Timberwolves

Anthony Edwards Needs To Refine His Midrange Game

Photo Credit: Christine Tannous-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves need to build off their success last year if they want to be a factor in the postseason next year. Like every team, they will look to make trades to upgrade their roster. But internal development is typically how most young teams improve, and Minnesota’s impact players are in their mid-20s or younger.

Anthony Edwards, 20, has the chance to truly become an elite talent heading into his third season. This season, we saw Ja Morant increase his statistics and win the Most Improved Player award in his third season. Ant improved meaningfully from Year 1 to Year 2, but we could see Ja-like growth as he prepares for his third season.

Below is how Ant’s improvement from his first to his second year compares to Ja’s:

They have very similar scoring statistics from Year 1 to Year 2, small increments of points, and shot attempts. Ant went from 16.8 attempts to 17.3 while Ja went from 14.0 to 15.2. While Ja has the upper hand on assist numbers putting up 7.3 and 7.4 in Years 1 and 2, a big offseason could help Ant separate himself from the young crowd of league talent. However, he would need to continue to build upon his scoring prowess and put himself in elite territory in the league.

Edwards’ improvement can manifest through different facets. He’s improved some aspects of his game drastically from Year 1 to Year 2. His catch-and-shoot numbers on threes went from 1.1 makes on 3.4 attempts shooting 33.5% to 1.3 makes on 3.1 attempts for 41.3%. That’s a significant bump, putting him in excellent territory among shooters and even more creative scorers. His improvement in that area suggests that Ant could still be highly effective off-ball as a spot-up shooter, making it easier to not worry about him when Dlo and KAT are taking away usage.

Edwards could also become more efficient offensively by being more effective in the in-between game. He tends to fall in love with his three-point shot to shoot himself into a rhythm or out of slumps from other spots on the floor.

On the latter, he can get frustrated when consistently going downhill, often with his defender at his hip and a help defender at the rim. When he cannot consistently hit a shot from around the rim or 3, he has to force shots. While he can frequently make superhuman layups in traffic, weaving his way creatively to get a bucket, it’s not a sustainable approach. He needs to refine his shot selection, which is typical for a 20-year-old scorer.

It is easy to nitpick his game. But we are looking at a soon-to-be third-year player with career shooting splits of 42.9/34.4/78.1 on 17.1 FGA, which is incredible for this early in his career. Similar elite players at his position, such as Donovan Mitchell, averaged 22.1 ppg on 43.5/35.1/80.5 on 18.5 attempts a game, right in line with Ant.

Edwards could round out his scoring by adding an in-between game. It could be a floater that he often messed around with his rookie year. He could also refine his mid-range attack off the dribble, which he used much more frequently this season.

Over his first two seasons, Ant only shot 23.5% of his shots from three feet to the three-point line, shooting only 35.1% on these attempts. It’s difficult to master, especially in today’s era of limiting those types of shots. It’s also hard to be productive from that range in Minnesota’s current scheme. Comparably, these shots are something that Devin Booker has made a name for himself as he developed over his career.

Booker shot 16.3% of his shots from the 3 feet to the three-point line on 39.5% shooting in his first two seasons, which is comparable to Ant’s numbers. Comparatively, Booker shot 16.4% of his shots at an impressive 46.1% over his next four seasons. That’s incredible when you consider the inefficiency of these shots and the difficulty in how the defense opposes his looks.

If Ant can slowly improve upon this trait, he is on the way to joining this elite company of young scorers in the league. He already shoots many shots from this range and showed us flashes of difficult makes in the playoffs. Now it’s all about refining that and turning it into a norm. It’s exceptional for a 20-year-old player to have such high aspirations already. He has many more years until his prime to fully refine his game, and it is something the Wolves should fully unleash to maximize his potential.

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Photo Credit: Christine Tannous-USA TODAY Sports

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