets) • Isaiah Stewart • Washington • Freshman • Forward • 6-9 • 250 pounds

Stewart became a consistent big man with promising potential as a finisher and rim protector. That won’t translate right away in the NBA, but the ceiling is high. He averaged 16.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.2. blocks last season.

26. Boston Celtics • Leandro Bolmaro • Barcelona (Spain) • Small forward • 6-7 • 200 pounds

Part of Argentina’s next generation of talent, Bolmaro plays on the wing where he can handle the basketball as a play-maker both for himself and teammates. He also shows promise on the defensive end.

27. New York Knicks (from Los Angeles Clippers) • Vernon Carey Jr. • Duke • Freshman • Forward • 6-10 • 270 pounds

The college basketball freshman of the year and second-team All-American, Carey has strength, size and great hands, making him difficult to defend in the low post. He’s also a strong rebounder (especially on the offensive glass) and shot blocker.

28. Los Angeles Lakers • Malachi Flynn • San Diego State • Junior • Guard • 6-1 • 185 pounds

Flynn's size makes him a bit of a risk, but the All-American guard benefited greatly from the virtual combine process in reminding scouts of his abilities that helped the Aztecs stage a historic 2019-20 campaign. Flynn's underrated status could make him the Fred VanVleet of this draft class.

29. Toronto Raptors • Jahmi’us Ramsey • Texas Tech • Freshman • Guard • 6-4 • 195 pounds

Ramsey’s athleticism and perimeter defense will get him by, initially. He remains unproven, however, as a consistent scorer. He has a nice shot from outside and made 42.6% of his 3s.

30. Boston Celtics (from Milwaukee Bucks) • Desmond Bane • TCU • Senior • Forward • 6-6 • 215 pounds

Bane is the type of end-of-first-round caliber player who can turn into a void-filling role player off the bench. His basketball IQ and outside shooting abilities are among the intangibles that could help him sneak into the first round.

Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.

Follow NBA reporter Jeff Zilligitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

Follow NBA reporter Mark Medina on Twitter @MarkG_Medina.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA mock draft: Is LaMelo Ball worth the risk as the No. 1 pick?

Report: 2020-21 NBA season set to begin on Dec. 22, include 72 games .
This latest news suggests that the season will be over once the since-delayed 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan are slated to start next summer. That was always one of the major things both the NBA and its players were looking at when coming to a conclusion regarding the 2020-21 season. It now appears players will be able to take part in the event. Of course, that’s also dependent on the season finishing on time and the trajectory of the pandemic.NBA offseason scheduleIt now looks like trades will be able to start at some point here soon. NBA free agency will also get going later in November.

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