Bill Simmons Doubles Down On the Ant-DWade Comparison

Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Simmons had Rob Mahoney on his Wednesday podcast to break down the latest happenings in the FIBA World Cup. After discussing the early game times and watching them on ESPN+, Simmons led off the podcast by raving about Anthony Edwards. Like Eric Spolstra and many people before him, Simmons sees a little of Dwyane Wade’s game in Ant.

The big revelation that everybody’s been talking about is Anthony Edwards kinda becoming ‘the guy’ on this team, and you can feel in that Lithuania game when they really needed some baskets.

And, you know, this is what happens in international (basketball). It’s like, ‘Okay,’ everybody looks at the one guy, ‘you’ve gotta do stuff.’

Were you prepared for how close he was to mid-2000s Dwyane Wade? Like just kinda that ‘06 kinda playoffs run Wade of you’re not really a point guard, but you have the ball all the time. You go by anybody you want. You’re not an incredible inside shooter, but you’re good enough. And you can get contact and bounce off people.

I had never really thought of him in the Wade context, but that was my big takeaway.

Mahoney pointed out that Edwards’ talent stands out against FIBA competition.

Well, especially against international-level competition, where the athletic gap for Edwards is even bigger than it is in the NBA. And normally, when we see slashers like him, again, a guy who’s so explosive off the dribble, who can get to his spots so easily, they don’t always translate that well to international play.

But he has just enough of a jumper to keep people honest. He’s been consistent enough from the mid-range to really punish some teams. And man, just with the way Team USA tries to get up and down in transition, it really plays well for him.

But to your point, he’s been their best half-court weapon to date. It hasn’t really been even close, and they’re gonna need a lot more of that. Because otherwise, I don’t know. Team USA’s half-court offense maybe as gummy as we should have expected, given the track record with some of these teams in international competition.

But they’re gonna have to pull it out against pretty tough competition. And certainly tougher than Italy, who we saw them dispatch pretty easily early this morning.

Simmons went over potential Team USA matchups before circling back to Edwards.

With the Edwards thing, did it change your feeling? Like does any of this affect how you feel about the upcoming season? Because Edwards I think is the only guy on this team that made me maybe re-think a little in my head what the ceiling of that team is.

I don’t think they’ll win the title, but could he become one of the seven-, eight-best guys in the league, like what happened with SGA (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) last year? Where it’s like, all of a sudden, if you’re making any top-10 list, SGA has to be on that list. And I was wondering if that could be a possibility with Edwards.

Where do you stand on that?

Mahoney believes Edwards’ FIBA breakout will translate to the NBA.

I think if it was just this, if it was just FIBA, I would be a little more skeptical about the long-term prospect. But because we’ve seen this arc from him going back, especially into the back end of the regular season, some into the playoffs, and his progression reading the floor as a playmaker. Kinda being more, to your point, a lead guy context, whether that’s a point guard or a dominant ballhandler or not, all that stuff is really promising.

They still have a lot to figure out in Minnesota in terms of making all the pieces fit just so. All these bigs and figuring all that out. But the fact that he can be this kind of player, and worst-case scenario, you can fall back on having the most dynamic creator on the floor, it’s a pretty nice floor to have in a pretty crowded Western Conference.

I don’t know how optimistic that they’re gonna reach their maximum potential. But they could level out as just being consistently better than these teams out west, just because of him

Simmons was impressed by his defense.

We saw the flashes with him defensively, and he’s had a couple stretches in these games where he’s like, ‘I’m gonna absolutely torture this guy. I’m just a way better athlete.’

Mahoney agreed.

On-ball, he’s always been pretty sensational. Off-ball, I think we can politely say he can get pretty sleepy at times, and you still see that with Team USA. But they switch so much more in international play than the Timberwolves do, and so they – when you think about why Team USA plays the way it does, so much of it is just maximizing the talent and athleticism that they have available.

And that’s kinda most accentuated by players like Edwards, who can be on the ball as much as possible. You don’t have to worry about trailing cutters and working the back-door stuff quite as often. He can just do what he does best defensively, and that’s just be a really dogged, get into your jersey, really make your life a living hell kind of ball-denier and ball-stopper. And that’s a really fun player to watch.

Can he be that all the time in a system that doesn’t switch? I have my doubts, and that’s when we need to see him really grow up as a defender. And his awareness and IQ need to come along on that end. But he’s such a great athlete, his instincts are really good, and so many of these guards in international play just don’t have the ability to get past him at all, or really keep their dribble alive against him sometimes.

Simmons sees linear progression with Edwards and outlines the next step for him.

He’s hitting every checkpoint you’d want to hit. Now, he hasn’t had like the crazy playoff moment yet. But when you think, he’s 22 years old. But when you’re gonna be a special basketball player, you kinda want him to be special in this tournament, even though he’s only 22.

And I think, reading between the lines in the quotes, and, you know, from some of the whispers around, I don’t think they expected him to be ‘the guy’ on this team. And I think they’ve been pretty honest about that. I don’t think that they want to come out and say, ‘Hey, we thought this was gonna be [Jalen] Brunson at the end of games.’ But they’ve said it in so many different ways.

Ultimately, there’s some skepticism locally and nationally that the Minnesota Timberwolves have built the right roster around Edwards. Still, everyone’s seeing what kind of player he can become. Fortunately, two NBA experts believe his FIBA play will translate to the league. Dwyane Wade is a pretty nice comparison, even if Simmons isn’t the first to make it.

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