The University of Georgia is quite accustomed to welcoming five-star recruits to Athens, usually on the gridiron, not the basketball court. In his second year at UGA, Coach Tom Crean was able to land the fourth-ranked ranked recruit in the class of 2019, Anthony Edwards. The native Georgian headlined a top-20 recruiting class, and ushered in rare expectations for the Bulldog faithful.
The successes in recruiting did not ultimately translate to immediate success for UGA in the SEC. The Bulldogs went 5-12 in the league, but will return everyone from their vaunted freshman class other than Edwards. The blue-chip prospect showed flashes of brilliance, loads of raw production, and has the ideal physical profile for the NBA level.
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Edwards concluded his freshman campaign with 2nd-team All-SEC honors and was named the SEC Freshman of the Year. He averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.3 steals per game, with shooting splits of .402/.294/.772 and an assist-turnover ratio of 1.1. The 19-year-old departs from Athens as a consensus top-5 selection in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft.
In this article, I will discuss the tantalizing qualities that Edwards possesses, while also offering some insight into his flaws and shortcomings.
- Slightly above average overall offensive profile (0.906 PPP, 61st percentile, aFG of 46.9%)
- Above-average overall defensive profile (0.735 PPP, 79th percentile)
- Elite Physical Profile (6’5’’, 225 pounds, and 6’9’’ wingspan)
- Elite Athlete
- Potentially a triple threat with multi-level scoring ability in the NBA
- Scoring mentality (19.9 PPG and 30.4 usage rate as a freshman)
- Impressive isolation-scoring package (0.89 PPP, 72nd percentile)
- Electric in transition (1.208 PPP, 81st percentile)
- Natural off-ball cutter shows “basketball feel” (1.278 PPP, 72nd percentile)
- Exciting potential as a pick-and-roll handler, ranking at the 67th percentile for PPP, including the results passes, when executing the PNR
- Shows defensive instincts (1.3 SPG, 2.3 STL%)
There are obvious indicators to explain Edwards’ ascension to the top of this draft class. His physical frame is at the top of this list. He measures 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, with a 6-foot-9 wingspan to boot. The freshman phenom’s frame is everything NBA executives could hope for in a two-way wing of the future. This physical build and his natural athletic ability manifest itself on the floor with powerful drives to the lane, above the rim acrobatics, and loads of defensive potential.
Edwards is electric in transition, averaging 1.20 points per possession (PPP) and ranking at the 72nd percentile among Division I players this past season. The UGA wing was an adequate rebounder (4.5 defensive boards per game), and is capable of initiating offense as the lead playmaker after nabbing a board. Edwards must continue to improve his overall ability to handle the ball, but there are very few prospects at his size that can quickly change directions or stop on a dime like he can.
The physical make-up of Edwards also allows for elite projectability as a two-way defender in the NBA. When he is locked-in, the freshman can be nightmarish for the opposition. His size allows for the potential to guard the elite scoring wings of the world. Impressive anticipation translates to a steal percentage of 2.3, and he pilfered 1.3 steals per game this past season. The shooting guard’s strength, lateral movement, and anticipatory instincts are all hallmarks of a terrific defender. The question is: does he have the ability to give consistent effort on that end court? Taking plays off is unacceptable at the next level, and raw competitiveness is paramount. Edwards will have to answer this question in the NBA, and prove his willingness to defend on a nightly basis, something that he did not do at Georgia.
Nearly a year away from turning 20 years old, Edwards owns an incredibly impressive isolation-scoring package. He thrived as a scorer despite less than ideal spacing in the Georgia offense this past season, averaging 0.89 PPP (72nd percentile) on 72 possessions, terrific numbers for a freshman wing.
Edwards’ iso-scoring toolkit involves a combination of step-backs, jab steps, and rip-through’s. He uses his strength, deception, and footwork to create space for drives and jump shots. He must improve his shooting efficiency and increase his willingness to attack the lane, but his ability to create for himself at the end of possessions is a crown jewel quality for potential “star” wing prospects.
There are also a few subtle qualities to mention when evaluating Edwards. The freshman has a knack for off-ball cutting. Either via a backdoor cut or simply flashing through the lane, he moves well into space to score. On cuts this past season, he averaged 1.278 PPP (72nd percentile), which are outstanding numbers for a freshman wing still learning the intricacies of the game. This quality, along with his brief moments of passing brilliance, point to a reserve of innate basketball “feel” that should serve him well as he navigates the transition into the NBA.
Last month, Coach Crean gushed about Edwards’s improvement over his freshman season, indicating that the youngster was just scratching the surface of his full potential. Yet, in the same breath, he also mentioned that coaching and development would be very important for his freshman star to transition to professional basketball.
Edwards is learning how to play the game. He’s still learning how to embrace the grueling work ethic it takes to make it in the National Basketball Association But make no mistake, the 19-year-old owns the most impressive cocktail of raw athleticism and basketball skill at the wing position in this draft.
- Inefficient volume scorer with poor shot selection; failed to make the top 10 of the SEC for field-goal percentage (40.2), true-shooting percentage (52.0), and 3-point percentage (29.4)
- Below-average shooter off the dribble (0.72 PPP, 42nd percentile)
- An average ball-handler, who is hesitant to attack the rim (only 28 attempts this season)
- Struggles with runners and floaters, making just 22.7 percent as a freshman
- Below-average pick-and-roll defender (0.875 PPP allowed, 24th percentile)
- Inconsistent effort and competitiveness on both ends of the court — often appeared disinterested when the ball was not in his hands at UGA
In terms of shortcomings, Edwards did not take full advantage of his physical superpowers in his freshman season at UGA. This may sound peculiar when observing his traditional statistics, which were impressive for a freshman in the SEC.
Edwards’ hesitancy to consistently attack downhill often resulted in ill-advised jumpers. As a result, he was not nearly as efficient as evaluators would have liked. There are also questions about the youngsters’ competitive nature and his effort on defense. Take for example his performances in the Maui Invitational.
On November 5th against Dayton, Edwards’ performance was largely forgettable: six points on 2-of-10 from the field in a loss. Yet, the very next evening, he had a 37-point explosion against Michigan State, in which he looked nothing less than a genuine future NBA superstar.
This embodies the inconsistency that plagued Edwards as a freshman, but also illustrates his hypnotic potential. It seems to take a burning desire within to will oneself into NBA stardom, and being uncompetitive is not a label that any draft hopeful wants. It will be up to the SEC Freshman of the Year to answer these questions in the draft process, and more importantly, in his rookie season. Effort and consistency are my biggest concerns for the young prospect moving forward.
Offensive efficiency also must be discussed when weighing the weaknesses in Edwards’ profile. It’s fair to mention the lack of spacing in Georgia’s offense. As a team, UGA shot just 30 percent from 3-point land, and did not create many avenues for Edwards to attack the rim. But, at the end of the day, the superstar wing has to find his offense more economically, and will not be effective as an NBA scorer without improvement in this regard.
Shot mechanics is less of a concern, but shot selection is. Although Edwards was consistently forced to create late in the shot clock, he also consistently settled for difficult jumpers rather than putting pressure on the defense by attacking the rim. Nearly 70 percent of his half-court shots were jumpers (270) this season, and yet, he ranked at the 28 percentile on those possessions, making just 28.1 percent of his attempts. At the same time, he attempted just 28 shots within seven feet of the rim via drives, making a solid 57.1 percent. Improving his handle will enhance his slashing ability, and this should be a chief goal for the NBA development staff that selects the young prospect.
Edwards has the ability to become an above-average 3-point shooter (35-plus %) in the NBA, but will have to improve as a savvier playmaker and multivariate scorer to unlock his full potential.
When it is all said and done. Edwards has every raw tool and projectable skill to evolve into a high-level two-way wing in the modern NBA. His type of profile is in short supply and in high demand. It will all come down to his ability to develop as a true competitor.
Anthony Edwards has to find the inner grit to undertake the everyday demanding process of becoming a meaningful cog in the ultra-competitive NBA landscape.
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements: Stats used in our scouting reports mainly come from Synergy Sports Technology, RealGM.com, and Sports-Reference.com. Other outside sources are noted with links to the source.
Well done Lee ! I learned a lot.
Edwards provides wing scoring that CLT hasn’t had maybe ever (closest thing I can think of is Gerald Wallace)