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NBA Draft 2020 Player Profile: Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards, Georgia
Every single recruiting cycle, there are a few major surprises when it comes down to which program elite basketball prospects are heading to. Such is the reality of a college basketball landscape that can shift rapidly year to year, and relies on the decisions of 18 and 19-year olds coming out of high school. The 2019's biggest surprise was undoubtedly five-star combo guard Anthony Edwards, who announced that he would play for Tom Crean at Georgia. Crean has coached a number of NBA players during his time at Marquette and Indiana, but Edwards' decision to head to Athens over blue bloods such as Kansas, Kentucky and UNC was still a huge surprise. Now, Edwards is off to the NBA after one season with the Bulldogs, hoping to complete a relatively unorthodox journey to the Association. Edwards' athleticism and bounce have already captivated the attention of basketball fans and NBA personnel alike, but is he a real candidate to go top overall in the 2020 NBA Draft? Breaking down his game further could give us some indication of where Edwards could be landing, whenever the Draft takes place.

Quick Facts
Anthony Edwards
From: Atlanta, Georgia
Height & Weight: 6'5", 220 pounds
Position: Combo guard (primarily SG)
Team: Georgia Bulldogs

Strengths


  • Bouncy athlete that will finish at the rim. The first thing that jumped out at me when taking a look at Edwards was his powerful finishing ability. Whenever he finds a lane to the basket, he's able to use his wide frame and finish through contact. That ferocity around the rim does remind me of Victor Oladipo and Dwyane Wade, two guys Edwards has said he models his game around. It certainly produces a lot of highlight reels, and I think he could be dominant in transition. Georgia was often such a bad defensive team they were running their offense out of the half-court most of the season. Which ever NBA team Edwards goes to has to get him out and running, because he'll do some special things. 
  • Size and NBA-ready body. Not a lot of basketball players enter college with the body of Anthony Edwards. At over 200 pounds, he pounds through smaller opposing defenders, but knows how to use that size strategically. Length-wise, he projects favorably as an NBA guard, standing at roughly 6'5", and flashing a 6'9" wingspan. Edwards also boasts an 8'4" standing reach, which will come into play on the defensive end. The good news here is that Edwards already looks like a pro, and he still has room to grow. Once he gets into an NBA nutrition program and continues to add muscle, he's going to be very difficult to stop, particularly if he can add a quicker first step.
  • Shot creation potential, has to grow as a shooter from the perimeter. Edwards' shooting numbers while in college don't exactly jump out at you. He shot 40 percent from the field on the year, and 29 percent from three-point. With that being said, it's not an area of his game I'm supremely worried about. He shot the ball well in high school, and he has healthy shooting mechanics with a quick release. Edwards simply doesn't need much space to get off his shot, and although he'll have be a better decision-maker with his shot selection in the pros, that's obviously a good sign. He will still need a little bit of refinement as a shooter, but the basic tools are already in a good spot.
  • Defensive ability has the potential to be dominant. I really like Anthony Edwards' build as a defender. He's really tough to shake on-ball, and he has the length and awareness to create turnovers on that end. Edwards averaged 1.3 steals per game in his lone season in the collegiate ranks, and it wouldn't be surprising to see those numbers jump. He also has potential to be a really good shot-blocker for his position with that leaping ability and length, but that's not something I'm really expecting. The key for him is to become a much better off-ball defender; like many players his age, he can get caught sleeping on defense and lose his man, or not make the necessary rotations. It's understandable that there were some of these defensive lapses from Edwards considering all he was doing for UGA on the offensive end, but they're still something that needs to be cut down in the NBA. 

Weaknesses

  • Decision-making. Being the lead guy on a team that wasn't very good, it was no surprise that Edwards forced a lot on offense in '19-'20. There were too many times when he'd try and drive into double and triple teams recklessly, or force up a contested three. He has the talent to make enough of those difficult shots for you to live with it, but you'd really like to see him get the ball to his teammates or hold off at times. He has shown he can be a really good passer when he needs to, but he also averaged nearly three turnovers per game with the Bulldogs. Edwards has to get better at learning different passing angles and finding his teammates in space. If he lands in the right system in the NBA, I don't think this will be a huge problem. But, I think there is a world in which he falls into the Dion Waiters or Lance Stephenson camp on offense; a guy that can score, sure, but a guy that can also take a team out of the game with his poor shot selection.
  • Lack of a mid-range game. I understand that the mid-range jumper is really a lost art in the NBA today, but it's still something you'd like to see Edwards add to his arsenal. He has a tendency on offense to either go straight to the rim, or settle for deep threes. If he can mix in a smooth mid-range game, he would have a really versatile, deep offensive game. I could certainly envision him growing a back-to-the basket game in the mid-range, where he can use his size and strength to get position, and his quick release to load up on points. Perhaps that's a part of his game that will grow later on.
  • Free throw shooting. I'll give Anthony Edwards a lot of credit in this category. He didn't shoot the ball well from the stripe throughout most of his high school career, but shot 77 percent from free throw in his lone collegiate season. That's certainly a serviceable number, and there was progress made there, as his numbers got better during the conference season. But, I'd love to see Edwards bump those numbers up even a little bit more. With how much contact this guy absorbs getting to the rim, he could make a living at the free throw line at the next level. If he can get over the 80 percent hump and better, this is a player who score nearly at will, even going up against the speed and strength of NBA defenses. 
My Take
The first time I watched Anthony Edwards this college basketball season, he went off for 37 points (33 of them in the second half) against Michigan State. That was certainly quite the introduction, and I was floored at the athleticism and explosiveness the combo guard played with. However, the more I watched him this season, the more my reservations about Edwards grew. I think he really started forcing things on offense when Georgia started losing, and it became overly obvious. He had tunnel vision when attacking the basket, and simply didn't seem to trust his teammates. That isn't all his fault, and he isn't the only NBA Draft prospect to experience this when playing in the collegiate ranks. I was concerned with his three-point shooting and defensive lapses, and those still weigh on my mind today. Even with all that, I still have Edwards tentatively listed as my No. 2 player in this Class, coming in right behind La'Melo Ball. I think he has the chance to be a really special offensive weapon for an NBA team, but like any 19-year-old kid, he has plenty to polish off. There is a part of me that selfishly wished he had gone to a blue blood program so we could've seen him playing with elite talent around him. But, he made the decision that he felt was the best for him, and Crean does have a track record when it comes to sending players to the league.

Where He'll Go
As we sit in late May, we would normally be watching postseason basketball and preparing ourselves for an imminent NBA Draft. Of course, that isn't the case this year, as we still have little to no idea how the conclusion of the '19-'20 will play out. That makes it nearly impossible to make educated guesses on the top of the NBA Draft, but I couldn't imagine Edwards sliding out of the Top 5. He's all in all a legitimate talent, but I think he'll have to find the right system. I'm interested to see what happens if he lands in Golden State or Atlanta, where he would primarily play off-ball. It would be a major difference from how he played in college, but I think it will actually be a good thing for his growth as a player. 

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