Anthony Edwards' playoff surge elevates his rank among No. 1 recruits in modern era

by 24USATVMay 7, 2024, 8:01 p.m. 22
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Minnesota Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards has his team on the cusp of franchise history. The Timberwolves took a 2-0 series lead in the second round of NBA playoffs with a 106-80 win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday to bring Minnesota two wins closer to reaching the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2004.

Edwards' leap during the 2024 NBA Playoffs has been undeniable. The former No. 1 overall prospect by 247Sports in the 2019 recruiting cycle and the top pick from the 2020 NBA Draft out of Georgia is in his fourth season in the NBA. Edwards is moving up the all-time No. 1 overall recruit leaderboard because of his performances in the postseason -- he had a ho-hum-for-him 27 points Monday night. Edwards is part of the new guard of young talent taking over the NBA postseason and is positioning himself as one of the faces of the league going forward.

In Game 1 against the Nuggets, Edwards scored 43 points to become the fourth player in NBA history with three consecutive playoff games with at least 35 points. Edwards joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant. Edwards also joined Bryant as the only player with back-to-back 40-point games at age 22 or younger in NBA playoff history.

In the 247Sports era (2010-), Edwards is one of five former top recruits who were the No. 1 pick in their respective drafts, joining Anthony Davis, Andrew Wiggins, Ben Simmons, and Cade Cunningham. Edwards, Davis, and Simmons are the only players who have already been named multi-time all-stars.

Edwards' path from top recruit to NBA superstar was anything but conventional. Edwards reclassified from the 2020 cycle to what would become a star-crossed 2019 class to join Georgia one season early. Edwards averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.8 during the 2019-20 season at Georgia that was cut short due to COVID-19.

"Ant's natural scoring ability, combined with his physical gifts, all-around skill set and long-term upside make him a special prospect," said then-247Sports Director of Scouting Evan Daniels.

During the pre-draft process in 2020, there were question marks surrounding his desire to play basketball. Edwards was a Pop Warner football star in his younger days and expressed before the start of the 2023-24 NBA season his hopes of one day playing in the NFL.

"Yeah," Edwards told Marco Summers on his talk show Open Thoughts. "I might be the first one (to play in the NFL and NBA.)"

While Edwards may have the tools and athleticism to make a run as a multi-sport athlete, his charisma, high-flying dunks and friendly trash talk have gravitated basketball fans toward the 22-year-old rising star.

Here are the No. 1 overall recruits in the 247Sports era, ranked by NBA success.

Note: The parenthesized year denotes when the player was ranked as the No. 1 overall recruit in his respective class. PER stands for Performance Efficiency Rating, which is an all-encompassing metric used to judge player performance.

When Davis is at his best, he's in the conversation for the best big man in the NBA. In his lone season at Kentucky during the 2011-12 campaign, The Brow put up monster numbers that also have him in the conversation as the best one-and-done prospect in modern college basketball history. Davis was drafted first by the New Orleans Hornets (now the New Orleans Pelicans) in 2012 and spent the first seven years of his career there before being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019. Davis averaged 28 and 10 during the Lakers' championship run in the 2020 Bubble. He is an eight-time NBA All-Star, made the All-NBA First Team four times, and appeared on the All-Defensive Team four times. Davis appeared in a career-high 76 games during the 2023-24 campaign for the Lakers.

Edwards averaged a career-high 25.9 points during the 2023-24 campaign and made the NBA All-Star team for the second consecutive season. Edwards is one of the most entertaining players in the league to watch because of his frequent highlight reel plays. Edwards ranked ahead of James Wiseman and Cole Anthony in the 247Sports rankings. Edwards assumed the top spot in his class after reclassifying.

He is well on his way toward earning more accolades at the next level.

Simmons' NBA career is complicated. The former No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft quickly rose to stardom after helping the Philadelphia 76ers reach the NBA Playoffs. Simmons reached the NBA All-Star Game three consecutive seasons between 2019-21 and was considered one of the best defenders at his respective position. It's been downhill since. Simmons has appeared in 57 games in the last two seasons due to injuries.

A change of scenery was the best thing for Wiggins' career. Once considered a bust on the Timberwolves, Wiggins proved his ability to be an elite two-way player during Golden State's playoff run in 2022. He is a major reason why the Dubs were able to beat the Celtics in six games after falling behind 2-1 in the series. Wiggins is part of one of the most notable NBA trades to happen this century. The Cavs traded away Wiggins in exchange for Timberwolves star big man Kevin Love to pair with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, which paid off for Cleveland. Wiggins is coming off one of the worst statical seasons of his career.

After missing the entire 2022-23 season with injury, Holmgren helped the Oklahoma City Thunder earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Holmgren finished behind San Antonio Spurs star Victor Wembanyama in Rookie of the Year voting but is having a rookie campaign to remember. Holmgren starred at Gonzaga during his lone college season during the 2021-22 campaign and is working his way up the list as one the best all-time No. 1 recruits. His Thunder tip off Round 2 against the Mavericks on Tuesday night. We expect Holmgren to have a loud NBA playoffs.

The first three picks of the 2021 NBA Draft were in the exact order as the final 247Sports rankings from the 2020 recruiting cycle. Cade Cunningham went No. 1 to the Detroit Pistons, Jalen Green was drafted No. 2 by the Houston Rockets, and the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Evan Mobley with the No. 3 pick. Cunningham has flashed some of the tools that made him the top high school recruit and the first pick of the draft, but he is currently part of a Pistons team that just finished with the worst record (14-68) in the league.

Like Wiggins, a change of scenery may be the best thing for Barrett's career. Barrett was part of a star-studded recruiting class at Duke that included Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones. After being drafted by the New York Knicks with the No. 3 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Barrett was traded this past December to the Toronto Raptors in the OG Anunoby trade. Back in his native Canada, Barrett averaged a career-high 21.8 points in 32 games with Toronto.

Before Bagley became the top-ranked player from the 2017 class, current Denver Nuggets star Michael Porter Jr. occupied that spot before Bagley reclassified up. The Kings famously, stupidly, passed on Luka Dončić with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and instead went with Bagley. The Kings traded the former Duke star to the Pistons at the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline.

Once projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the lackluster 2013 NBA Draft, Noel fell all the way to No. 6. Noel played for six different NBA teams during his career and was most recently cut by the Sacramento Kings before the start of this past season. Noel only averaged double-digit points once during his time in the league.

Mudiay is the only player on this list that didn't play in college. After committing to SMU, Mudiay elected to play overseas before being drafted by the Nuggets with the No. 7 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Mudiay averaged a career-high 15 points in one of his final seasons during the 2018-19 campaign.

After a standout season at Kansas, Jackson was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the No. 4 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Jackson's pure athleticism and shotmaking made him an intriguing project. Jackson never lived up to the hype and last played in the NBA during the 2021-22 season.

Smith was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the No. 27 pick last summer. Smith appeared in 59 games and averaged 5.9 points. While there is still plenty of time for the 20-year-old guard to improve his standing, he is the defacto last-ranked player on this list due to his lack of experience in the NBA. Smith last summer spoke vulnerably about his disappointing year at Arkansas.

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