Watching Anthony Edwards soar through the air, hit step-back threes, and lull his defenders to sleep with his handles makes it easy to forget he’s only 20 years old. With his late Aug. 5th, 2001 birthday, Edwards is still younger than some players in last year’s draft class. For example, Edwards is entering his third year in the NBA, and he’s still younger than projected lottery pick Keegan Murray.
Edwards compiled one of the most impressive seasons of all time for a 20-year-old, averaging 21 points per game on 44% shooting while playing stellar defense. Every game, it felt like Edwards joined a list of “youngest players to do X,” so I figured now was a good time to compile a list of these lists.
- Youngest player to hit ten threes in a game
- Youngest player to hit 150, 200, and 300 threes
- Fourth youngest to 2,500 career points
- 3rd youngest player to score 40 points in a game
- 3rd youngest to have a 45/5/5 night
- Fourth youngest player to score 30 in a playoff game
And so on.
Edwards’ age-20 season was truly a sight to see. Edwards is a unique talent, but for him to produce as he has at such a young age is almost an anomaly. He’s put himself in an exclusive club of NBA legends. There’s no doubt Edwards is a superstar on and off the court. Right now, every Wolves fan is asking, How good can Edwards be?
To help answer this question, I wanted to compare Ant’s age-20 season to some of the best age-20 seasons ever.
Before that, to avoid repeating Edwards’ stats throughout this article, in his age-20 season, he averaged 21.3 points on 44% shooting, 3.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals this season.
Doncic represents players with the best age-20 seasons. Seasons like Kevin Durant‘s 25-point, 2-assist, and 6-rebound season, LeBron James‘ 27-point, 7-assist, and 7 rebound season. Or even Shaquille O’Neal‘s 23 points and 14 rebounds. Seasons on par with these players’ performances are rare, and a player has to come in extremely sharp to be as productive as these stars. Since players this good hardly enter the league, these types of seasons will likely remain untouched for a while.
Luka nearly averaged a triple-double, with 28 points, 9 assists, and 9 rebounds per game as a 20-year-old. It is the greatest season ever by an age-20 player. Edwards didn’t match Doncic’s numbers as a 20-year-old, but that’s far from a disappointment.
Anthony represents elite 20-year-old seasons. Not the MVP-caliber age-20 seasons, like Luka had, but a respectable and promising season for a 20-year-old. Seasons like Kobe Bryant‘s 20-point, 4-assist 1998 season, Anthony Davis‘ 20-point, 10-rebound 2014 season, or Kyrie Irvings‘ 22-point, 6-assist per game 2012 season. These players were all top ten in the league at one point.
The Denver Nuggets drafted Anthony at 19 years old out of Syracuse. He spent his first year dominating the league, narrowly missing out on Rookie of the Year to LeBron. In his second year, he averaged 20.8 points on 43% shooting, 2.6 assists, and 5.7 rebounds at age 20 – a comparable stat line to Edwards. After his age-20 season, Melo’s points per game jumped up to26.8 the next year and up to 28 the following year, a career-high.
McGrady represents the late-bloomers, players that weren’t quite as elite but quickly saw success in the league after age 20. Even though a player like Kevin Garnett started out a step behind in 1996, averaging 17 points and 8 rebound seasons. As every Minnesota fan surely knows, he turned it up soon enough. Chris Bosh‘s 17-point and 9-rebound season in 2004 falls alongside Kevin Garnetts as well. Although these seasons are extremely good for a 20-year-old, Anthony Edwards topped them. It should be a good sign that Edwards broke out more quickly than these guys. While it doesn’t guarantee that he’ll be better, he’s off to a great start.
McGrady was one of the youngest players to ever enter the league. But after two lackluster years at the age of 18 and 19, he finally hit his stride in his age-20 season. In a much smaller role than Ant, McGrady finished his third season averaging 15 points per game on 45% shooting, with 3.3 assists and 6.3 rebounds. Like Carmelo Anthony, McGrady saw a huge bump in production the year after that, averaging 26 points per game at age 21.
These numbers and comparisons create context and a road map. No Wolves fan should take Edwards for granted, as a player and a generational personality. But the numbers also give fans an idea of what kind of company Edwards already belongs to.
While players like Luka are out of reach right now, there is no guarantee Edwards can’t catch up. Even though he is a step behind Doncic, being steps ahead of a player like Kevin Garnett is already an accomplishment.
After their respective age-20 seasons, the stats of every player in this article went up. With Ant, the question is no longer Can he get better? It’s how much better will he get?