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Georgia’s Anthony Edwards (5) attempts a shot. Georgia played Ole Miss in game one of the SEC Tournament, winning by a score of 81-63 on March 11, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

The NBA is banking on a smooth late-summer return for the Oct. 16 draft to occur at its usual start-of-offseason location.

Players have been off the court since March 11, when the NBA's decision to cancel its remaining season due to COVID-19 began the sports shutdown witnessed over the past three months. 

In a June 4 proposal, the association approved a plan for players, who would be isolated for up to 74 days at the Walt Disney World Resort through the playoffs, to return for games on July 31.

According to the plan, 13 Western and nine Eastern Conference teams will play eight seeding games to earn a spot in the postseason. Following a typical 16-team playoff, the 2020 NBA Finals would end no later than Oct. 13.

Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards and junior Rayshaun Hammonds would find out their professional future three days later. 

Although the NBA draft lottery slots are not determined until after the postseason, the eight teams excluded from the Orlando bubble have the best shot at getting the first pick. And Edwards might be the first off the board.

The No. 2 national recruit in 2019, Edwards was the undeniable offensive leader for Georgia across its 16-16 regular season. He averaged 33 minutes in 32 starts, finishing with a .402 field goal percentage, 19.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. 

Projected as the No. 1 selection by ESPN on Feb 16 and Bleacher Report in late April, Edwards likely go to either the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers or Minnesota Timberwolves as the three clubs share a 14% chance of winning the top spot in the lottery.

Here's the roster outlook for all three:

Warriors

Edwards runs the risk of getting buried in a Golden State lineup that looks to welcome back injured guards Steph Curry and Klay Thompson when the 2020-21 season begins in December. 

This season would've been a different story as 11 different Warriors averaged at least 18 minutes in 41 appearances over the team's 65-game season, including three rookies.

At 6-foot-5, Edwards fits most snugly as a shooting guard-small forward at the next level. Golden State's 6-foot-5, third-year shooting guard Damion Lee started 36 games in 2019, booking on average 12.7 points and 4.9 rebounds on 41.7% shooting.

Rookie Jordan Poole, a 6-foot-4 guard shot 33% to average 8.8 points in 57 appearances. 

With a talent pool of young athletes and sheer star power, the Warriors could be a difficult destination for a 19-year-old used to the spotlight and looking to make a big impact. 

However, Golden State doesn't have many needs to fill other than roster depth and helping hands. It may just go for the most talented option, and if it thinks Edwards fits the bill, there's worse places to begin a career than in Oakland with head coach Steve Kerr. 

Cavaliers

After selecting two SEC guards in the last two years, Cleveland is probably a long shot destination for Edwards. Both at 6-foot-1, second-year Colin Sexton and rookie Darius Garland accounted for 31% of the team's offense this season. 

Edwards would be a height boost for their back court, and if either he or Sexton moved more fully toward point guard, they could be a strong pair.

However, it's unlikely the Cavaliers would triple up with their first pick this year and bench one of their young ball handlers. 

Timberwolves

Minnesota also chose a guard last year, the 6-foot-6 Jarrett Culver, who put up similar numbers to Edwards as a sophomore at Texas Tech in 2019. Culver averaged 24 minutes in 63 appearances and recorded 9.2 points and 3.4 rebounds.

Taking up a hefty share of minutes and shots is 6-foot-4 point guard D'Angelo Russell, who was picked up from the Warriors midway through the season. 

Edwards would also have to compete with fifth-year Malik Beasley, another 6-foot-4 guard who notched career-high averages in points, rebounds and assists with 20.7, 5.1 and 1.9. 

None of the above options are ideal professional homes for Edwards. Yet with a limited level of talent in this year's draft, it will be difficult to pass on the young former Bulldog if he's available when a team is on the clock. 

Lottery odds are no guarantee of the draft order either, and all three teams mentioned have a higher likelihood of the fifth overall pick than the first.

At that point, Edwards could be long gone. 

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(1) comment

BigJeffe

Go to the Hawks, young King. We need another star to put us over the hump!!!!! I know it isn't his choice, but still, go to the Hawks, please, thanks!

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