The 2020 NBA Draft isn’t loaded with much elite talent, but if there’s one player that most mock drafts and big boards tout as a star it’s Georgia freshman shooting guard Anthony Edwards, the most likely No. 1 overall pick.
Edwards was named SEC freshman of the year and looks to be the prototypical NBA shooting guard physically with plenty of room to improve from a skills standpoint.
Of all the top prospects, Edwards is favoured to go first overall because there are very few question marks with him. He produced well and looked spectacular more often than not across a full NCAA Division I season. He played in a good conference while boasting the kind of natural measurables that NBA talent evaluators are always on the lookout for that have projected players like him to NBA stardom in the past.
There’s obviously no guarantee what kind of player Edwards will become but he has the foundational elements to become something special and it’s primarily why his name is expected to be announced first on Nov. 18.
Here’s a quick rundown on Edwards and why he’s at or near the top of just about every big board out there, along with areas of concern for the young man.
Position: Shooting Guard
Height: Six-foot-five | Weight: 225 lbs
2019-20 stats: PPG: 19.1 | RPG: 5.2 | FG%: 40.2
The best attributes Edwards have going for him are his natural, physical gifts.
You can’t teach the size he has with the kind of bounce (42-inch vertical leap), length (six-foot-10 wingspan) and domineering strength Edwards boasts, all aspects of his game that should allow him to step in and possibly threaten to contribute in a big way immediately at the NBA level.
In particular, the combination of his remarkable athleticism and bull-like strength make him an unstoppable juggernaut going downhill and at the rim. When given a full head of steam, guys like him typically aren’t stopped until they’ve crowned one on some poor defender’s dome.
A former Pop Warner football star as a young child, Edwards didn’t really decide to focus on basketball until high school and that’s likely a big reason why he already appears to be so mature physically for just a 19-year-old NBA prospect.
Though unorthodox, all that length, strength and bounce will certainly serve Edwards well in the NBA.
The 19.1 points per game Edwards averaged led the SEC last season, an impressive feat for any player, let alone a freshman who played his entire collegiate career as just an 18-year-old (he didn’t turn 19 until August).
Edwards has the potential to be a three-level scorer. He has a near-unstoppable ability to drive to the hole and good-looking shooting mechanics that in combination with his monstrous athletic potential means he theoretically can always get a good shot (for him at least) anywhere on the floor.
The best example of what he could look like as a dominant scorer was the 37-point outburst he hung on Michigan State in late November last year. Pay particular attention to what he did in the second half, when he erupted for 33 points and was hitting from all over the floor while managing to draw fouls almost like he was James Harden.
It’s because of performances like this why Edwards’ talent seems so intoxicating for NBA teams and why the Minnesota Timberwolves are likely to scoop him up when their names are called on the clock to begin the draft.
Needs to think the game better
Of course, as strong a prospect as Edwards appears to be, he’s also not a can’t-miss, sure-thing kind of prospect, either.
There are holes in his game that could have him looking more like Andrew Wiggins rather than the bigger, stronger Victor Oladipo he’s been most commonly compared to.
This is because, if you look at his shooting percentages, it doesn’t paint a very pretty picture with Edwards only shooting 40.2 per cent from the field and a dismal 29.4 per cent from three-point range.
Of course, those percentages don’t tell the whole story. He was 77.2 per cent from the free-throw line, an indicator that he is actually a pretty good shooter. That theory is further supported by the fact he was a big-time volume shooter, especially from three-point range, where he attempted 7.7 per game and took 245 total across the 32 games Georgia played this season.
As previously stated, Edwards looks to have good shot mechanics so fears of him being a bad shooter might be overblown. What isn’t, however, is his bad shot selection.
Just because Edwards could get any shot he wanted on the floor doesn’t mean he should’ve done so. In college he was too often seen settling for jumpers when he could have easily taken his man to the rack or taken one or two dribbles into the paint for a better, higher-percentage look at the very least.
Another area of concern is the fact Edwards only averaged 2.8 assists per game despite Georgia coach Tom Crean first trying to start Edwards at point guard and use him like other famous NBA guards he previously coached in Oladipo and Dwyane Wade.
Crean really had no choice but to move Edwards to the two as it looked like Edwards’ playmaking skills weren’t all there as he’s still a player learning the game.
And, conversely, it’s possible that a lot of assist opportunities Edwards had were taken away. He was playing on a bad, talent-devoid Bulldogs team outside of himself that finished with just a 16-16 record, was a bad 5-13 in SEC play and certainly wouldn’t have made it to the NCAA Tournament had one been played this year.
There’s an argument to be had that a player of Edwards’ talent should’ve managed to elevate his team, no matter how weak it was, but basketball is still a team sport and Georgia was so bad this past season that it’s unclear if even former college studs like Zion Williamson, Anthony Davis or Kevin Durant would have been able to lift that squad up.
So, like most things with this draft, what kind of NBA player Edwards will be looks unclear. He has all the talent in the world to become a perennial all-star, but the same was said of Wiggins and many other highly-touted prospects over the years. So we’ll just have to wait to see what becomes of Edwards.