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Sometimes it doesn’t take long for a basketball player to have success after making the jump from the collegiate level to the NBA. Just look at Zion Williamson, last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, as an example.
For others, there can be an adjustment period, whether they are coming from college ball or an international league. And that could be the case for some of the top prospects in this year’s draft class, as they are young and don’t have a ton of experience above the high school level. But there are many talented players with a lot of potential who could turn into stars down the line.
Here’s a mock draft for the full first round, followed by a breakdown of the three top prospects in this year’s class.
NBA Mock Draft, 1st Round
1. Golden State: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
2. Cleveland: James Wiseman, C, Memphis
3. Minnesota: LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawarra Hawks
4. Atlanta: Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
5. Detroit: R.J. Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers
6. New York: Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv
7. Chicago: Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State
8. Charlotte: Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC
9. Washington: Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm
10. Phoenix: Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn
11. San Antonio: Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton
12. Sacramento: Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
13. New Orleans: Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
14. Portland: Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State
15. Orlando: Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova
16. Minnesota (via Brooklyn): Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis
17. Boston (via Memphis): Patrick Williams, PF, Florida State
18. Dallas: Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington
19. Milwaukee (via Indiana): Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL
20. Brooklyn (via Philadelphia): Jaden McDaniels, SF/PF, Washington
21. Denver (via Houston): Josh Green, SG, Arizona
22. Philadelphia (via Oklahoma City): Jalen Smith, PF, Maryland
23. Miami: Vernon Carey Jr., PF/C, Duke
24. Utah: Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
25. Oklahoma City (via Denver): Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Olympiacos
26. Boston: Leandro Bolmaro, SF, FC Barcelona
27. New York (via L.A. Clippers): Tre Jones, PG, Duke
28. Toronto: Xavier Tillman, PF, Michigan State
29. L.A. Lakers: Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
30. Boston (via Milwaukee): Jahmi’us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech
Top Prospects Available
Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
There’s a good chance that Anthony Edwards could be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas thinks that could be the case, even though the 6’5″ guard hasn’t started to touch on his potential.
“Anthony Edwards would be awfully difficult to turn down because he’s so talented, but he doesn’t really know how to play yet,” Bilas told Evan Daniels of 247Sports. “I think he made some really good strides under [Georgia head coach] Tom Crean last year. He puts up points in a hurry.”
In his only season with the Bulldogs, Edwards averaged 19.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in 32 games. He eclipsed the 30-point mark in a game three times, including his breakout 37-point performance against Michigan State at Maui Invitational on Nov. 26.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor describes Edwards as a “bruising scorer who can create space with his dribble and make tough shots from all over the court, but his decision-making leaves much to be desired.”
Edwards should be the No. 1 pick, especially if the Warriors end up with that selection. He could enter their guard rotation and learn from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson while continuing to develop, which could help him turn into a star.
James Wiseman, C, Memphis
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For a brief period of time in early November, James Wiseman showcased what makes him an exciting big man.
The 7’1″ center’s career at Memphis only lasted three games after he withdrew from the school after receiving a 12-game suspension tied to a booster dispute. However, he was impressive in each of those contests, as he tallied at least 14 points, nine rebounds and a block in each game.
Although Wiseman didn’t play much basketball this season, that likely isn’t going to stop a team from drafting him with one of the first picks. There are several teams that could be interested in adding a big man, even the Cleveland Cavaliers, who may still have Andre Drummond and Kevin Love in their frontcourt.
“The Cavs will have to wait on Andre Drummond’s $28 million player option decision, but they are likely to be in the market for a franchise frontcourt player, which is why a center like Wiseman is attractive,” ESPN’s Jonathan Givony wrote.
Like Edwards, it might take some time for Wiseman to reach his potential, as he will likely need some game experience to help him adjust to the NBA. But his size, finishing ability and game-changing skills should be intriguing enough for him to be a top selection, likely coming off the board at either No. 2 or No. 3.
LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawarra Hawks
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Like this draft class’ other top prospects, LaMelo Ball is young and full of potential. Like Wiseman, though, he didn’t play in too many games this season. And Ball never played at the college level.
Ball went to Australia to play for the Illawarra Hawks of Australia’s National Basketball League, but his season was cut short after 12 games by a foot injury. However, when Ball was on the court, he thrived and showed how much he has developed since high school, averaging 17 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game.
O’Connor has Ball ranked at No. 2, ahead of both Edwards and Wiseman, on his big board, noting that the 18-year-old point guard “has the upside to become one of the NBA’s best playmakers.”
There will surely be several teams near the top of the draft interested in selecting Ball, but perhaps none would be a better fit than the Minnesota Timberwolves. There, Ball could pair with D’Angelo Russell to form a strong guard tandem while adding to a young core that also features center Karl-Anthony Towns.
Ball has the potential to become an even better player than his eldest brother, New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, but there will be some aspects of his game he will need to work on when he gets to the NBA in order to meet expectations.