NBA Draft 2020: Warriors could help Anthony Edwards realize potential

NBA Draft 2020: Warriors could help Anthony Edwards realize potential

As the Warriors prepare for the 2020 NBA draft, during which they will have a lottery pick for the first time since 2012, NBC Sports Bay Area will present a twice-weekly series spotlighting two players expected to be evaluated. This is the third of a 12-part series over a six-week span.

Whether it’s scanning countless mock drafts or listening to the off-the-record opinions of various scouts or studying video, there is consensus on the merits of Anthony Edwards.

He is about as physically ready for the NBA as any teenager not named Zion Williamson can be.

It generally is accepted that Edwards, a freshman from the University of Georgia, should be one of the first three players taken in the 2020 NBA Draft. Maybe there should be an investigation if he is not.

The first question any franchise must answer properly before drafting Edwards is whether it can afford to bring him along carefully.

If not, you’re gambling.

If so, dive in and accept the challenge of developing this 18-year-old into a rotation player as a rookie, a starter by year three and an All-Star a couple years later.

The Warriors have the requisite patience and proper environment for someone like Edwards to prosper. They know coaching is a crucial factor in maximizing Edwards’ stratospheric potential, and they realize another key factor is environment. With a nine-man staff under Steve Kerr and a culture of winning, they rank high in both areas.

And they don’t sound like a team concerned about Edwards’ relative youth.

“Age has never really come into play,” Larry Harris, the team’s director of player personnel, said. “It’s an analytic component that factors into some of the decisions we make. But we’ve never looked at two guys and thought, ‘This guy is 19, and that guy is 23, and then thought 23 is going to be too old by the time we need him, so let’s pass on him.’

“Whether a guy is 18 or 19, or 22 or 23, age isn’t the primary factor.”

The primary factor is talent, and Edwards has plenty of that. There was some inconsistency, typical of a freshman but also a product of the junk defenses thrown his way on a mediocre team. The Bulldogs, under veteran coach Tom Crean, finished 16-16.

The Warriors, with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, have verified NBA shooters, which provides space for their teammates. Edwards might be visualizing buckets off open looks.

Edwards is not a deadeye shooter, but back in November he scored 33 points – draining seven 3-pointers – in the second half against a traditionally challenging Michigan State defense.

He’s not a great defender, but Edwards in the final minutes of a win over Arkansas suffocated Razorbacks guard Mason Jones, who led the SEC in scoring.

As an illustration of Edwards’ upside, he had a 15-rebound game, a seven-assist game, three four-steal games and one three-block game.

Edwards has drawn some lofty comparisons with such names as Dwyane Wade, Victor Oladipo, Donavan Mitchell and -- deep breath -- James Harden.

If you’re looking for someone with a Warriors history, the closest comparison would be Mitch Richmond, the most physical member of the franchise’s fun and fabled Run-TMC squad.

All five of these names, by the way, are attached to All-Stars, and Harden owns an MVP award.

Crean, who coached Wade at Marquette and Oladipo at Indiana, says Edwards is “absolutely” worthy of being the No. 1 overall pick.

It’s hard to find a mock draft or hear a scout’s opinion that argues otherwise.

[RELATED: Wiseman fits Warriors' biggest need right now]

Anthony Edwards profile

Position: Shooting guard/small forward

Class: Freshman

Birthdate: Aug. 5, 2001 (18)

Hometown: Atlanta

2019-20 stats: 19.1 points (40.2 percent FG, 29.4 percent 3p, 77.2 FT), 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists.

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 225


What they’re saying: “His combination of strength, speed, his pull-up jumper off the bounce -- he can just rise over people. He's an incredible player with an incredibly bright future. Having coached in that league, he's got an NBA body right now. He can dribble-drive in traffic at the next level, take contact, finish through contact. You watch a guy on film and he's really good and then you watch him live, just his explosiveness. He's got NBA athleticism and NBA strength." – Arkansas coach Eric Musselman, who spent two seasons as head coach of the Warriors and one as coach of the Kings.

NBA rumors: Warriors' offseason plan unaffected by drop in salary cap

NBA rumors: Warriors' offseason plan unaffected by drop in salary cap

The Warriors always were going to be a tax-paying team next season, given that Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins will combine to cost approximately $120 million against the salary cap. That was back when the cap was projected to be around $115 million -- back before the NBA experienced an unprecedented shutdown due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

With games not being played and arenas not in operation, the salary cap for the 2020-21 season is going to be negatively impacted. The resulting loss of revenue is expected to significantly lower the cap, perhaps by as much as $15 million. Consequently, tax-paying teams will get a much larger bill.

Logically, many of those teams might try to cut costs this offseason, or at the very least, limit additional expenditures, particularly those that don't necessarily view themselves as legitimate contenders. It remains to be seen where the Warriors will view themselves in that hierarchy, but as tempting as cuttings costs might be, it sounds like they are motivated by a different priority.

While Golden State certainly could entertain a number of cost-saving moves -- such as not using the full value of the tax-payer mid-level exception or the $17.2 million trade exception in free agency, or trading back from one of the top picks in the draft -- the lowering of the cap reportedly is irrelevant to the Warriors' offseason strategy.

"Golden State is unlikely to let a drop in the cap change how it approaches roster-building," the San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau wrote Saturday, citing a league source. "[Joe] Lacob realizes that with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all in their early 30s, the Warriors might only have a three- or four-year window to win another title.

"Even if it requires a massive luxury-tax burden, Golden State will do what it can to capitalize on the rest of its core players’ prime years. Anything else would go against what this ownership group has come to represent."

[RELATED: Warriors get great news about $17.2 million trade exception]

Since Lacob and Peter Guber bought the team in 2012, the Warriors haven't shied away from spending large sums to put a championship-contender on the court. With Curry, Thompson and Green still in their primes, it's easy to understand why they might feel comfortable doing so again.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Ex-Warrior Kevin Durant talks recovery from coronavirus, Achilles tear

Ex-Warrior Kevin Durant talks recovery from coronavirus, Achilles tear

June 11, 2019 was a date that forever altered Kevin Durant's NBA career. After missing the first four games of the NBA Finals with a calf injury, KD returned to the court for Game 5 in Toronto but tore his Achilles' tendon in the second quarter. The Warriors would go on to lose the series in six games to the Raptors, and Durant departed this past summer in free agency for the Brooklyn Nets.

While sitting out the 2019-20 season, KD became one of the first NBA players to test positive for the coronavirus in March. Durant recently caught up with The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears to discuss his recovery from both injury and illness.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

"I was shocked. And then I was curious," Durant said about getting the coronavirus diagnosis. "I wanted to know what it meant. What is the virus about? I started to get information about it more and more. It calmed me down. … I was just more curious to what I was dealing with and how I could fight it myself.

"I feel good. I didn’t have any symptoms so I am good. I couldn’t leave the house. I knew things would change. The unknown was definitely difficult to deal with. But other than that, I was great."

The NBA suspended operations on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive. The league is returning to action in late July in Orlando with 22 teams completing the regular season and playoff schedule.

Durant's Brooklyn Nets are among the teams returning to the court this summer, but he maintains that he will be sticking with his initial plan to sit out the entire 2019-20 season.

"My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all," Durant said. "We decided last summer when it first happened that I was just going to wait until the following season. I had no plans of playing at all this season."

[RELATED: Why Warriors could benefit from unique 2019-20 NBA season calendar]

When it comes to the rehabilitation from that Achilles' tear, KD says things are on the right track for a return to the court next season.

"I’m doing well. Working out every day. I’m moving. I’m feeling like a normal player again. I’m just in my summertime routine. I’m working out every day and going to the gym in the morning. So, I feel good."

Kyrie Irving and Durant together at 100 percent on the court in Brooklyn could make for a dangerous combination.