This past college basketball season was a mystery. It was a jumble of teams continuing to win or lose without any one team truly emerging. It almost felt like being the No. 1 ranked team was a cursing rather than a blessing. It was basically impossible to tell who the top-tier teams were.
While the season can be described only as mystifying, figuring out the 2020 NBA Draft most certainly was not. For just about the entirety of the season, scouts have hinged on three prospects at the top of the ’20 class: LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman and Anthony Edwards.
It’s a relatively split opinion on who should go first overall, but I’m going to tell you why Edwards should be that guy.
An Elite Scouting Report
He’s a human highlight reel.
The 6-foot-5 Georgia native is an uber explosive athlete who looks like a speeding bullet in the open court. But it’s more than just straight-line speed — his gaudy 42-inch vertical and muscular 225-pound frame makes him a nightmare for defenders.
Edwards possesses Russell Westbrook-esque athleticism, but it’s even more impressive when you combine that with his immense strength, which gives him the ability to bully and harass smaller defenders.
In transition or in the half-court, Edwards explodes past his man — his first step is absolutely lethal. When he gets going downhill, his freaky combination of size, speed and balance make him a terror at the rim where he’s so adept at finishing through contact.
But it’s more than that.
What makes Edwards a truly scary talent is his ability to knock down jump shots — but not just any jump shots. He can knock down pull-ups off the dribble, step backs, turnarounds — he makes contested jump shots at a high level.
Edwards is also a gifted shot creator. He’s got serious range on his 3-point jumper. Anytime a defender goes under a screen in a pick-and-roll, he’s ready to pull up.
That being said, Edwards is still a bit streaky on his 3’s as he shot only 29.4% from deep as a freshman. But the tape doesn’t lie — the degree of difficulty on his jumpers cannot be overstated, especially on 7.7 3-point attempts a game.
The guy is a menace with the ball in his hands, but the thing that sticks out to me is how well he moves without the ball. Edwards displays a tremendous feel for the game. So many teams try to face guard him and play ball denial — which makes sense considering what he can do with the ball — but he makes them pay. When defenders turn for just a millisecond, Edwards has not only the feel to know when to move off-ball but also the quick-twitch athleticism to make violent cuts to the rim — which is exactly why you find him streaking to the basket wide open on so many plays.
The freshman guard does it all on offense, he even shoots free throws at a solid 77.2% clip. He uses freaky athleticism to grab boards, and he’s shown the ability to be a plus playmaker.
However, the one caveat with his offensive game comes down to one fundamental issue — Edwards settles too often. With his imposing physical profile, Edwards can get to the rim whenever he likes but settles for jumpers when it’s not necessary. That’s something he’ll have to correct.
Then, of course, there’s the defense, where he gives inconsistent effort and lacks a motor on the defensive side. The plays you see him engaged, he sticks stride for stride with his man — he just doesn’t do that often enough.
That being said, Edwards has all the physical tools — including a 6-foot-9 wingspan — to develop into a lockdown defender. Edwards has the potential to evolve into a legitimate two-way threat.
A scary thought.
The Perfect Fit For Today’s NBA
Edwards is a prodigious talent, but a lot of guys are talented — here’s what makes him that first overall choice come draft time.
Look at the calendar — it’s 2020.
Big men are not extinct, but their role has changed, their skillset has changed, their necessity has changed.
The Golden State Warriors ar the perfect example. The Warriors won three championships in five years without true star talent at center.
But it’s not just a narrative — the Warriors did an excellent job maximizing production at the center position without placing a true post-up big man down there. And even if they did have one, he was seldom used in that role. For the most part, they used role players who were athletic and could work off talented guards.
He’s an explosive guard — keyword: guard — who can do so many things spectacularly and even has the versatility to play some point guard.
But wait — there’s more.
The ability to play with or without the ball is special, especially for someone of his caliber. With position-less basketball becoming such a trend, even guards, who have traditionally been ball handlers, need that off-ball prowess.
That’s where Edwards’ skill set is a hand-in-glove fit. When he plays with point forwards, he will be more than just a spot-up shooter — he’ll be a moving target that’ll reap the benefits of extra playmaking on his team.
And the biggest kicker of all: he’s only 18-years-old.
You can’t teach athleticism, but you can teach talent. Edwards’ tantalizing talent obviously jumps off the screen, but his physical profile makes his ceiling even higher. Then you factor in that he’s so young, and you get a prospect that’s dripping with potential.
After averaging 19.1 points per game, the talented freshman has piled up the accolades this season: SEC All-Freshman Team, Second Team All-SEC, SEC Freshman of Year. He’s been a bonafide superstar in college, and now it’s time for him to take the next step and make his mark in the big leagues.