clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Draft Radar Part Six: Anthony Edwards

Exploring the strengths, weaknesses and fit of the Georgia product.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Another day left parched from the seemingly never-ending basketball drought. Therefore, swooning over ‘The Last Dance’ and examining draft prospects is about all that’s left to satisfy our thirst. That’s where the Canis Hoopus Draft Radar arrives with a cool glass of basketball content.

Apart from the unsurprising news that the draft lottery and combine have been postponed indefinitely, there is nothing new in Wolves draft world. They still hold the third-worst record in the league and could fall anywhere between the first and seventh pick. You can see the full odds below.

Tankathon.com

As it stands, Minnesota also hold the 16th pick (via Brooklyn) and the 33rd pick. So far, we have examined five prospects, Deni Avdija, Patrick Williams, Isaac Okoro, Devin Vassell and Desmond Bane. Today, we will examine Georgia guard/wing Anthony Edwards.

Profile

Team: Georgia
Draft Age: 18.87
Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Height: 6’6”
Wingspan: 6’9”
Standing Reach: 8’4”
Weight: 225 lbs

Statistics

Per Game: 33 minutes, 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 2.7 turnovers, 40.2% FG, 29.4% 3PT, 77.2% FT

Per 36 Minutes: 20.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 3.0 turnovers

Advanced: 52 TS%, 47.3% EFG%, 30.4% Usage Rate, .136 WS/40, 5.1 BPM, +3.67 PIPM

Overview

It was a fairly underwhelming season for Anthony Edwards, although it didn’t impact his draft stock too much with such a high-end talent shortage in this year’s class. After ranking 4th overall in the Recruiting Services Consensus Index (RSCI), he entered the Georgia system as their highest recruit in some time and was immediately thrust into a major role.

Despite some serious growing pains, he is still a consensus top tier pick and Minnesota would likely only be able to grab him if they were able to land within the first three picks.

Strengths

  • Athletic Profile

Before you worry about what he does or doesn’t do on the hardwood, Edwards’ frame (and what he can do with it) stands out — especially at just 18-years-old. At 6’6”, 225 pounds and possessing a 6’9” wingspan, the freshman is already built like a seasoned professional. In a video shared by Georgia head coach Tom Crean, Edwards strolled into the campus at age 17 and bench pressed 275 lbs. Sheesh.

But, it goes further than just simple anthropometry — Edwards is an elite athlete in many ways. Not only is he exceedingly strong for his age and likely still growing, he is a twitchy athlete with excellent reflexes and changes of direction, which translates to his ability to move on the court with the basketball.

He isn’t blurringly quick, but he is explosive over short distances and has a lightning quick first step. When he gets downhill, he is a battering ram. On top of that, he can jump out of the gym, boasting an unconfirmed but believable 42” vertical leap.

Did I mention he’s only 18?

  • Slashing

When the ball is in his hands, Edwards thrives as a slasher. Of course, his physical profile helps him; his explosion and ability to weave in and out of traffic like a gazelle avoiding a pack of hungry lionesses is breathtaking at times. However, there is plenty of legitimate basketball skill that goes into Edwards’ ability to get to the front of the rim.

Primarily, Edwards’ ball-handling ability makes life really difficult for defenders trying to thwart him. He has a bunch of dribble moves in his bag, including quick in-and-outs, spin moves, euro and hop steps and low, quick crossovers. In general, he uses them all and empties his bag at the right times. On top of that, he has a ridiculously quick first step and short-distance acceleration, which makes him extremely hard to contain if defenders close out late in off-catch situations or push up too far on him in isolation.

Take this move for a prime example. Edwards splits the double-team with a crossover so low that he almost burns his fingers on the court, hop-steps to the right to bamboozle the big man and then bounces back the other way, finishing with the off-hand up-and-under layup.

When he can’t shake himself free with downhill dribble moves, Edwards has had success lowering his shoulder into the defender and dislodging them enough to give himself room to extend and finish. This does lead to some offensive fouls, but it’s a very handy skill to possess and will be honed as he gets used to NBA coaching and refereeing. His strength also allows him to absorb contact and still bounce off or go through it. This helps him get to the line where he shoots a very respectable clip.

It’s all well and good to be able to get the rim, plenty of athletic freaks have shown they are capable of it in the NBA. What comes next is putting that orange thing in the cylinder and be able to do so in creative and effective ways. Edwards packs that in his lunch pail. He has flashed a variety of layups and, of course, some thunderous dunks. Here is an assortment of his finishes for your viewing pleasure.

His driving and finishing ability is very promising, but we’d be remiss to leave out how little he actually attempts to get to the rim. As aforementioned, it’s not because he can’t, it’s because his shot selection and decision making needs serious work. More on that in a minute.

  • Shot Creation

To put it bluntly, there just aren’t many players in this draft class who can find creative ways to get their jumper off the way Edwards does. Sure, he couldn’t even dig his claws into a 30 percent 3-point clip, but on a team with bare cupboards in terms of other perimeter creators, the freshman really showcased his ability to manufacture enough space to get up a shot.

Much like the dribble moves he flashed as a slasher, Edwards has a big tool bag full of utensils as a shot creator. One of his favorites is the simple but effective jab step. The key is the ferocity at which he wields it. Watch how sharp and effective the original foot movement toward the baseline is. It completely wrong-foots the defender, giving Edwards the space to side-step in the opposite direction and fire off triple.

That side step is another one of Edwards’ go-to moves, along with in-and-out pull-ups and similarly vicious step backs. All of these are well above average for a wing prospect of his age. With a quick trigger and a mechanically sound jumper, Edwards doesn’t need much space to get a shot off — but he creates a ton nonetheless.

When he can use a screen to get the switch, Edwards is far too shifty for big men to handle. Here, he gets 6-foot-9 Nate Sestina on his heels with the crossover, before pulling it back between his legs and nailing the long-range bomb.

Unfortunately, his leash was far too long at Georgia and he often got carried away. He was always able to create shots, but sometimes they were the least efficient shots available and that really hurt his overall percentages. If he can rein in his urges to launch everything in sight, Edwards could become a genuinely great shot creator.

Buy Stock

  • On-ball defense

Like most 18-year-olds, Edwards has some lapses as an on-ball defender and he has a bad habit of reaching too often and putting himself behind the eight ball. But, he shows enough flashes as a versatile and effective individual defender to encourage the naked eye.

Edwards is a delightful lateral mover, which helps him slide his feet and shadow defenders while still staying low in his stance. Combine that with sharp hip movements and long arms and you can see the makings of a really nice on-ball defender starting to take shape.

Here’s a great illustration of that — extremely low and balanced in his stance, Edwards mirrors the movements of Tennessee guard Santiago Vescovi, forcing him east-west instead of north-south before he has to give the ball up. When Vescovi gets it back, Edwards is right back up in his grill, shading him through spin moves and crossovers. Edwards gets screened off to finish the play, but he forced his man far enough to the baseline that ensuing pass results in a turnover.

Of course, as with anything Edwards related, he often shows a pile of tantalizing potential and then finishes it off with a head-scratching decision. Something like this, where he switches on to Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans, locks him up but then completely falls asleep on the shot contest, which is the type of thing that makes coaches go grey in the hair. Sure, Hagans missed the shot and Edwards’ initial bondage was partly to blame, but failing to finish a play with the same effort you started it with gets punished in the NBA.

With an offensive role that is likely to be reduced once he enters the big leagues, Edwards would theoretically have more energy to expend on defense and to really work on becoming a lockdown point-of-attack defender. He may not ever be an All-Defense kind of guy, but even above average would raise his ceiling considerably.

When you see him brush off screens like Jake Layman brushing a dangling piece of his luscious hair out of his eyes, Edwards’ defensive potential jumps off the screen and smacks you in the face. When you see him finish the play with a bouncy swat, you just about fall out of your chair.

Although the Georgia product is mainly thought of as an offensive puzzle piece, Edwards has much more potential as an on-ball defender than some give him credit for. Tapping into it might be the biggest swing factor for the former Bulldog.

  • Playmaking

Scattered among scoring flurries, strange shot selection and breathtaking athleticism, Edwards has exhibited some high-level vision and an ability to make passing reads well beyond his years. He won’t ever be a primary initiator and perhaps he’ll even struggle to fit in the NBA as a secondary creator, but there are legitimate passing chops hiding under the surface of his game.

With pretty ineffective screeners and rollers, he rarely flashed real promise as a pick-and-roll passer, which may or may not change when he is paired with top-level bigs, and he very rarely whipped out those live-ball skip passes that usually indicate high-grade playmaking ability. However, he wasn’t the all-consuming black hole he is pegged to be in some circles, and has shown promise in just about every other facilitating facet.

A lover of the fast break, Edwards thrives as a passer in transition and, despite having overwhelming athleticism and the ability to finish through contact himself, he almost always makes the the right play. His ability to thread the ball through a defense and find a cutter in broken floor situations stands out, and none more so than this jaw-dropping 50-foot laser against Michigan State.

While he doesn’t have the traditional passing indicators in the halfcourt, Edwards makes nice reads in a few areas. Namely, as a drop-off passer after beating his man and drawing the big away from the rim — allowing cutters to sneak in behind and occupy the space.

The composure to head fake his man and the awareness to make the right play with the shot clock running down is impressive on this play. Nobody would have blamed Edwards for taking the contested runner himself, but the vision and unselfishness is something that scouts and coaches would love to see. This isn’t a rarity, either.

Whether or not Edwards can provide enough playmaking to be considered a well-rounded passer at the next level remains to be seen, but it’s not a reach to say he could be. I’m buying stock.

Weaknesses

  • Shot selection

It’s been an underlying theme of this entire report, but now is the time to come out and say it directly: Anthony Edwards’ shot selection in his lone season at Georgia was a straight up train wreck.

With his ability to beat defenders off the dribble and get downhill in an effective and efficient manner, it was baffling and extremely frustrating watching Edwards consistently jack off-balance pull-ups and highly contested jumpers. Even when a driving lane was readily available for him to attack, Edwards often chose to take any smidgen of space as an invitation to shoot — which is exactly what the backtracking defender wanted.

With his defender scrambling to get squared up and into position, this was a perfect time to attack the rim and overwhelm your adversaries with power and polish. But, in true Edwards fashion, he pulls up for a mid-range brick with his momentum in shambles. This was a recurring theme for the potential first overall pick.

Of course, as our very own Andrew Wiggins proved this year, the right coaching regime can help squeeze bad shot selection out of a player, but it’s not ideal whatsoever. Even with his really good shot creation, Edwards’ lack of shot sensibility was the chief reason that he barely mustered up a 40 percent clip from the field.

It didn’t just affect his own shooting, either. At times, Edwards victimized his teammates with his tunnel vision. Yes, we talked about his ability to find teammates earlier, but he could have had a serious uptick in assists if he just widened his vision outside the rim.

This is a particularly gruesome demonstration. Not only does the freshman miss the wide open roller, but he also misses the open shooter to his left whose man rotated late to tag the roller. Instead, he settles for a contested triple and unsurprisingly watches it clang off the rim.

There is no two ways about it — if Edwards doesn’t find a way to improve his shot selection dramatically, he will slam an unbreakable ceiling on his potential. Not what you want to hear from a potential top three draft pick.

  • Awareness/Mentality

Edwards’ underwhelming awareness and mentality plays its part in his shot selection, but it also creates a myriad of other problems. Offensively, he makes very little impact as a cutter or an off-ball mover when the play isn’t run for him to get a bucket. He does occasionally make nice back cuts, which (of course) pays off because his physical profile is made for cutting, but that’s about the extent of it.

For the majority of his off-ball offensive possessions, Edwards is a floater, content to stand in the corner or demand the ball at the top of the key. And in the same vein, he is a disaster as an off-ball defender. Like, genuinely concerning. He has shown he can do bits of everything as an on-ball defender and scorer, so it’s disappointing to see how quickly Edwards can switch off when he is not directly involved.

Sometimes it comes down to effort, sometimes it comes down to awareness. In this case, it’s awareness. Edwards digs in to try and slow down the ball-handler — which is fine and a handy skill to possess if you have the awareness of what your man is doing — but completely forgets that he has someone to guard as well, which leads to a wide open 3-pointer.

Other times, it’s effort, which might be even more worrisome. After lazily swatting at a backcourt steal he was never going to get in a million years, look how late Edwards is to get back here. With his teammates hustling to get into a defensive shell and force the fast break stoppage, Edwards’ “devil may care” attitude allows a wide open 3-pointer for knockdown shooter Cassius Winston. Yikes.

To put the Brussels sprout on top of the already retch-worthy cake, Edwards is often terribly out of position or simply lacks the required motivation when it comes to closing out on shooters. Another example of poor effort that will land him on the pine if he does it consistently in the NBA.

Whether or not high-level coaching can get through to Edwards is going to be crucial for his career arc. If he can stamp out his negative and disconcerting traits, he could be a star. But, at the moment, they are too prominent to be making any promises on that front.

Fit With Minnesota

There is a lot to like about Anthony Edwards and a reason he is going to go in the top three come draft night. And all of that is true through a Timberwolves lens, as well. But the same goes for his flaws.

His ability to handle the ball, create his own shot and get to the rim would be a real boost for this team. We know that D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns are going to take up a hefty chunk of usage, but Edwards would provide a solid tertiary option who can handle the ball and create his own shot better than anyone who isn’t D-Loading. On top of that, Edwards would thrive in a system where he was asked to shoot more catch-and-shoot jumpers and limit his iso-ball.

As a third or fourth option, Edwards would be a great fit, but getting him to buy into a lower-usage role might be tricky. If he can’t be reeled in, another Andrew Wiggins type situation arises and there is not enough ball to go around. Additionally, he would need to really increase his cutting and off-ball moving volume.

Defensively, Edwards could thrive as a part-time point-of-attack defender and switchable wing, but his lack of awareness off the ball would lead to a ton of breakdowns. Individual defense is important, but not as important as team defense — especially on a team that is crying out for defensive leadership. With Minnesota already lacking defensive inspiration, Edwards’ addition might fast track them to the worst defensive team in the league.

Position-wise, he could probably play either wing spot, but he could also flourish in an uber sixth man role (both of those spots are currently available on this roster). Overall, drafting Anthony Edwards is very much a high-risk, high-reward situation.

Would you roll the dice on him?