Anthony Edwards Needs To Build Upon His Intermediate Game

Photo Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Edwards will only be 22 when he begins his fourth season in the association. He has already proven as much as any player has in his first three years. Edwards is a career 21.6 PPG scorer with 44.1/35.2/77.0 shooting splits. He’s also the leading bucket-getter in his draft class, putting him in elite company for players on their rookie contract. Ant has shown that he can create his own shot off the dribble when needed while also being able to knock down open looks on catch-and-shoot opportunities. He is also an absolute bruiser downhill, using his sheer strength and size to bully opponents under the rim or use his patented euro-step to get easy layups.

However, it’s worth examining Edwards’ mid-range pull-up game, where he showcased mesmerizing footwork and a plethora of moves to get to his spots. But questions still remain. Is it effective? And how efficient is this facet of the game? Not every player needs to be a three-level scorer. However, when you have the ability to make tough shots beyond the arc and at the rim, why couldn’t Ant can add to his game in between and build upon that foundation?

Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and DeMar DeRozan have made their money by being able to hit tough mid-range shots. Ant doesn’t have to be as reliant on the midrange as they are. It doesn’t even need to be in the upper echelon of this skill set. But he can still diversify his shot diet more by looking at how these players can attack drop coverage more effectively.

Butler scored 37 points per game in Round 1 against a strong Milwaukee Bucks defense. Jrue Holiday, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez all have earned all-defensive recognition in their career. Butler took advantage of what the Bucks were willing to give up in their drop coverage scheme by using his mid-range craftiness to take the series.

Despite the highlight plays Edwards produced in the mid-range against the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs, his career percentages don’t favor him from this area. Per Cleaning the Glass, Ant is shooting only 33.9% on two-pointers not at the rim in his career. That equated to percentile rankings of 17th in his rookie year (2020-21), 21st in his second season, and 29th this year.

The good sign here is his volume went up drastically from 253 attempts his rookie year to 449 last season. Edwards’ efficiency has also increased linearly. But he still needs to do a lot of work for it to be league-average for his position. However, the amount of volume and difficulty of shots that he takes mitigate some of that concern.

The Wolves don’t particularly need him to be in the upper tier of mid-range scorers, either. Climbing up to league-average status on that frequency would be a tremendous upgrade from where it stands. We have already seen his myriad moves and the difficult shots that he has knocked down.

That’s why I want to see Edwards continue to find this shot. The ball will inevitably fall to him in the mid-range in situations where he doesn’t want to force a three. Ant is not always going to be able to get to the rim, and the defense may force that shot if the big man sits low to take the lane to the rim away.

Players who get caught in the mid-range have to be reliant on some sort of intermediate shot, and the floater has not been very effective. While the mid-range shots involve more footwork, ball fakes, patience, and using the glass when needed to be effective. There are building blocks in place for that to succeed.

You can still argue that the mid-range shot is not analytically sound because it is not a shot at the rim or a three. However, when a player is the lead shot-taker and maker of a team, he will find himself in situations to take those looks because it’s the best option over passing to a lesser teammate. We may grow tired of the three-level scorer cliché, but if Ant can continue to build on his mid-range foundation, it will accentuate his other abilities and give him more time to become a better foul drawer. That will help create more consistency offensively and keep the defenders guessing even more when he is looking for a bucket.

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