Minnesota Timberwolves Draft: LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards?

Anthony Edwards of the Georgia Bulldogs could be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Anthony Edwards of the Georgia Bulldogs could be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves Draft: LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards?

Minnesota TImberwolves, LaMelo Ball
Potential Minnesota Timberwolves prospect LaMelo Ball. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images) /

Offensive Impact

LaMelo Ball is a wizard with the ball.

He’s rare. Not only is he a fantastic ball handler, but he can make highlight-reel passes at will, he sees the floor, he has a tremendous basketball IQ and the size and quickness to get wherever he wants on the court.

But he’s also a terrible shooter. LaMelo shot 38 percent from the field, 25 percent from 3-point range and 72 percent from the free throw line in 12 games for the Illawara Hawks this year.

The common response to this red flag is twofold: first, that part of these poor percentages can be explained by poor shot selection. LaMelo would often throw up deep threes early in the shot clock for Illawara, just like he was known to do for Chino Hills in high school. Theoretically, a good coach could train those bad habits out of him.

There’s also an encouraging case study with his brother, Lonzo, whose jumpshot was also a concern heading into the draft in 2017. Lonzo has been able to fix his shooting form in the three years since, and shot 38 percent on 6.5 3-point attempts this year. But Lonzo also shot 41 percent at UCLA, and the concerns were more about his shooting form than anything else.

Even if LaMelo can’t become a league-average shooter, he’ll still be a positive contributor on offense with his ability to shift defenses and create easy shots.

Anthony Edwards is a different type of offensive talent. He won’t step in ready to lead a team on day one like LaMelo, but he has all the tools to be a 20-to-25 point scorer down the line. Edwards is an elite athlete, even by NBA standards, and will be bigger and faster than most two-guards he faces.

At Georgia, he was the first and only option offensively, and defenses collapsed whenever he drove into the lane. With the spacing of the NBA, he’ll have a lot more freedom to attack the basket and get to the line.

His offensive game and body type are very similar to Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers. He might not be as good a passer as Oladipo is, but he’ll be able to get easy buckets just by being bigger and faster than everybody else. He’s a great finisher once he gets inside.

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The idea of Edwards running alongside D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns is incredibly enticing, and it’s not hard to envision him becoming a stronger and more energetic version of Andrew Wiggins.

Like Wiggins, Edwards had a tendency to settle for jump shots in college, it’s just that his jump shots tended to be threes. Again, that may have also been a product of the type of collapsing defenses he often faced.

The ability to improve as a shooter will be key for both Edwards and Ball. Edwards’ numbers this year were not quite as bad as Ball’s, but still weren’t very good. He was 40 percent from the field, 29 percent from three, and 77 percent from the line. Shot selection skewed his numbers as well, but Edwards will have to improve his shooting to be truly effective.

As an off-ball cutter and mover, Edwards wins out over Ball, though Ball’s IQ could make him a great cutter if he works on it.

Edwards has a very good chance to fit with the Wolves’ current core of D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns and Malik Beasley. Playing with those types of floor spacers would be beneficial for him, allowing him to get easy points early in his career off cuts and spot-up jumpers. He could go at his own pace and wouldn’t be relied upon to put up huge numbers right away.

A LaMelo-DLo backcourt could be game-changing but it could also be disappointing. On paper, they could work together. It would mean Russell giving up a lot of lead guard responsibilities. Ball could be similar to a Russell Westbrook-lite at first—great with the ball in his hands but possibly a liability without it.

If it worked out, Gersson Rosas would be a genius and the Wolves would be a scary team. But that’s a big “if”.

Advantage: Push. It’s hard to say … both have their pros and cons but provide similar value.