Three of the league’s newest faces come the 2020-21 Season
~Matthew Morhiser, Sports Editor~
The 2019-20 National Basketball Association (NBA) regular season was one for the record books, folks. We saw the Milwaukee Bucks dominate the league in route to the earliest playoff berth ever, LeBron James pass the late Kobe Bryant for third all-time on the NBA scoring list and Mr. “Half-Man/Half-Amazing,” Vince Carter suited up for his record twenty-second consecutive season. That was all before the NBA suspended league play indefinitely due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
But like a phoenix rises from its ashes, the NBA returned on July 30 for “bubble play,” and just like the regular season, the resume of the 2019-20 Season gave us even more notable occurrences. Speaking of phoenixes rising from ashes, Devin Booker almost single-handedly dragged the Phoenix Suns to an inevitable first round exit from the playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers. And speaking of the Los Angeles Lakers, they just captured their seventeenth NBA Championship, and ties the Boston Celtics for the most championships won by any team in the league.
But honestly, who cares? The Finals mark an end to a season, so that only means it is time to look ahead to the future. Not much concrete information is out regarding the NBA’s plans for next season, so who knows what is going to happen. However, that will not stop me from celebrating the new recruits entering an irresolute professional field on Nov. 18. Like any other year, sixty young basketball aficionados will hear their name called by Commissioner Adam Silver as a symbolic invitation to the world’s premier basketball league. It may be over a “Zoom” call, but these young men, regardless of the world’s robustness, put in years of work to reach the pinnacle they stand at today. That is why we should do them a favor and get to know a few of the class’s most outstanding candidates.
To get this preview started off nice and juicy, I figured we could talk about the 7’1’’ big man from Nashville, James Wiseman. Despite committing to and ultimately playing only three games for the University of Memphis, Wiseman’s name still hotdogs and grandstands at the top of draft boards across the sports analysis multiverse. Part of Wiseman’s appeal lies in his athletic abilities, rim protection and rebounding prowess. At 19 years old, the former McDonald’s All-American and Tennessee’s 2019 “Mr.Basketball” winner still has time to develop his scoring and passing out of the post. A go-to move on the lower block would definitely not hurt either. In fact, it’d be pretty wise, man.
Moving on, another prospect who captured the attention of sports writers, much like myself and Bill Simmons, is the University of Georgia’s Anthony Edwards. Before the cancellation of the 2019-20 college basketball season, Edwards averaged 19.1 points, 2.8 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. When perusing his Sports-Reference.com page, I noticed his three-point percentage stood at .294 for the season. With an average of 2.3 made shots per game, Edwards had no qualms “yeeting” up an average of 7.7 attempts before the final horn sounds. We all know today’s NBA game features more three-point attempts than ever before, so I would imagine any coach would work with Edwards on his decision making abilities. Just because he can take the three doesn’t mean he should.
My shoehorned critical ramblings aside, he was still named the 2020 Southeastern Conference (SEC) Freshman of the Year, and he was a member of the All-SEC Second-Team to boot. He was the only freshman among the five finalists for the 2020 Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award. Expect hearing his name early.
We have already covered a center and a shooting guard, so we should probably finish off this (miniature) draft preview with a player at everyone’s favorite position, point guard. Whether you know this guy from the critically seen Facebook Watch reality series “Ball in the Family” or you’re a diehard fan of Lithuanian basketball, LaMelo Ball is about to let his game do the talking. He’s obviously had an unconventional path to the draft, but that shouldn’t shape your view of him. Much like his older brother Lonzo, LaMelo Ball is an incredible passer. His propensity to get his teammates open shots and his feel for the offense is among the top of the class, but as we discussed, the NBA game demands you to score. As of now, Ball has not developed the stable scoring touch that can compete with the likes of any NBA defense, but once he becomes a consistent threat on the perimeter and the midrange, he will open up even more shots for his teammates.
These guys represent the future of the league. Of course, I didn’t mention names like Tyrese Haliburton, Onyeka Okongwu or Killian Hayes, but they, along with everyone mentioned, are harbingers of the league’s next direction. In a time of uncertainty, you can be certain these guys will be the newest household names.
All statistics and award information obtained from: https://www.basketball-reference.com/