Is the 2021 NBA Draft Class Already Better than the Class of 2020?

LaMelo Ball & Anthony Edwards are awesome, but the rest of the class of 2020 is struggling. Meanwhile Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes and Jalen Green are leading a sensational 2021 draft class

During the NBA, college and international seasons, my Tuesday newsletter will focus on NBA rookies and sophomores as well as prospects for the 2022 NBA Draft, especially those who have helped or hurt their stock in the past week.

My reports will be based on my own observations as well as information I receive from NBA scouts, executives and agents.

Now that we are through the first week of the NBA season, let’s look at this question: Which draft class is stronger — 2020 (sophs) or 2021 (rookies)?

Here are a few takeaways so far:

1. LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards will be superstars

Back when I put together my 2020 NBA Draft Tiers column, NBA scouts and general managers were skeptical about the entire draft class. No prospect got a Tier 1 (potential superstar) designation.

One year later, multiple GMs and scouts have changed their tunes and believe that Ball and Edwards can be top-10 players in the NBA someday.

That shift is especially interesting for Ball, who received the most Tier 1 votes of any prospect in the 2020 draft, but also the most Tier 3 votes and one Tier 4 vote (!!!). He was definitely an eye-of-the beholder prospect.

He won’t shoot 7-for-9 from 3 every time, as he did on Charlotte’s opening night. But more than his improved shooting, what’s caught my attention has been how seamlessly he’s moved into the lead guard role for the Hornets. He might be the best pure passer in the league and the most electric point guard after Steph Curry.

Through the first four games, Ball is averaging 22.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 6.8 apg and 1.8 spg, shooting 50% from 3 on eight attempts per game and posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly 2.5-to-1. Those are ridiculously good numbers for a 20-year-old.

Edwards, the No. 1 overall pick, got off to slow start as a rookie for Minnesota before turning it on in the second half: After the All-Star break, he averaged 24 ppg, 5 rpg and 3 apg with 45% shooting from the field and 35% from beyond the arc. In May, during the final eight games of the season, he averaged 27 ppg and 4 apg and shot 41% from 3.

In his first four games this season he’s averaging 25.3 ppg, 8 rpg, 3.7 apg, and shooting 42% from 3 on nearly 10 attempts per game.

We ranked him No. 16 in our Top 25 Under 25, but if he keeps playing like this, he’s moving up the list.

Who will end up with the better career? John Hollinger and I discussed that on my latest podcast:

Edwards has the physical edge. But as Curry has shown, elite skill and the ability to see the floor can overcome physical advantages.

2. Beyond Ball and Edwards, most of the 2020 lottery picks have a long way to go

This post is for paid subscribers