LaMelo Ball, Deni Avdija face off as members of impressive 2020 draft class

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Chase Hughes
·4 min read
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Wizards get first look at LaMelo Ball, who tops deep 2020 draft class originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The general consensus heading into the 2020 NBA Draft was that it wasn't a draft class that featured high-end talent. This was just one year after Zion Williamson and Ja Morant represented an obvious top tier, and no one in the 2020 group seemed to stack up to either of them.

There was also more uncertainty added by the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, a host of international players from various leagues in the mix and even a few U.S. players who went overseas in lieu of playing in college.

The early returns on the 2020 draft class, however, have been very good, as already it's clear there were both potential stars available and plenty of depth for teams to pick from. Of the many standouts, two of them will face off on Sunday for the first time as LaMelo Ball and the Hornets host Deni Avdija and the Wizards.

Ball was picked third overall and at this moment is one of the favorites for rookie of the year. It's arguably between him and Tyrese Haliburton of the Kings, who was picked 12th.

Ball has been a highlight sensation, every bit the passer he was projected to be, but also an excellent rebounder and not a bad shooter, either. He leads the 2020 class with 13.6 points per game to go along with 6.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds. He's shooting 43.7 percent from the field.

Ball's feel for the game at just 19 years old is special. And at 6-foot-6 with speed and agility, he looks like a future All-Star with the potential to be much more than that.

Avdija has thrived in his role for the Wizards despite not getting nearly the shot attempts or usage of some of his peers. He's the third-most efficient player in the 2020 class so far based on effective field goal percentage (59.9) and has generally proven to be a much better shooter than his pre-draft evaluations would suggest.

Avdija has translated seamlessly into the NBA as a secondary scorer and capable help defender, also demonstrating a strong basketball IQ despite his age (20). Avdija is a reliable spot-up shooter and creative passer, and he has flashed the ability to make plays off the dribble.

In hindsight, the Wizards were in a favorable position picking ninth, as they had several good options on the board. They could have picked from Avdija, Haliburton, Devin Vassell who went 11th to the Spurs, or Precious Achiuwa who went to the Heat at No. 20, and done well for themselves. Whether Avdija will ultimately prove to be the best decision for them will depend on his long-term ceiling, of which he's just barely scratched the surface.

Ball appears to already be a safe bet for first-team All-Rookie and he could win rookie of the year. Whether Avdija can enter the All-Rookie mix may require him taking on a larger share of the Wizards' offense.

Last year, the Wizards had Rui Hachimura, also the ninth overall pick, make All-Rookie. He was their first All-Rookie player since Bradley Beal in 2013. But Hachimura was averaging exactly twice as many field goal attempts (11.4) as Avdija is so far this season (5.7). Though Avdija shoots a higher percentage, his points per game (7.3) average is far behind what Hachimura produced in his first season (13.5).

The Wizards, though, may see need to expand Avdija's role as this season continues. He's one of their most efficient players, so it would make sense to get him more shots and see if that can carry on with greater volume.

Ball has seen his minutes with the Hornets increase as his production has stood out. He came off the bench for his first 20 games but has started the last three. In his most recent game, against the Jazz, he set a Hornets rookie record with 34 points.

Avdija has started every game he has been available for the Wizards this season (15), but he has played role player minutes (22.9/g). Perhaps he can follow the same trajectory as Ball and earn more playing time.

Watch Wizards-Hornets Sunday afternoon on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage begins at 12 p.m.