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.
Anthony Edwards profile
Position: Shooting guard/small forward
Birthdate: Aug. 5, 2001 (18)
2019-20 stats: 19.1 points (40.2 percent FG, 29.4 percent 3p, 77.2 FT), 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists.
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.