Timberwolves

Ant Can Use This Opportunity To Iron Out Lingering Offensive Issues

Photo Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Karl-Anthony Towns’ calf injury will have a serious effect on the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team is still attempting to iron out its synergy. It has been slowly developing with many significant hurdles, but they have been able to play .500 basketball along the way. Losing their arguably best player and cornerstone since being drafted isn’t something new. Towns has had injuries sideline him in the past couple of seasons. The large difference here is how others can step into those spots.

Who are we talking about here? Third-year guard Anthony Edwards should pick up much of the offensive responsibility left with KAT’s absence. Edwards is the best finisher around the rim on the team outside of Towns, and he already is a volume shooter from three. Ant already gets plenty of touches, leading the team in usage percentage at 27%. That doesn’t mean that he has to pick up more usage necessarily, but how Edwards needs to make the most of this opportunity to be the true No. 1 option offensively.

It has been an interesting season for Ant. With his play last year, he gained a ton of expectations from fans and analysts alike after playing well in his first playoff performance. Going into his third season, people want more of a leap from his scoring and tertiary traits to shine through. While we have seen glimpses of traits outside of scoring, most of his effect on the game comes when he can make shots for his team. This has not been able to correlate to consistent games for Ant, as he has to force things with his shot. In some games, Edwards doesn’t get as many touches as he wants. He also doesn’t possess the ability to be creative off the ball to use his scoring skill set to his advantage.

But with Towns out, Ant will be the main target of the opponents’ wing defenders. In all likelihood, he’ll get even more helpside on his drives into the heart of the defense. He will need to read the defense quicker, and others will need to pick up the shooting, which has been down teamwide.

Earlier in the season, Ant said that he believes smaller lineups allow him to operate better within the offense. KAT’s injury left the Wolves with two rotational bigs in Gobert and Naz Reid. While Naz adds a fun spark to the offense as a shooter and versatile player on the half of the court, I am most looking forward to Ant operating with Gobert through ball screens. Rudy has used the amount of separation he can create from a screen effectively, and Ant can score and get downhill off of those.

If Ant is able to operate, it opens up more options for the offense. Should the Wolves face a more switchable defense that likes to pressure the ball on the screen with the low man coming to the level of the screen, then a ball reversal can help find others. If they face a team that plays a lot of drop coverage, Ant can look for his three-point shot out of a high ball screen or look to attack the low man in the paint.

While it has been brought to the attention that Ant hasn’t found Rudy much as a roller yet, I don’t think it is something to point fingers at just now. Ant is not going to find the roller often as he is still learning how to operate within the PNR and benefits the most from scoring than passing off to his big. It should be something to keep our eyes on in his development for now in Year 3, but nothing too pressing of an issue for now.

Ant is still developing as a playmaker and quick decision-maker, and his improvement starts with him discovering more easy ways to get going offensively. Finding his shot will be vital to kickstarting a more consistent stretch of basketball for him. We have seen in the past how big plays early set him up for a great game. Minnesota can stay afloat by targeting Ant and driving the offense through him.

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Photo Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

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