Babcock Hoops’ Director of Scouting Derek Murray breaks down the potential number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Anthony Edwards of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Position: SG | Height: 6’5” | Weight: 225 | Team: Georgia | Class: Freshman
Stats: 19.1 PPG | 5.2 REB | 2.8 AST | 1.3 STL | 29.4% 3PT | 77.2% FT
Coming in at #4 in the 2019 RSCI Rankings, Anthony Edwards entered college with lofty expectations and hopes of becoming the #1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. After a dazzling, yet inconsistent, freshman year, he has firmly planted himself as a top-3 talent in this class. Edwards’ size and elite athleticism, paired with his phenomenal scoring ability, give him NBA star potential.
“Ant-Man,” a nickname given by his father, is a bonafide scorer. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, he can score from anywhere with either physicality or athleticism. He’s incredibly aggressive on-ball, as he tries to get downhill to attack the lane often. Unlike some of the other top guards in this class, Edwards is not easily bumped off his line with contact, although he does try to avoid it quite a bit. His broad shoulders and strong upper body can absorb contact like a running back between the tackles, unfazed as he continues toward the lane, something I’d like to see him utilize more regularly. He possesses a terrific first step and elevates with elite explosion, often punishing the rim for a monster dunk. He has terrific body control and has shown touch with either hand by converting 69.4% of his rim attempts. If he learns to use his length and clean up some non-committal finishes, he has the tools to be a potent finisher at the NBA level.
Where he already finishes incredibly well is in transition. Edwards ranked in the 92nd percentile as a transition finisher, averaging 1.247 points-per-possession. He’s a nightmare to defend in the open court due to his combination of size and speed, and when he’s simply attacking instead of overthinking, he beats his man and gets to the rim with ease.
A skill that separates the good from the great is the ability to create space. Different players do it in different ways, but watching Edwards stop on a dime at full speed is reminiscent of NBA players like Bradley Beal and Victor Oladipo. The power in his lower body generates an explosive stop and elevation, making his pull-up shot extremely difficult to contest. Among ball handlers in this class, he ranks first in pull-up 3-point attempts, showing his comfortability in doing so, but efficiency was a concern. Edwards is most comfortable with the ball in his hands creating looks off the bounce, playing to his phenomenal physical tools and footwork. With these, he could become one of the best space and shot creators in the NBA, which isn’t something we see in every draft.
Shooting will ultimately be the swing skill for Edwards, making the difference between being a starter or developing into a star. Edwards loves to create for himself; even though he’s going to play the shooting guard position, it’s unlikely we see him running off screens with regularity to get open. He connected only 29.4% of his 3-point attempts this season, hitting 72-of-245, 45.8% of which were assisted. Even with efficiency concerns, I love that NBA range is no issue for Edwards. He has smooth, beautiful mechanics and a really high release point on his jumper, which aren’t compromised in the slightest even from the deepest range. He was blocked only one time on a 3-pointer all season due to the release point, so I don’t feel there will need to be any mechanical overhaul or changes to the shot. Analytics are playing an increasing role in evaluations year to year; one area that is regularly a topic of conversation is projecting 3-point shooting from NCAA to NBA. Sometimes there are players that shoot poorly in college and outperform “projections” early in their pro career. For me, Edwards is the player who fits that bill in 2020. I know the 29.4% number is scary, but I believe that he’ll be better than that at the next level because he won’t be tasked with extreme load carrying of the offense. Edwards makes a living by hitting tough shots, but cleaning up the shot selection is what will raise his percentages.
As a passer, there’s a lot left to be desired. Edwards has shown a large amount of tunnel vision with the ball in his hand, often driving with his head down with no thought other than scoring. While I love that mentality from a volume scorer, success in the NBA will require him to improve as a distributor. He didn’t show us many advanced reads, conversely, he also didn’t show that need to stop and pick up the ball before passing. While he was reactive in his decisions at Georgia, there are flashes in his AAU tape that show the ability to distribute effectively. Similar to the 3-point percentage, I attribute some of the poor passing numbers to his role for the Bulldogs. He wasn’t surrounded by elite shooters, so he often took responsibility for the offense into his own hands. He averaged 2.8 assists per game and registered an assist percentage of 17.9, both numbers I hope to see improve at the next level.
Shot selection, vision, and handling the pick-and-roll are improvement areas for Edwards early on in his career. His physical tools have been able to bail him out of mental errors for quite some time, but at the next level, we’ve reached a point that some things need to change. I believe Edwards’ best fit early on is with a team that won’t require him to bear a heavy load; bring him along slowly, help the game slow down, and really clean up how he makes decisions on the fly.
Even with concerns, his offensive ceiling is one of, if not the, highest in the 2020 Draft class. He hits tough, contested shots with regularity, and plays with the toughness required to be successful in the NBA. I can easily see Edwards becoming the number one or number two scoring option on a contender as he continues to develop.
Edwards’ defense often gets knocked for inconsistency and lack of effort, not due to a lack of ability. Among all ball handlers and wings in the 2020 class, he ranks dead last in anything related to defensive activity, but he’s top-10 in physical tools such as strength and verticality.
Overall awareness and team defense are the biggest areas of improvement. He can get caught ball-watching and fall asleep on the weak side, but when he’s locked in he can make the highlight defensive stops with the best of them. His athleticism and explosion allow him to jump passing lanes and meet drivers at the rim for big-time blocks. Off the ball, he can lose track of his man and get beat on cuts and screens without recovery. Again, these are not physical issues; these play more to focus and defensive mentality, not a lack of talent. At the NBA level, he’ll need to clean this up, and rather quickly if he wants increased playing time.
On the ball in pick-and-roll and isolation, this is where the tape gets more promising. Here, Edwards is able to use his strong frame and quick feet to avoid screens and/or cut off drives going either direction. When he’s locked in he can be extremely difficult to drive past due to his lateral quickness and strength, traits I hope to see him maximize early in his career. While he won’t be categorized as a rim protector, he uses his length well when contesting shots at any spot on the floor. Edwards will need to clean up his closeout technique and footwork, which with time, I feel he will be able to do.
While his defense is theoretical to this point, Edwards’ defensive upside and contributions will almost solely come down to how locked in he is mentally. The lapses as a freshman at Georgia in no way make him slip or fall down my draft board. I believe the franchise that selects him will be able to get the best out of him.
Anthony Edwards has arguably the greatest potential to become a superstar of anyone in the 2020 NBA Draft. His physicality and scoring ability are unique, but to get the most out of his potential I believe he’ll need to go to a team with structure; shouldering too much of a load too soon may welcome bad habits and inconsistency to hang around longer than needed. While he has the tools to be an offensive engine early in his career, I hope to see him brought along slowly in an offense already established with a leader who can become a mentor. With all that said, Edwards certainly has a very good chance of being the number one pick.
“Barring any trades, it’s sure sounding like Anthony Edwards is going to be the number one pick come Wednesday night. Although he has a significant amount of work to do to reach his ceiling, I can’t disagree with Minnesota considering him with the first pick because he has an incredible amount of talent and star potential,” said NBA draft analyst, Matt Babcock of Babcock Hoops.
After a devastatingly long pre-draft process, the 2020 NBA Draft is finally right around the corner, and before we know it, the Minnesota Timberwolves will be on the clock. I know one thing’s for sure: I can’t wait to see who’s name is called first.