Anthony Edwards Has Taken Major Strides As A Playmaker

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Edwards has developed into a go-to scorer for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Even as a rookie, he excelled at getting to the rim. Edwards has also improved his three-point efficiency in every season and increased his mid-range volume to become a true three-level threat. If he can draw more fouls and increase his free throw rate, he could become one of the best scorers in the league.

Edwards’ scoring ability allows him to take over games, as he did against the Boston Celtics on November 6. He combined scoring three straight buckets in overtime with lockdown defense to lift the Wolves in that game.

By now, almost every NBA fan knows about Edwards’ two-way ability. But playmaking is another crucial aspect of his game that can further elevate him.

Edwards never fully complemented his strong drives with passing in past seasons. He sometimes “put his blinders up” and took low-percentage shots in crowds of defenders instead of making an easy pass. It’s in this area that Edwards has made significant strides. Ultimately, his proficiency as a passer will allow him to impact every game, especially when shots aren’t falling.

Although he led the Timberwolves with 38 against the Celtics, he also made crucial plays for his teammates:

Edwards’ shooting ability causes Kristaps Porzingis to bite on a shot fake and allow him to drive into the paint. Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson slide out of the way to create more space for Edwards, but their defenders sag off and help to stop his drive.

Sam Hauser helps from the top of the key, and Jrue Holiday fills in from beneath the basket while Jayson Tatum fronts Rudy Gobert. Edwards would have had to hoist up a shot with three defenders on him, and he would be able to hit Gobert with a lob. Doing so forced Jaylen Brown to cover three Wolves on the perimeter. But Brown just watches the ball and leaves Edwards with a passing lane to Jaden McDaniels.

Brown’s positioning took away the pass to Troy Brown Jr. at the top, so Edwards made the correct pass.

Not every pass is or needs to be flashy. Edwards just had to see McDaniels open at the top against the Atlanta Hawks. Instead of forcing a contested three, he sees what is essentially a flare screen by Gobert that freed up McDaniels. A simple play, but it resulted in three points for the Wolves.

Edwards hasn’t just improved on passing out of drives and simple passes. He’s seen the court clearer and has made passes off-script.

Being a great passer means making plays as they appear. Exploiting spacing, positioning, and teammates’ abilities can happen quickly. In the clip below, Edwards wastes no time in capitalizing on the Jazz defense.

Employing a 2-3 zone, Gobert finds a soft spot behind and to the left of Walker Kessler. Gobert realizes his freedom to move, and Edwards reacts accordingly. The pass is perfect. Kessler notices his mistake and tries to break it up, but Edwards puts enough air under it to float it up just beside the rim for an easy finish.

In addition to finding Gobert off-script, Edwards has improved his pick-and-roll chemistry with him. He’s flashed the ability to manipulate defenses with pacing and body control.

Victor Wembanyama meets Edwards in drop coverage after coming around a Gobert screen. To buy time to allow Gobert to roll and to hold onto advantageous positioning, Edwards shields off the recovering Keldon Johnson. The play is truly made when he jab steps to his right, bringing both defenders towards him and leaving Gobert open. Edwards makes the jump pass, and Gobert completes the play easily with no Spurs defender stepping in to help.

Perhaps the best pass Edwards has made all season came with 12 seconds left to play against the Golden State Warriors on Nov. 14.

As many other teams have also done, Golden State’s defense consistently sent double teams on Edwards. This play wasn’t any different.

Dario Šarić and Brandin Podziemski attempted to fluster Edwards on the three-point line. Edwards drives, but Kevon Looney meets him at the elbow. Edwards keeps his cool and finds Mike Conley wide open on the weak side. Steve Kerr has Chris Paul matched up with Conley to start the possession. Paul had to slide down to prevent a dump-off to Anderson, who smartly ran below the basket to clear space. Andrew Wiggins is late in his rotation, and Conley sinks it.

Like Golden State did on that play, Edwards can expect to see defenses fixate on him. He and Karl-Anthony Towns are Minnesota’s offensive engines. If Edwards can continue to develop as a passer, he’ll impact every game. He’s seen his assists increase from 4.4 to 5.1, and his assist ratio increase from 19.2% to 23.1% this season. His combination of defense, shooting, driving, and now passing could bring the Wolves a long way this season.

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Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In a three-game season series against the Phoenix Suns, the Minnesota Timberwolves struggled to get anything going offensively or defensively. The Suns affected Minnesota’s flow, forcing them […]

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