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Memphis center James Wiseman, centre, shoots in front of Oregon guards Will Richardson, left, and Payton Pritchard in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 12, 2019. The Golden State Warriors selected Wiseman in the NBA draft on Nov. 18, 2020.

Craig Mitchelldyer/The Associated Press

The Minnesota Timberwolves started an NBA draft unlike any other Wednesday night by selecting Georgia guard Anthony Edwards with the first overall pick.

James Wiseman, a center from the University of Memphis, went second to the Golden State Warriors, while LaMelo Ball, the popular guard from Chino Hills, California, was taken third by the Charlotte Hornets.

In a draft that was staged virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, with prospects watching from home and team executives making their selections from their practice facilities, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced the picks from an ESPN television studio in Bristol, Connecticut.

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Unlike in previous drafts, there was no clear-cut favourite at No. 1. Ultimately, after spending months weighing their options, the Timberwolves went with Edwards, a six-foot-five shooting guard. He was the Southeastern Conference’s freshman of the year after averaging 19.1 points and 5.2 rebounds a game. Edwards was not the best perimeter shooter available in the draft – he shot just 29.4 per cent from the college 3-point line – but he operated at Georgia with NBA-level athleticism, manufacturing production at the rim.

“It’s an indescribable feeling,” Edwards said in a televised interview after he was selected.

The Timberwolves already have two young stars around whom they plan to build – Karl-Anthony Towns, 25, and D’Angelo Russell, 24, have both been All-Stars – and Edwards could be a nice fit playing alongside Russell in the backcourt.

As a part of its comprehensive draft research, Minnesota’s front office conducted more than 1,000 telephone interviews in recent months and compiled reams of evaluations. At the end of the process, the Timberwolves came away from a wide pool of prospects convinced that Edwards was the best player for them.

The event was overshadowed in part by an injury that the Warriors’ Klay Thompson suffered to his lower right leg in a workout in Southern California a few hours before the draft. The severity of his injury was unknown, and the team said that Thompson would undergo additional testing. Thompson missed all of last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the 2019 NBA finals.

While that news was still circulating, the Warriors selected Wiseman with the second pick. Regarded as the top big man in the draft, the seven-foot-one Wiseman played in just three games as a freshman at Memphis before he ran into eligibility problems with the NCAA and eventually declared for the draft. He was a dominant force in those three games, averaging 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and three blocks while shooting 76.9 per cent from the field.

Though Wiseman’s college career provided a small sample for NBA scouts and executives to evaluate, there is little question that he has unusual skills for a player his size. Long, lean and explosive, he can run the floor and has a soft shooting touch.

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Ball’s path to the NBA was unconventional. Like his older brother Lonzo, who plays for the New Orleans Pelicans, LaMelo has been scrutinized from a young age – in part because of his advanced skills (he once scored 92 points in a game as a high school sophomore), but also because of the promotional work done on his behalf by his father, LaVar Ball, a bombastic presence in basketball circles.

Ball left high school early to play in Lithuania, then spent last season with the Illawarra Hawks of Australia’s National Basketball League.

In Australia, Ball began to reveal his potential, averaging 17 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 12 games. He also showed room for improvement: His attention wandered on defence, and he shot just 37.3 per cent from the field – and 24 per cent from 3-point range – before his season was cut short by a foot injury.

He is regarded as a gifted passer and has terrific length for a guard. But he is raw, with funky shooting mechanics.

Before the pandemic wrought havoc on the league calendar, the draft had been scheduled for June 25 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

The draft was also preceded in recent days by a flurry of trade activity.

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On Monday morning, the New York Knicks worked their way up the draft order by sending picks No. 27 and 38 to the Utah Jazz in exchange for the No. 23 pick and the rights to Ante Tomic, a 33-year-old center who has spent his entire pro career overseas.

Earlier in the week, the Milwaukee Bucks agreed to send a smorgasbord of players and draft picks to the New Orleans Pelicans for Jrue Holiday, one of the league’s top two-way guards.

The Bucks have been under immense pressure to upgrade their roster around Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will be eligible to sign a so-called supermax extension with the Bucks starting Friday. Antetokounmpo, the 15th pick in the 2013 draft, has won back-to-back NBA MVP Awards and the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year Award.

The Los Angeles Lakers, fresh off their 17th NBA championship, were also busy, agreeing to a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder to acquire point guard Dennis Schroder, one of the top reserves in the league last season.

And Chris Paul, the veteran point guard, has joined the Phoenix Suns after the Thunder traded him for a package that included Ricky Rubio and Kelly Oubre Jr.

Teams are expected to begin reporting to training camps Dec. 1 for individual workouts. The season is scheduled to start Dec. 22.

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