2020 NBA Draft: What Anthony Edwards Would Bring To The Knicks

Kris Pursiainen

[This is the fourth prospect in the 2020 draft that I've done a breakdown on. You can read about Cole Anthony here, Deni Avdija here, or Tyrese Haliburton here.]

Anthony Edwards is a 6'5" shooting guard from the University of Georgia who is widely considered one of the top prospects of the upcoming draft class. Weighing in at 225 pounds, the high-flying Edwards is incredibly athletic for his size and position, and is mainly on the floor to provide his team with a major scoring punch. In 33 minutes per game at Georgia, Edwards averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists over 32 total contests. 

Despite shooting only 40.2% from the field, Edwards displayed a true ability to score the ball and was also the main true scoring threat on his team, which is bound to lower efficiency. More concerning to me than the field goal percentage was the three-point percentage of 29.4% - not because Edwards can't make his threes, but because of the rate at which he was hoisting them up. The lack of "help", as I mentioned, will drag down Edwards' efficiency to a degree, but not one large enough to result in averages of 2.3 3PM out of 7.7 3PA. 

Edwards struggles with efficiency and has his troubles on the defensive end as well, but you still cannot deny the talent that allows him to make the variety of difficult shots he can off of the dribble moves he knows how to execute on defenders. He has a touch for finishing, even if not developed, and knows how to create space for himself to get shots off. Edwards is able to shoot the ball, but is more of an all-around scorer than someone you want to go out of your way to create looks from three for. Edwards also does well in transition - something which I think is, from his highlights. clearly connected to his athleticism. If the eye test isn't enough for you, the fact that Edwards ranked in the 81st percentile in transition points per possession in his lone season at Georgia should help demonstrate his ability to get down the court and put the ball in the bucket. 

On the defensive end, Edwards is nowhere near as proficient as he is offensively. With inconsistent individual and team defense, especially in terms of both effort and awareness, Edwards finds himself having a Defensive Box Plus/Minus of only 0.8 in comparison to his Offensive BPM of 4.2. I would think that his raw athleticism would allow him to one day become at least a good man-to-man defender, but that will depend on the coaching staff(s) Edwards winds up with in the NBA. 

As of right now, he isn't the most engaged or able defender in terms of knowing what's going on as well as being able to stay in front of his man. Something tells me, however, that Edwards' explosiveness, speed, and all things of the sort make him able to stay on his man, and the issue is more with his willingness to do so. Even 18 year olds suffer from "superstar defense", at times. When not on the ball, Edwards lacks awareness and sometimes loses track of plays; his 6'9" wingspan also doesn't compare well (in relation to his height) to the lanky athletic guards and forwards we see make freakish steals in the league now. 

Edwards isn't the savior many NBA fans, including those of the Knicks, make him out to be. His high-end scoring highlights may join together to create power-punched compilations of great shotmaking and shows of athleticism, but they do not show the sides of him that they sadly must - his occasional lack of a desire to defend and current inabilities to score efficiently and "playmake" (even though NBA spacing will help in this department. 

Despite his struggles in these areas, I still project Edwards to become a long-term starter in the NBA who might require some additional magic-making on defense from his teammates, but then do his best to repay the efforts with his scoring. Edwards' team went 16-16, the same way that many offensively-able and defensively-questionable guards in the NBA today lead teams to records that might not necessarily involve winning (see: Zach LaVine). Much of the losing might come from the rest of the roster or even the coaching staff and front office, but the history will cause teams to spend more time wondering if Edwards can contribute to significant wins than make an All-Star team as the main option on a losing squad.

As far as I know, Anthony Edwards doesn't seem like the type of player to be available after the third pick in the draft barring any unforeseen circumstances. If he was taken first, second, or third I would not be surprised at all because of the lack of separation between the lottery prospects in this year's class - the factor that makes it an intriguing one to me. The only way to guarantee Edwards' availability is to have the first overall selection. Unless a team wants a player like LaMelo Ball or James Wiseman more, Edwards might very well be taken first overall whenever the draft is able to happen. 

If the Knicks were to wind up with Edwards, it would be because they believed he was the best player available at the time. Those who might criticize them for drafting a player who plays the same "position" as RJ Barrett might want to give ESPN's "The Last Dance" a watch to see the Portland Trail Blazers pass up on a shooting guard in the draft because they felt they already had their guy in Clyde Drexler. This comparison is not to knock Clyde Drexler or to compare Anthony Edwards to Michael Jordan in anyway whatsoever - it is more of an extreme illustration of how passing up on the best player available can go wrong for a team that needs talent badly enough anyway to have earned a lottery spot. 

With Edwards on board, the team would likely go out and acquire an established point guard, perhaps Fred Van Vleet in free agency or Chris Paul on the trade market, and go out with that PG, Edwards, Barrett, Randle, and Robinson in an effort to be competitive. Edwards isn't a playmaker and shouldn't see any time at point guard, but with an established floor general wearing the same color jersey as him every night, Edwards' secondary play-making ability should be able to come out in full force, as well as develop, and help him become a true offensive threat in the NBA at age 19. I could see a rookie Edwards putting up statistics for the Knicks similar to the ones RJ Barrett recorded this season, especially since Edwards would find himself in a similar role. 

The Knicks would be lucky to end up with Anthony Edwards, not because I'm in love with him as a prospect, but because he is one of the stronger prospects in what is a generally weak draft class. The fit with Barrett would certainly provide moments in which it looks questionable, but it is not worth passing up on Edwards' talent to bypass dealing with those moments. I can already hear the groans coming from Knicks fans at Edwards' clear defensive lapses - as well as the MSG cheers at his clutch game-winning pull-up jumper. 

All in all, Edwards certainly shows flashes of being a great scorer at the NBA level. Whether he can hone in on his defensive, efficiency, and off-ball issues not only remains to be seen, but determines the caliber of player he will be able to become as a basketball player, whether it is as a Knick or not.

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