The pandemic has marked many generations. Those children who, for the first time, stepped on school. Or the not so young, who began their university stage … or finished it. The coronavirus sneaked in the middle of many firsts and basketball was no exception. The 2020 Draft was weird, like almost everything in that year. Scheduled for June 25, it had to be delayed, first, to October 16 and, finally, to November 18. In the feelings of young talents, surely, impotence and insecurity; in franchises, a constant change of plans that had an impact on its medium-term strategy. There was concern about how to combine the dates of the event with free agency, with the string of exchanges (and their impact on the salary cap) that occurs during the first night as a reason. And, as in almost all areas of society, uncertainty surfaced. Everywhere. In a hard economic blow, but also sports, the NCAA was forced to stop the March Madness and, with it, the largest window in terms of the display of basketball skills. The Combine, for its part, also adapted to the situation and took shape telematically, removing direct contact that did not dissolve doubts.
Because there were many. Regardless of the difficulties posed by the health situation, the new litter arrived without making much noise. After the landing of Zion Williamson or Ja Morant, and waiting for Cade Cunningham, it seemed a generation doomed to indifference. Neither to failure, which is a capital word, but to a destination that seemed to be written in lowercase. On LaMelo Ball, who presented himself as one of the potential stars (if, at that time, that word was pronounced), fell the weight of his surname, a certain immaturity and the fact of having been playing outside the United States, in Australia. James Wiseman, number one on the Mocks for a long time, came in after playing just three games in the college tournament. Behind, a convulsive story: after a 12-game sanction for, according to the NCAA itself, receiving “undue payments”, the player himself decided to leave the competition.
Lines and lines and none with a winning fate. If, normally, one sins of exaggeration with those young people who stand out, in this case the opposite was done, as time seems to show. Nothing was expected of them and they have responded giving their all. “They told us our class was garbage,” Tyrese Haliburton posted on his Twitter profile as he noted how the season had gone for each of his generation mates. The Kings point guard, along with LaMelo himself and Anthony Edwards, has been one of the three nominees for best rookie of the year. Surely one of the surprises within the general surprise. In the umpteenth disappointment of his franchise, which has been wandering the desert of the final phase for fifteen years, it has been hope. Perhaps, of all, the most mature. He improvises to the sound of any special player, but stands out, above all, for his ability to measure times. In his first year as a professional, he has averaged 30.1 minutes per game and, in those that he has not been on the court, his absence has been noted. It is a classic in the body of an adolescent, and he has not had great problems projecting what he saw in the university stage. Good vision, good use of the pick and roll, ability to find the released shooter and correct choice of own shots, etc. Everything that the academies demand. 13 points, 5.3 assists, 52.9% from the field goal, 40.9% from the tripe and the feeling that, together with De’Aaron Fox, it can be a good place to lay the first stone of a necessary reconstruction.
LaMelo and Edwards can be stars
During many moments of the season, Haliburton even ranked as the favorite for the rookie of the year award. On its own merits, of course; but also because of the circumstances. Everything influences, always, and everything is part of the game. It has been the most constant, with a safe, moderate tick-tock in the metronome that is itself. An unbeatable rhythm for its progression, but less flashy than that of rock and roll embodied by LaMelo or Anthony Edwards. Less than the anarchy of the little ball or the crushes of the Wolves player, goodies for any compilation of best plays. Both have shown that they have the talent to become NBA stars. Time will judge, of course, but the raw material exists. They meet the profile, both on and off the slopes. And each in his own way. Many times, it is not about being the best, but about being different, and, even among the best, distinction can tip scales.
The damn injuries, as so many times in this season, intruded on a promotion that, for what comes, promises strong emotions. 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists from a LaMelo who has already shown that he wants an idyll with history for him, with the records that remain in posterity. In January, with a 22 + 12 + 11, he became the youngest player to sign a triple-double. It culminated, with him, a seven-game streak in double-digit scoring to appear in society, to remove the stigmas of his family and to make his profile clear: that of a poet, that of a player worth paying for an entry. He has left nights to remember in some funny Hornets, quarrels and, finally, with a project that points to something (although this is indeterminate). He dissolved in the play-in, in the most important game of his career so far, but many thank him for vigils of dreams. He has led the litter in assists and has placed second in rebounding and assists.
He has led, in short, with the best rookie award as a flag, although with the permission of Edwards, guilty of his second notch in terms of scoring. 19.3 average for the number one in the Draft, who, little by little, has been able to assert his position. His ability to make numbers was evident from the first moment, although with a very high price to pay: bad percentages and, in key moments, bad decisions. Both sections have been improving without abandoning the numerical explosions, with two nights of 42 points and 19 above 25. In the last 22 games of the season, he averaged 23.3 points with 17.5 shots, 58.6% in true-shooting that places him ahead of almost 300 league players in the section. Among them, Bradley Beal, Jrue Holiday, Luka Doncic, Joe Ingles, LeBron James or Devin Booker; very confident players. The course has not been the most appropriate to shine in Minnesota, but it has left the feeling of, without setbacks in between, hiding possibilities that go far beyond what is seen. He has already earned the absolute respect of a legend like Dwyane Wade, “I think he can be a better player than me”, and he has seized, actively and passively, the illusion of the Wolves, “I maintain the spirit of the people; I feel like I am the life of the team. ” He speaks inside the pavilions, but also outside. And with the same explosiveness and talent: his press conferences, against all expectations, have become a mandatory appointment. If you want to label your (many) posters, the difficult thing will be to choose between one of the many good phrases that you have given away.
General impact rarely seen
They are the three vertices of a generation, but of one that draws a very large geometric figure. It was said that it was a passing draft, a transition. At most, a selection of two, or three, names … and it has ended up being the opposite. Literally. If the list of the first round of elections is reviewed, only three or four names come out that have not had relevant roles in their teams. In total, 25 rookies have been above the 20-minute average. Behind, more names with a presence, albeit less: another 29 are above 10. Among them, players like Payton Pritchard, fully integrated into the Celtics’ dynamics, also in the playoffs; Immanuel Quickley, an important part of the glorious Knicks and with signs of a high scoring talent, or Tyrese Maxey, explosion in the final phase with the Sixers (39 points in the sixth game against Atlanta), but already with previous warnings, with matches of up to 30 or 39 goals in the regular course. When it comes to production, the numbers are on your side as well. Up to twelve rookies have finished the regular season above 10 points on average, eighteen have surpassed 4 rebounds and eight have 3 assists.
In this litter lies, without going any further, the most immediate hope of franchises such as the Houston Rockets or Oklahoma City Thunder. Both, of course, with their mind set on the next Draft (in the case of Mark Daigneault’s, until 2027, with 34 rounds through), in the future in general; but with bits of present along the way. TOleksej Pokusevski, Théo Maledon, Kenyon Martin … or the curious case of Armoni Brooks and Jae’Sean Tate, not chosen at the time, but camouflaged in the positive maelstrom of this year. Desmond Bane, with Xavier Tillman at his side, has already demonstrated his ability to be part of a promising project such as the one in Memphis. In Detroit, on the other hand, they also cling to Saddiq Bey, brilliant and capable of sneaking into the top positions of the weekly updates, and Isaiah Stewart; and in Orlando, RJ Hampton and Cole Anthony have also found their way into a staff that, in the coming months, will be subjected to a hurricane of changes. Waiting, one more step ahead of players like Wiseman himself, Obi Toppin, Isaac Okoro, Patrick Williams, Killian Hayes or Deni Avdija, with grounds for more than what has been proven. They have a lot to say. They have declared in absentia.