“Situational Analysis” is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.
Anthony Edwards is an 18-year-old power guard from Atlanta who averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists for the Georgia Bulldogs (16-16, 5-13 SEC). He is not to be confused with the actor of the same name, who starred as Goose in “Top Gun” and spent roughly a decade on “ER.” He is expected to be selected among the top-five picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. NBADraft.net currently has him projected at No. 1.
Throughout his entire basketball life, coaches and defenders have tried a variety of strategies to keep Anthony Edwards away from the rim. Nothing has worked quite yet.
Slashers typically fall into one of two categories: Either they bulldoze defenders with their superior strength and athleticism, or they dance around them with elite quickness and speed. A very select few can do both at the same time. Edwards falls into that select camp. He can go over, through, or around nearly any opponent in front of him. He is equally adept at finishing with either hand – either with finesse off the glass, or with brute force at the rim.
At his best, Edwards’s physical profile and finishing ability brings to mind early Dwyane Wade. Much like Wade, Edwards does the majority of his damage in the paint, as his 50.4% mark on 2-pointers shows.
It takes more than elite physical prowess to finish off drives, however. It takes confidence and charisma – the knowledge that everyone on the floor is focused on stopping you, but the self-belief that you can put the ball through the hoop, anyway. Edwards is nothing if not confident. Even though he doesn’t turn 19 until August, Edwards carries himself like a 10-year veteran.
But unlike many young players with his finishing ability, Edwards isn’t cursed with tunnel vision. He possesses unique court vision and can find teammates in a bit of an arrhythmic manner. He’ll kick out either a beat ahead or a beat later than the defender expects him to. Edwards isn’t a classic point guard by any stretch, but he is a playmaking combo guard who should thrive carving up open driving lanes on a team where he is surrounded by good-to-great shooters.
On a scale from 1-10, Edwards’s ability to get to the rim rates at a 9.
It’s tough to exploit driving lanes in the NBA is defenders don’t at least respect your jump shot.
There is no gentle way to say this. Edwards’s perimeter shooting is a problem. If he can only hit 29.4% of his 3s from the college line, how is Edwards going to fare from a couple feet further back against elite length? He wasn’t shy about taking them (7.7 attempts per game), but if he can’t get a few more 3s to drop, defenders will give him more than just a cushion – they’ll give him an industrial-sized airbag worth of space when he’s handling the ball behind the arc.
His 77.2% mark on free throws is encouraging (especially after some major difficulties from the line as a high schooler), but it will take countless hours in the gym before Edwards becomes a respectable shooting threat in the NBA.
Wade didn’t need to become Ray Allen or anything to cement his Hall-of-Fame case, but he did become a good-enough shooter to let the rest of his gifts shine. Tyreke Evans never quite got there. The jury is still out on Markelle Fultz.
Edwards’s ability to develop a workable, consistent jumper will determine where he falls along that spectrum.
On a scale from 1 (not a concern) to 10 (serious hindrance), Edwards’s spotty perimeter shooting currently sits at an 8.5.
Edwards overcame a series of personal tragedies (including the deaths of both his mother and grandmother as an eighth grader) to become one of the nation’s most sought-after high school recruits.
Despite a lack of team success with the Bulldogs, Edwards quickly developed into the team’s go-to scorer and most versatile playmaker, racking up SEC Freshman of the Year and All-SEC Second Team honors.
At this point, it’s clear that a prospect’s win/loss record in college has absolutely nothing to do with his potential to succeed in the pros, because college ball and the NBA are essentially two different sports. But it would be preferable had Edwards not presided over a number of extended losing streaks with the Bulldogs.
Edwards will benefit greatly from better coaching and talent around him, but given his mediocre efficiency numbers, it’s fair to wonder at this point whether his scoring ability can lead to winning, or whether it’s an entertaining, empty-calorie snack en route toward a number of 38-win seasons.
On a scale from 1-10, Edwards’s pre-NBA career rates at a 9 for his individual stats, but a 5.5 for our ability to judge whether it says anything valuable about his professional potential.
Ideal NBA Ecosystem
In a perfect world, Edwards would find himself on a team with solid veteran leadership, tons of shooting, excellent coaching, and enough talent that would allow him to ease into the NBA as a scoring sparkplug off the bench before developing into a first-option scorer.
Of course, outside of the fluke occurrence of seeing the Golden State Warriors in the lottery, most of the teams in position to select Edwards are exactly the wrong fit.
The Detroit Pistons haven’t had a scoring guard of Edwards’s caliber since Chauncey Billups, but with their current dearth of talent, it’s easy to see a scenario in which Edwards ends up as frustrating and inefficient as Reggie Jackson. The Timberwolves are treating D’Angelo Russell as if he’s the next James Harden, so it would be less than ideal to force Edwards to fit in alongside him. The Cavs have spent back-to-back lottery picks on Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Adding Edwards to that mix only makes all three of them miserable. The Knicks? Please.
Edwards could make for a fascinating backcourt partner with Trae Young in Atlanta, but that defensive pairing might yield the NBA’s first 200-point game.
Edwards possesses more than enough talent to fit in regardless of the situation, but it’s tricky to find an ideal landing spot outside of the Bay Area.
On a scale from 1-10, Edwards’s situational flexibility is a 6.5. Every team can use his scoring punch, but most of the teams in position to pick Edwards are sub-optimal situations for his skillset.