Anthony Edwards reserved his quickest move yet for Friday, when he declared for the NBA draft more than a month in advance of the deadline. In leaving Georgia, he demonstrated the kind of lightning, decisive first step that was sometimes absent while on-court for the Bulldogs.
And now we wait to see which NBA team wins the top spot in the draft lottery and must first deal with the enigma that is the Ant Man.
Don’t you just have that gnawing feeling that will be the Hawks.
Last year, with a 10.5% chance to claim that first pick and the no-doubt, any-fan-in-his-mom’s-basement-could-do-this option of Zion Williamson, they lost out to New Orleans. That’s a rival in another, higher league, so a rival always. A team with a better 2018-19 record and just a 6% chance in the stylized game of Keno that is the draft lottery. For emphasis, as a reminder of their place in the basketball cosmos, the Hawks ended up with the eighth pick. That will teach you to dream big.
But now, with a first pick that is fraught with such peril — one in which the dread term “upside” is employed alarmingly often, one that rings like the phrase “charming fixer-upper” in a home listing — the Hawks most definitely are back in play.
This draft — whenever it happens — holds none of the obviousness of the last. Everyone keeps pointing to Edwards as the presumptive No. 1 pick almost by default, as if he is the least objectionable “Police Academy” movie or the member of the Chrisley family you’d most want to have over for a beer. There seems no real enthusiastic endorsement out there for a draftee of such importance.
How do we know that lurking elsewhere there isn’t a talent more transformative, if only a team had the boldness and imagination to buck common perception and take him first in an admittedly shallow draft? Take one such draft, 2013 for instance, when UNLV’s Anthony Bennett (this Anthony never stuck with a team) went first and Giannis Antetokounmpo lasted until No. 15. Cleveland would like to take its Mulligan here.
Edwards wears all his possibilities outwardly, upon a ready-for-The-NBA physique while still only 18, and a palpable confidence in his abilities. If within him beats the heart of a pro-style killer on the court and a well-matched backcourt partner for Trae Young, there just is no knowing. He is not the kind of player who provides much steel reinforcement to any opinion.
Those who regularly watched him at Georgia and who also might favor the Hawks would feel a lot more comfortable with a possible Atlanta coming-home story if Edwards had just shot a little better, drove the lane a little more forcefully and won a little more often. Even knowing he was just a one-year temp for the Bulldogs, Edwards left you wanting more. That’s good for public speaking, but not so great if you’re Tom Crean.
If you are a team with a somewhat blighted history, it would follow there’s no winning with this year’s No. 1 pick.
If you take Edwards maybe he gives you a quick boost of excitement but the aging and seasoning process of turning him from ball of potential to consistent pro stalls. Maybe he never realizes the vast expectations placed upon him while some double-digit pick from 2020 becomes 2025’s MVP. That is the absolute worst case, but these are the Hawks and that is a case one can’t dismiss.
And if you don’t take him— opting, say for a James Wiseman or an Obi Toppin or an Isaac Okoro — Edwards surely will turn out to be the next Dwyane Wade and make you regret it forever.
So, bottom line, if the Hawks get the No. 1 pick, should they pick the Ant Man?
I’d give that a hearty, unabashed probably. That’s absolutely the most certainty I can spend on this particular player.
Will they even get the chance?
Hope so. Who isn’t up for a good conundrum? This just feels like a Hawks moment in waiting. Jami Gertz, the wife of the Hawks owner who is becoming a regular at the draft lottery — it’s really OK if you don’t get invited every year — won’t let us down this time. She’s due.
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