Ask any professional athlete about their success, and they’ll tell you it all starts with the base. Footwork wins championships doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but having a strong, coordinated lower body is the key to excelling in sports. A quarterback can’t throw off their back foot (unless you’re Aaron Rodgers). A baseball player needs to find the right stance to connect on a slider. And a boxer generates power for their knockout punch from their legs.
Basketball is no different. Whether it’s cooking your opponent with a flurry of post moves, knifing through the lane and finishing with a euro step, or raining threes, precision footwork is the difference between becoming Stephen Curry or Anthony Bennett.
During his rookie season, Anthony Edwards relied primarily on his supreme athletic abilities to navigate the NBA as a 19-year-old. At 6’4”, 225 lbs., with a mid-40’s vertical, Edwards was able to attack the rim from Day 1. But the intricacies of playing winning basketball escaped the first-overall pick for much of his first season. While Edwards finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting and won the hearts of Wolves fans everywhere, there were some glaring holes in his budding offensive game. Namely, his 3-point shooting.
In the pace-and-space era, more and more prospects are entering the NBA as deadly assassins from deep. On the other hand, Edwards shot 29.4 percent from three in his lone season at Georgia. Those struggles followed him to Minnesota, where he shot 32.9 percent from deep last season. A mix of the global pandemic, a stunted preseason, and little in-season practice opportunities kept Edwards from working on the little things and wreaking havoc on the league from the beginning.
The world is a different place as Edwards enters his second year, and the early results are exciting. When he wasn’t backflipping into Lake Minnetonka or becoming a professional-level bowler, Edwards was working on his game in the gym. Edwards told us all he would “come back like Houdini” this season, and through three games, the results have been magical.
Edwards is hitting 36.6 percent of his 10.3 3-point attempts so far in this young season. On Wednesday, a 2-for-10 showing in Minnesota’s 113-108 win against the Milwaukee Bucks threw a bit of cold water on Edwards’ transformation into Steph Curry. Still, he’s looking more confident from deep, which should be terrifying for the rest of the NBA.
Watch the clip above and picture yourself doing the same thing. It’s a tricky move to visualize, let alone perform at full speed. Ewards cuts across the top of the key, catches the pass facing away from the basket while reverse pivoting, sets his feet, then fires over Jalen Green’s outstretched hands in a perfectly choreographed shot. It’s a move you can picture Ant working on repeatedly with his trainer during long nights in the gym, and that work is bearing fruit immediately.
Edwards spent much of his rookie season trying to learn the ropes of the NBA on the fly. He was regularly off-balance and out of rhythm while chucking up ill-advised heat checks as the Wolves cratered. Edwards was awful immediately last season, averaging 11.6 points per game while shooting 27.6 percent from three over his first 14 games in the NBA. The Wolves were a dismal 3-11 in those outings and 7-24 before firing Ryan Saunders.
Edwards has been steadily improving his long-range shooting since Chris Finch took over last February. Ant hit 33.7 percent of his 3s once Finch took over and 35.7 percent over the team’s last 22 games of the season, in which the Timberwolves went 11-11.
Now he has shown the confidence to spot up, shoot threes coming off a screen, and rise up with the ball in his hands from any spot on the floor.
Here he shows off all the moves in one play. Edwards receives the handoff from Towns, who provides a ball screen. Edwards looks like he’s going to drive to the hoop, recognizes Jonas Valanciunas is in drop coverage, tip-toes back behind the 3-point line, and launches a beautiful step-back 3. It’s a next-level play for a guy who still needs a fake ID to get into a bar.
Developing a reliable 3-point shot is the quickest way for Edwards to become an All-Star level player in Year 2. He’s averaging 25.3 points per game this season and is already taking a leadership role on the 3-1 Wolves. Ant will have his ups and downs as the season goes along, but the work he’s put into improving his footwork is paying dividends already. Edwards’ stock is way up four games into the season. If he keeps working on the little things, the sky is the limit for Edwards, who is about three months away from becoming the NBA’s next great superstar.