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Thursday February 25th, 2021 7:42PM

Georgia's Edwards tops list of shooting guards in NBA draft

By The Associated Press
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There’s no question about Anthony Edwards’ position atop the list of shooting guards in this year's NBA draft.

Edwards was the nation’s top-scoring freshman at Georgia and is a candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick on Wednesday night with his explosive scoring and ability to make contested shots. The top tier of shooting guard prospects also includes versatile players like Florida State’s Devin Vassell and Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, both possible lottery selections.

Here’s a look at some of the top shooting guard prospects:

ANTHONY EDWARDS

The 19-year-old started fast and finished as Southeastern Conference’s freshman of the year.

STRENGTHS: The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Edwards has the ability to score from all over the court. He put it all on display six games into his college career at Georgia, going for 33 of his 37 points after halftime in an impressive one-man show in a loss to then-No. 3 Michigan State. That second-half performance included Edwards hitting 7 of 13 3-pointers. He went on to average 19.1 points to go with 5.2 rebounds while also offering the potential to develop into a reliable defender.

“He’s just scratching the surface, he really is,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said.

CONCERNS: While Edwards is difficult to slow, his efficiency and consistency are questions. Edwards shot just 40.2% from the field and made at least half his shots only seven times in 32 games. He also shot just 29.4% from 3-point range, including empty lines in losses to LSU (1 for 12), Mississippi (1 for 9), South Carolina (0 for 7) and Alabama (0 for 6).

DEVIN VASSELL

The sophomore could boost a team’s defense and outside shooting.

STRENGTHS: The 6-7 Vassell is a good athlete with size and length, allowing him to play as a shooting guard or a small forward with a 6-9 wingspan. His biggest potential comes as a versatile perimeter defender capable after averaging 1.4 steals and nearly a block per game last year with the Seminoles. He also shot 41.7% from 3-point range over two seasons at Florida State, including an overtime-forcing 3 in an Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament win against Virginia Tech as a freshman and going 7 for 7 against the Hokies last year.

CONCERNS: The 20-year-old must add strength to his 194-pound frame to handle matchups with bigger opponents and continue expanding his offensive game beyond his spot-up shooting.

ISAAC OKORO

Like Vassell, Auburn freshman Okoro has high-end defensive potential.

STRENGTHS: The 19-year-old has a strong 6-6, 225-pound frame that could allow him to play as a shooting guard or small forward. He made the Southeastern Conference’s all-defensive team while averaging 12.9 points and shooting 51.4%.

CONCERNS: His offensive game, and shooting touch, is a work in progress. While his overall shooting percentage was solid, he lacked range shooting just 29% from 3-point range and made only 20 shots from behind the arc in 28 games. He also shot just 67.2% from the foul line, an area he’ll need to improve as he attacks the paint to draw contact.

R.J. HAMPTON

The first-round prospect from Little Elm, Texas, bypassed college to play in the Australian National Basketball League “Next Stars” developmental program designed to lure elite NBA prospects.

STRENGTHS: The 6-foot-5 Hampton was ranked as the No. 5 recruit in last year’s class by 247sports and can play either point guard (where he worked in the NBL) or off the ball. He is dangerous in transition and driving the paint, and offers the upside to be a good defender at the next level.

CONCERNS: His shooting touch was lacking in 15 games in the NBL, where he shot around 40% from the floor, 30% from 3-point range and 68% from the line. He’ll need to extend his range to become a reliable outside shooter to stretch defenses when playing off the ball, which will only help his off-the-dribble game as an all-around playmaker.

OTHERS TO WATCH

— DESMOND BANE: The TCU senior has a strong 6-6, 215-pound frame and increased his scoring average every year in college, hitting 16.6 points last year while shooting 44% from 3-point range and leading an upset of then-No. 2 Baylor. He could go in the latter half of the first round.

— JOSH GREEN: The 6-6, 210-pound Australian brought size and athleticism to Arizona as a five-star freshman last year. The first-round prospect has the potential to be a reliable outside shooter (36% from 3-point range) with quality defense (team-high 46 steals) and the ability to finish at the rim.

— TYRESE MAXEY: The Kentucky freshman averaged 14 points and can also play the point – he started there and had seven assists in a comeback win at Florida – to make himself a versatile first-round prospect.

— AARON NESMITH: The Vanderbilt sophomore was on his way to a breakout season before going down to a foot injury, averaging 23 points and shooting 51% in 14 games. The 6-6, 215-pound wing is a first-round prospect.

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AP Sports Writer Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Basketball, College Sports, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Sports - Men's College Basketball, AP Sports - NBA
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