Timberwolves

Anthony Edwards Still Has A Lot Of Room to Grow

Photo Credit: Nick Wosika (USA TODAY Sports)

Anthony Edwards’ rapid development from inefficient chucker to potential superstar was a pleasant surprise last season. It gave us all high expectations going into this year. Could he take another massive jump forward? His play has been pretty similar to where it was at the end of last season, which is a positive development. We have been allowed to become complacent with a 20 point per game scorer who has 44/36/78 splits. But he still has so much to improve on and is only 20 years old.

Fortunately, he has shown consistency over this past season, and Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell have been on the floor with him more often. Their presence takes away from his overall usage as a player. It forces him to take a backseat on possessions. However, it allows him to be a hidden threat to break out on any given play. And if his shots aren’t falling, he can use his elite scoring prowess to kick out and set up others. All of this happened in his second season after pundits had labeled him a raw prospect with athletic tools out of college.

Shot Selection 

Most people won’t be surprised to hear that Ant can improve his shot selection. He’s taking nearly nine threes a game halfway through this season. Opponents are aware of his elite driving ability and have started to take away lanes with help defenders, opening things up on the perimeter. The Wolves try to get multiple options for Ant through many quick sets, mostly with him on-ball with a high screen from KAT. This action gives Ant a downhill advantage, allowing him to pull up or drive towards the rim. If you combine this with the scouting report on him, you see a shot chart similar to this.

He is taking 4.8 three-point shots a game on dribble pull-ups, connecting with 32% of them, putting him in elite company. Paul George is a known tough shot maker, and he is shooting 27% on his 4.8 dribble pull-up attempts a game. Donovan Mitchell is a comparable player to Ant’s skill set, and he sits at 35% on 6.2 attempts a game. And, of course, Steph Curry, one of the most prolific dribble pull-up shooters, is 38% on 6.8 attempts a game.

Dribble pull-ups are not a highly effective shot. But top-tier shot creation isn’t always efficient. Those who are the best at it still shoot similarly low percentages.

Ant is only taking one three a game when the nearest defender is glued 2-4 feet away from him, connecting on these shots 27.3% of the time per NBA.com. Meanwhile, 5.3 attempts a game come with a defender 2-4 feet near him, and he’s connecting on 48.9% of those. Comparably Kevin Durant (53.6%) and Demar DeRozan (50.1%) are shooting higher percentage on five more attempts a game and taking more mid-range jumpers than Edwards because Ant prefers to score around the rim instead of the mid-range.

Ant shot chart shows direct correlations to Ant taking plenty of heavily contested shots around the rim. Shots that close to the basket are better than the mid-range statistically, but Ant prefers the heavy traffic shots at the rim. If he can add to his bag around the rim, adding a floater or step back mid-range when the defenders collapse, his shot selection will improve meaningfully.

Drawing Fouls and Getting to the Line

We all wish Ant got more whistles from the refs. He is such a physical freak at his age that most adjectives don’t do him justice. He is quick, agile, and as bouncy as it gets. If people want to contest his shot, they must go up vertically with strength and assertiveness. That’s easier said than done. Ant only gets up 3.4 free throws a game, down from last year’s 3.8. Many people take exception to this, but it has only made him more crafty around the rim in my eyes. Once a game, he scores on a clean euro-step reverse bucket because he’s not going straight at the defender’s body.

A finesse play works well for him because he has elite lateral quickness over shot blockers who aren’t as agile, and most of them expect a vertical attempt at the rim. It makes defenders think twice and highlights more of a deep bag of options he has to get a bucket.

If he continues to find new ways to get open around the rim, defenders will be more likely to foul and send him to the line. It is an upward trajectory towards being better in this facet of his game. Simply be a step ahead of everyone and don’t solely rely on athleticism.

Combine these quick developments from a year ago with where he is right now. He still has so much to learn. There’s ample room for development. That’s a scary thought, right? Not to mention, he’s focused on improving the mental side of his game. You have a sprouting talent. Being surrounded by other talented scorers like KAT and DLo and not having to force things on himself will only foster his ability to learn the peripherals. His play looks incredibly similar to the past season. But Ant has meaningfully improved and still has so much more to improve upon.

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Photo Credit: Nick Wosika (USA TODAY Sports)

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