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Why Edwards, Warriors could be the perfect fit in NBA draft

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* Editor's note: This is the first installment of a series breaking down the potential selections for the Warriors with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft

The 2020 NBA Draft doesn’t have a clear No. 1 overall pick. That makes drafting No. 2 overall that much more intriguing.  

There are a group of players vying for position, although this draft season is different than any before. With the coronavirus limiting travel, wiping out the NBA Draft Combine and reducing the interview process to Zoom meetings, the board is wide open.  

Lottery Gods shined down on the Warriors on Aug. 20, placing them second behind the Minnesota Timberwolves. In our latest mock draft on NBC Sports Bay Area, we have LaMelo Ball going with the top pick and the Warriors selecting Anthony Edwards second.

This won’t be the last mock and at this point, we aren’t even sure that the NBA will forge ahead with their plans for an Oct. 16 draft. Which means we might have a little more time to walk through some of the candidates for the Warriors.

Stats 

In his lone season at Georgia, Edwards averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He shot a meager 40.4 percent from the field and just 29.4 percent (7.7 attempts per game) from behind the arc, but that didn’t stop him from becoming a dominating force as a 19-year-old in the SEC.   

 

Edwards scored 30 points or more three times in his freshman season, with a high of 37 against Michigan State in November. He scored 20 or more 13 out of 32 games for the Bulldogs. 

Edwards notched double-figure rebounds in three games, including a 15-rebound double-double against Texas A&M. He finished his freshman season with three double-doubles, all of the points and rebound variety. 

Advanced numbers were solid for an 18/19-year-old. Edwards posted a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 21.8 and a .520 true shooting percentage.

Strengths

At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Edwards walks into the league with an NBA body. He will get stronger over time and has the potential to bulk up slightly, but he won’t get pushed around, even in his first season. 

Edwards has quick hands, nice hip swivel and boasts a 42-inch vertical. He’s an elite athlete, although he’s still developing and will take time to become a finished product.

On the offensive end, Edwards is a volume scorer with a strong base, good balance and the ability to play through contact. He’s more of a slasher and finisher than an elite shooter, but he’s also very young and will develop. 

He shot nearly 45 percent on catch and shoot opportunities and 41 percent on 3-pointers from the top of the arc. The rest of his attempts were a mixed bag, but there is potential for him to improve, especially when surrounded by additional ball handlers and creators.

While his 3-point numbers weren’t off the charts, Edwards shot 77.2 percent from the free throw line on 5.3 attempts per game. This is a solid indicator that his mechanics are sound as a shooter, which could translate into better shooting percentages at the next level.

He needs to work on finishing, but again, his size and strength are appealing. With better spacing at the NBA level, he will have room to work with. He can score with either hand in the paint and he uses both his vertical and length to up and over defenders.

His 6-foot-9 wingspan should help on both ends of the court, but he projects as a solid on-ball defender with potential to defend multiple positions. 

He’s a decent rebounder, especially on the defensive end and he averaged 1.3 steals per game in his lone season at Georgia, despite being asked to expend a ton of energy on the offensive end. 

Weaknesses

Edwards’ 3-point shooting is a concern, especially for a team like the Warriors who love to space the floor. There is hope for improvement. He has solid mechanics as a shooter and his low percentages from distance were in part due to his team relying on him too heavily to create. 

Despite having the ball in his hands for much of the game, Edwards posted just a 2.8-to-2.7 assist-to-turnover ratio. That is nowhere near where you would want it to be, especially for a player with a 30.5 percent usage rate. Again, he will look different in a system where he isn’t the focal point.

 

He needs to work on his passing skills and continue to develop as a ball handler, but it’s unlikely he’ll be asked to carry the load as a primary offensive initiator early in his career.

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On the defensive end, he’s solid when his man has the ball, but he isn’t 100 percent committed. With his size, length and strength, he has the tools to defend the 1, 2 or 3, but he gets caught floating on occasion and needs to improve his overall defensive IQ.

Fit with Warriors 

Golden State might be a perfect spot for Edwards to cut his teeth in the NBA. Early in his career, he wouldn’t be asked to do too much and he would have time to develop as a shooter and a defender. 

Most of his opportunities would likely come off the ball, in transition and as a cutter early in his career. He would have an opportunity to learn the finer nuances of the NBA game from a group of incredible veterans. 

Edwards is vocal and plays an aggressive style. If the coaching staff can get him through his defensive lapses and focus his energy the right way, there is potential to unlock something special. 

He likely wouldn’t be a starter to open his rookie campaign, but there is potential for a small ball lineup with a three-guard set of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Edwards, with Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green playing the four and the five.

Edwards would have an opportunity to learn the Warriors read and react system as a fourth or fifth option early on in his career. He would have a mentor on the defensive end in Green and two of the greatest shooters in NBA history to help work with him on improving his range.

There aren’t any perfect prospects in the draft, but Edwards might have the highest ceiling out of anyone. Two or three years down the road, when the veterans begin to fade, Edwards could be the player to pick up the torch and carry it forward for the Warriors. 

Player Comparison

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