Perfect Teams for LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and Other Top NBA Draft Prospects

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJanuary 31, 2020

Perfect Teams for LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and Other Top NBA Draft Prospects

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    Many of the top NBA prospects would benefit from being drafted by specific teams that can cater to their particular strengths and weaknesses.

    Fit is widely known to play a major role in early development. Some players need minutes and touches right away, while others are better off being brought on slower, first playing to their strengths before being immediately featured offensively.

    Using top prospects and projected lottery teams based on current standings, we pinpointed the matches that should result in both parties flourishing.

Anthony Edwards, Georgia SG, Freshman: Atlanta Hawks

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    Trae Young would be helpful for Anthony Edwards, and Edwards would give the Atlanta Hawks another scorer to take pressure off their high-usage point guard.

    Edwards isn't built to take on a lead-guard role as a rookie. We've seen him struggle with shot selection, decision-making and overall efficiency. He'll be better catching the ball off momentum from the wings, which should discourage the dance-and-pull-up isolation shots and encourage more slashing with his 6'5", 225-pound frame.

    The attention Young draws, plus his passing, should make the game easier for Edwards, who'll enter the league at 19 years old. On one hand, he'd benefit from a winning culture and locker room. But his transition may be smooth by joining a team with lower expectations and young players on similar timelines.

    By the time Edwards begins to hit his stride in year No. 2 or 3, he'll be giving Atlanta a much-needed scoring wing between Young and John Collins, assuming his ceiling is notably higher than Kevin Huerter's, Cam Reddish's and De'Andre Hunter's.

Cole Anthony, North Carolina PG, Freshman: New Orleans Pelicans

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    Cole Anthony didn't have much help in the nine games he played at North Carolina before injuring his knee, and it resulted in some rough inefficiency. He'd have an easier situation in New Orleans.

    He could wind up replacing Jrue Holiday if the team decides it is better off trading him for pieces who align with the team's new timetable. Anthony is viewed as a point guard, but based on his scouting report since high school and 3.8 turnovers to 3.6 assists, he may be better suited to play alongside a facilitator like Lonzo Ball.

    Anthony could then focus on his signature scoring without having to worry about running the offense and properly balancing it with setting up teammates. His length, athleticism, competitiveness and 6.3 rebounds per game also bode well for his potential to defend either guard spot.

    Even if the Pelicans hold onto Holiday, JJ Redick isn't a long-term role player in New Orleans, and Anthony would beat out Frank Jackson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. It may mean a slower start to his career, but a reduced early role might not be such a terrible thing for his development.

Deni Avdija, Israel SF, 2001: Sacramento Kings

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    Deni Avdija doesn't play much in EuroLeague, and when he does, he's often standing around the wings and corners. He has a bigger role in the Israel BSL, where he's averaging 10.9 points on 54.8 percent shooting and 35.6 percent from three. Immediate NBA minutes could benefit Avdija, and he'd presumably get them with the Sacramento Kings, a team that has pieces capable of eventually elevating the franchise.

    Sacramento should look tougher next season, assuming De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III remain healthy. Avdija wouldn't have a giant workload or high usage, but he'd take Bogdan Bogdanovic's spot and play alongside talent. The projected 2020-21 rookie would receive a nice balance of touches and limited pressure.

    He'd also give the Kings' forward rotation a more versatile playmaker and defender, as well as another shot-maker. While Avdija is often used as a spot-up player overseas, his MVP showing during the summer at the U20 European Championships illuminated untapped scoring and passing skills.

Isaac Okoro, Auburn SF/PF, Freshman: Phoenix Suns

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    Isaac Okoro's identity is built around offensive efficiency, defensive toughness/versatility and intangibles that contribute to winning. He should already be highlighted on the Phoenix Suns' draft board.

    He shouldn't mind playing in Phoenix, either. The Suns could surround him with playmakers, shooters and scorers, which he'll need given his lack of creation skills and reliable jump shot. He'd replicate what Draymond Green does for the Golden State Warriors—move the ball, finish what the defense gives him and lock down opponents' top players.

    He's also interchangeable between frontcourt positions. Okoro has earned a wing label for his 6'6" size and effectiveness guarding around the perimeter. But with powerful legs and a physical style, he can also play the 4 alongside Deandre Ayton.

    Okoro could ultimately be the star role player who helps unlock and optimize the Suns' talent.

James Wiseman, Memphis C, Freshman: Golden State Warriors

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    The draw to James Wiseman revolves around his 7'1", 240-pound size and 7'6" wingspan. The questions ask about his skill level, awareness and motor, so he's definitely one of the prospects who'd benefit from having quality teammates and a simplified role.

    He'd get both in Golden State, where the Warriors can surround him with playmakers and shooters, and Wiseman could play 20-plus minutes at center, finishing what Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, D'Angelo Russell and Draymond Green create for him inside.

    Given his tools and bounce, Wiseman figures to be an effective lob target, rim runner and offensive rebounder, regardless of how much he develops. And in Golden State, there wouldn't be as much pressure early for him to show he can create and make shots outside the paint—an urge he's had trouble resisting over the years.

    Meanwhile, the Warriors could acquire a replacement and future upgrade from Willie Cauley-Stein, who the team just traded to the Dallas Mavericks.

Killian Hayes, Ratiopharm Ulm, PG 2001: Detroit Pistons

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    Killian Hayes should be hoping for a suitor that has a point guard opening and shooters. The Detroit Pistons have both, as well as Frenchman Sekou Doumbouya, whom Hayes is familiar with (and seemingly friendly with based on interviews) from Jeep Elite League and Basketball Without Borders.

    Assuming Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose aren't desirable long-term answers, the Pistons should already be scouting the 18-year-old, who is averaging 10.9 points and 5.1 assists on 49.1 percent shooting between EuroCup, the German BBL and German Cup.

    His playmaking and passing are ahead of his scoring. Despite improvement and elite free-throw numbers (88.2 percent in 2019-20), Hayes' perimeter game needs work, so he would benefit from a Pistons lineup that ranks No. 6 in the league in three-point percentage (36.7 percent).

LaMelo Ball, Illawarra Hawks PG, 2001: Chicago Bulls

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    For incoming point guards, there aren't many desirable destinations among lottery teams. LaMelo Ball would get to dominate the ball for the New York Knicks or Detroit Pistons, but neither provide suitable environments for young player development. The Chicago Bulls would be Ball's best bet.

    Coby White may be better off playing a sixth-man or bench-spark role with his streak scoring, and Ball would give Chicago a more complete ball-handler and far superior playmaker. And despite Chicago underachieving, Ball would still have strong weapons to defer to (when healthy) in Otto Porter Jr., Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.

    They'd let Ball play to his strengths as a passer, and he wouldn't have to try to create too much or consistently score inside the arc. Given LaVine's usage, plus Markkanen's and Carter's suspected desire for more touches, there wouldn't even be many chances for Ball to develop bad habits when it comes to dancing with the rock.

    It also wouldn't hurt for the upcoming rookie (who'll be 19) to play for a disciplinarian-type coach like Jim Boylen.

Obi Toppin, Dayton PF, Sophomore: Portland Trail Blazers

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    Current standings suggest the Portland Trail Blazers could be drafting somewhere in the back end of the lottery, a likely landing range for Obi Toppin.

    As one of the nation's most explosive big men, Toppin could give Portland's frontcourt athleticism and energy that Carmelo Anthony, Hassan Whiteside and Jusuf Nurkic cannot. The breakout star at Dayton leads the nation in dunks, and the Blazers could value his easy baskets in a lineup that features Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Anthony, players who lean on difficult shot selection.

    At 6'9", 220 pounds and turning 22 years old in March, Toppin also figures to be one of the more NBA-ready rookies, a selling point to a franchise that doesn't intend on rebuilding.

    He also happens to have turned a significant corner skill-wise, ranking in the 86th percentile on post-ups and 92nd percentile on spot-ups while nearly hitting a three-pointer per game (19 in 21 games). Toppin doesn't have to be just a finisher and clean-up man—there is more upside to his offensive outlook.

Onyeka Okongwu, USC C, Freshman: Charlotte Hornets

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    By joining the Charlotte Hornets, Onyeka Okongwu plugs a hole. It's also a mutually beneficial fit, as he would get an open path to a starting position for a team with a rising backcourt and versatile forwards in PJ Washington and Miles Bridges. The Hornets would add a center who can both score inside and protect the rim.

    Only the Golden State Warriors and Orlando Magic shoot a lower percentage than Charlotte inside 10 feet. Opponents shoot 62.8 percent against the Hornets inside six feet, the seventh-highest figure in the league. Okongwu, meanwhile, ranks in the 96th percentile on post-ups, finishes 68.2 percent of his shots around the basket and holds opponents to just 25.0 percent of their shots at the rim.

    Charlotte would give Okongwu the opportunity to receive touches and immediately start establishing himself as a defensive anchor.

Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State PG, Sophomore: Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Something isn't right in Minnesota, and the Timberwolves need a new lead playmaker to help get more out of an offense that has talent but ranks No. 22 in efficiency, per ESPN. Tyrese Haliburton should be one of the team's lottery targets, given his special passing and improved shooting.

    The front office also likely figured it could draft a long-term upgrade over Jeff Teague before trading him to the Atlanta Hawks. Averaging 7.1 assists to 2.7 turnovers, the 6'5" point guard is also now making 40.0 percent of his 6.1 thee-point attempts per game.

    While there are some concerns about his scoring, Haliburton would benefit from playing next to Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jarrett Culver. He could play to his strengths in Minnesota and just focus on facilitating and hitting open outside shots. He'd also make the game easier for Towns and Culver while reducing Wiggins' decision-making responsibilities.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports or unless otherwise noted.