#IMHO: 2020 NBA Draft Edition

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Kelcey Wright Johnson weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Monday, November 16, 2020 9:59 AM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: IMHO

Kelcey:

Finally, it’s time for the NBA Draft! We were supposed to have this back in June, but, yeah, 2020. But now it’s finally happening! These same prospects we’ve been talking about for well over a year now will finally get their moment, will finally get to walk across the (virtual) stage and hear their name called (virtually) and then (virtually) shake hands with Adam Silver.

But the real question is, who’s on first? Well, who gets drafted first? It seems like the top three prospects who have separated themselves from the pack are LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman and Anthony Edwards (Go Dawgs). Kelcey, I know you’ve spent the last few weeks talking to people who cover the draft and you’ve been studying up on all the players…who do you think will be the number one stunner this year?


From: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2020 9:18 AM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

What’s up Lang?

Like you said, over the last couple months I’ve been chatting with media from around the league about the draft and future prospects in the Talkin’ Grizz series and what I’ve found is that this year’s draft class doesn’t necessarily have a bonafide star. This year’s draft is wide open and honestly for a while there, I really thought Minnesota was going to trade down and not even take the first overall pick!

It’s not like last year where we knew that Zion was going number one and Ja was going number two and so on. This year is a bit different; the top three prospects (LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman) could go in ANY order.

In my opinion, I think that Anthony Edwards is probably the best fit for Minnesota; he’s a legit scorer and arguably the best athlete in the draft. I like him for the Timberwolves because he can play off the ball and with his 6’10” wingspan and crazy athleticism, he could become a high-level defender if he buckles down. Not that I dislike LaMelo or Wiseman for the T-Wolves, I just think LaMelo is too much like De’Angelo Russell and Wiseman is too much like Karl-Anthony Towns.

However — and this is a big however — I do think that the Timberwolves will draft LaMelo Ball first overall. Even though Russell likes to have the ball in his hands, I think he’ll play the two-guard and let Ball bring it up because LaMelo is a 6’7″ passing *wizard*. In the Australian league he played in this year he averaged 17 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7 assists. He’s a box office guy and I think Minnesota makes a splash with the first pick.

It’s also crazy to me, Lang, that most people have either Edwards or Ball going first but James Wiseman standing strong in the number two spot, which pushes Edwards or Ball, whoever doesn’t go first, down to the third pick.

Phew – there’s a lot to unpack there. Do you think James Wiseman is the missing piece to the puzzle for Golden State as a big, athletic, mobile big?

Anthony Edwards training day

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2020 11:49 AM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: RE: IMHO

Let me begin by saying I think James Wiseman is going to eventually develop into a great NBA player and have a long, terrific career.

But if I’m the Golden State Warriors? I’m drafting LaMelo Ball.

From almost everything I’ve read, LaMelo Ball seems to have the most upside of these top players in the draft. He can already pass at an elite level and rebound really well for a guard. The things he’s not great at doing? Shooting the ball and playing defense.

So guess what? Let’s put him on the court with arguably the two best shooters in the NBA. We can take some pressure off Ball by moving him off the ball and letting him play more of a supporting role. He’s big enough – he’s listed at 6-8 – to play on the wing and play almost a point-forward role, where you allow him to run pick-and-rolls and find Steph and Klay coming off screens. He’ll be great playing uptempo and getting out on the breaks. And if he struggles defensively, how about having him on the floor at the same time as two elite defenders in Draymond and Klay?

If you have concerns about Ball’s motivation or ability to be a leader, you wouldn’t have to worry about that in Golden State, which has such a strong culture and leadership from the top down. And considering how Golden State as an organization seems to like making headlines and being in the news, I mean, this seems like a pretty good fit?

Or maybe you just draft Wiseman and slot him in there behind Draymond and let him get boards and block shots. OK, fine, I’m overthinking this whole thing.

Kelcey, we’ve talked a lot about the top three players, give me a player to keep an eye on who isn’t in that top tier.

James Wiseman at Memphis

From: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Sent: Wednesday, November 18, 2020 12:53 AM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

I really like Tre Jones — and not just because his brother plays for the Grizzlies. But the young point guard has the same type of game as his older brother, Tyus; solid. Tre Jones will be able to join an NBA roster and play the back-up PG position from day one.

In his second year at Duke, he averaged just over 16 points and almost 6.5 assists per game. It seemed like he would perform really well against big teams and people would keep saying, “Yeah, but wait until he plays…” and then he would play that team and still do really well. And the vicious circle would continue.

But I’m excited for him to make the jump to the NBA and continue proving people wrong. He’s projected as a late first round or early second round pick and we know the whole Jones family will be anxiously waiting and watching the virtual draft.

Is there anybody (post-lottery) that you’ve got an eye on?

Tre Jones celebrates at Duke

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Wednesday, November 18, 2020 9:00 AM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: RE: IMHO

I’m not sure if he’ll go in the lottery or slip just out of it, but one name I keep seeing that I really like is Aaron Nesmith, who played at Vanderbilt. He played a lot as a freshman, then got injured 14 games into his sophomore season, so we didn’t get to see much of him. But when he did play, he shot over 50 percent from three. He’s big (6-6), and while the knock on him is that he doesn’t have elite athleticism, who cares? Let the man shoot the rock from deep.

Another player I really like who I keep seeing projected outside the lottery is RJ Hampton. We got to see him here in Memphis last season in a preseason game, and his poise was evident. He’s got great size and all the physical tools, but to me having the right mentality is crucial for a point guard, and I think Hampton has that mentality.

Of course, the deeper we go in this draft, the more up in the air things become. By the time the Grizz are scheduled to pick, at the 40 spot, we’ll see who’s even left. Maybe someone drops, or maybe the Grizz have their eye on a diamond in the rough. Whatever happens, after tonight we’ve got just weeks until it’s time for training camp!

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