Ant's Mid-Range Efficiency Has Made Him Unstoppable

Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Three-level scoring. Being able to score effectively at the rim, in the mid-range, and from three-point range. It’s a term that you hear people throw around casually in basketball discourse. However, few players can do it effectively, especially in a prominent role and with volume. Only so many players can score efficiently all over the court. It differentiates good scorers from great scorers. While it is difficult to maintain over the 82-game regular season, it only becomes more difficult into the playoffs.

But Anthony Edwards has taken that leap. He is showcasing a journey of years of work in the playoffs, building up to delivering on the biggest stage possible.

Ant has started to tool around much more in the past two regular seasons with his mid-range jump shooting. It had reached a point where the fanbase is frustrated and curious why he isn’t turning those long two-point jump shots into more efficient three-point attempts. Why doesn’t he just attack the rim when he has the momentum downhill?

Ant’s shot diet was not as simple as pulling up for these mid-range jump shots against drop coverage or when the defense presented an opportunity. He was experimenting with anything from contested jumpers to banked jumpers, fading post-up shots, or snaking jump shots out of a ball screen.

While the mid-range volume and versatility increased dramatically over these two seasons, he still wasn’t very efficient. No matter the sample size, he continued to trend around the 35% mark.

  • 2020-21 | 32/122 (26.2%)
  • 2021-22 | 37/105 (35.2%)
  • 2022-23 | 85/231 (36.8%)
  • 2023-24 | 105/291 (35.1%)

It was all part of the due process, though. Just like anything, it’s hard to learn without consistent reps and practice. Later, you will find ways to reap the benefits, and nothing has been more rewarding for Ant’s mid-range development than its importance to his play to start the already historic Timberwolves playoff run.

Ant had already been playoff-proven entering this season, so he invited lofty expectations. Tim Connelly sped up Minnesota’s timeline by trading for Rudy Gobert, 31, but Edwards and the team have proven that they’re ready to win now.

Through the first six games of the playoffs, Ant has been putting together some of his best shot-making performances of his career. However, his mid-range shooting has stood out the most. He has shot 15 of 30 through these first six games, including 7/11 on fadeaways and 5/6 on turnarounds. He is taking and making difficult shots, showing the world that he can create for himself at an elite level from all across the floor.

Minnesota’s first-round matchup against the Phoenix Suns forced Ant into a lot of these mid-range shots due to the defensive schematics. Phoenix double-teamed him often and built a defensive wall that limited his rim attempts overall. He took what the defense showed him and still made due. Edwar has found ways to take that success into Round 2 against the Denver Nuggets, a very different team. He shot 6 from 10 from the mid-range in the first two games of the series.

Edwards’ efficiency has been a bright spot, especially after the regular season inefficiencies and challenging nights. But anytime a player of Ant’s caliber can level up their game, it will only put more pressure on the defense. When someone has this many options, their skills begin to weld together and complement each other.

Ant is already elite at driving to the rim and shooting a pull-up jumper from three, which puts stress on defenses. Defenses cannot take away everything; something will always be open.

However, executing on all three levels is easier said than done because it still requires a supreme level of quick decision-making and proprioception. However, the best shooters can create a cat-and-mouse game between the ball handler and defenders, creating an ever-present angle to success. Additionally, teams adjust more quickly in the playoffs, making the entire context even more difficult for a ball handler to read.

Still, Edwards has created plenty of options showcasing this offensive versatility, all through his existing traits and mid-range shot-making ability.

  • If Ant receives a ball screen, the pull-up mid-range jumper against drop coverage is likely there.
  • If Ant receives a postup, he can use his strength against his defender to create space with his defender for a fading jumper.
  • If Ant receives a kick out on the arc and his defender closes out hard, he can now more effectively knock down those mid-range shots.
  • If Ant is getting downhill and the defender respects his ability to drive to the rim, sagging off him more, he can stop and pop for the mid-range jumper.
  • If Ant gets stopped by his defender, he has found counters, like his step-through, to find space for a shot.

Ant’s opportunities to knock down mid-range jump shots only unlock more for his game and the team. If teams begin to respect Ant’s shot-making and sell out on his pull-up abilities, the extra pass is then available. It becomes more complex within the flow of an actual possession. But if the defense is overcompensating, there will always be an outlet for success.

While the mid-range jumper doesn’t always need to be Ant’s go-to shot, there are no downsides to adding another skill to his deep bag of tricks. Becoming more versatile as an offensive weapon will only improve his game and help those around him.

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