Timberwolves

Ant's Quick Decision Making Is Vital For Minnesota's Playoff Success

Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Being the engine of an offense is already a tough ask for any player. But to do it on a top seed looking to change the history and norms of the franchise is even more difficult. Those are the exact circumstances that Anthony Edwards faces. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ 55-plus wins are impressive, but they have larger goals as they seek to flip the narrative this playoffs.

Edwards is searching for his first career playoff series win, Minnesota’s first in two decades.

Ant has already proven himself in the playoffs, averaging 28.1 points per game on 46.9% from the field and 38% from three in his 11 career games. But there’s still more he can do to slow things down in the biggest moments.

Edwards has already taken some of these strides during the regular season. Making an undeniable playmaking leap this season. He can much more effectively deal with pressure within the heart of the defense, doing so in multiple play types. For example, his post-ups, where he can read the help side defenders to change his positioning. Or he’ll kick out to start a ball reversal that could lead to an open shot from the opposite corner.

He’ll also make the skip pass. Edwards can read the over-helping corner defender operating as a low-man help and throw a long pass across the court to an open shooter. We didn’t see him do that successfully often in his first three seasons in the league or nearly with this much consistency.

 

Circumstances tend to differ in the playoffs, though. Nonetheless, Ant has had some of his best performances in these big moments, and it is a difficult challenge for good reason. The league’s best playoff performers get their flowers because of the challenge involved. Opponents will do everything they can to slow opposing stars down.

Ant will be their No. 1 target.

The Phoenix Suns are a potential first-round matchup, and they were physical with Ant last week, making him uncomfortable. They were pests on the ball while loading up behind the point-of-attack defender. It’s not quite as dramatic as how teams defend players like Giannis Antetokounmpo. Still, teams will be much more comfortable forcing Ant into more jump shots, especially from the mid-range.

If he cannot find any rhythm downhill toward the rim or find comfort within the arc, it will create a domino effect on Minnesota’s offense. It will slow it down and limit the Wolves’ chances of winning, no matter how well their defense performs.

Chris Finch highlighted the importance of Ant’s decision-making in the press conference after the Phoenix game.

Like many other stars around the league, it’s easier to see how Ant becomes more comfortable when he gets in rhythm. Being multidimensional as a scorer and playmaker while still processing quickly is his route to ultimate success for an offensive superstar. While it sounds simple, few players are capable of executing it. Ant is already in these discussions at his age, which is impressive enough.

Edwards has rarely stagnated for long, though. Bouncing back in the next game against the Los Angeles Lakers, recording 8 assists and maintaining complete control of the game.

Most importantly for the Wolves and Ant, Karl-Anthony Towns has been cleared for full contact 5-on-5 work and could return soon. KAT’s absence has given Ant a platform to garner more defensive attention for a month. But things should get easier for him now that Ant’s got his running mate and offensive partner back.

No matter who the Wolves play in the playoffs, they’ll try to prevent Ant from doing what he does best. Minnesota’s opponent will bring more schematic changes and adaptations because the playoffs are a constant chess match of adjustments both within the games and on a game-to-game basis.

Adjustments can be king in the playoffs. However, in Minnesota’s case, they shouldn’t stray too far from what has been working well throughout the regular season. If the Wolves want to exorcize their playoff demons, they must find balance in their most dynamic player on the court.

Ant has to make the right reads, but the coaching staff must put him in favorable situations. Fortunately, the blueprint has been aligned for success. All it is going to take is a big moment, and Edwards has always delivered in his career so far. His scoring output is always going to stand out. However, if Ant can continue to make quick decisions on the ball, whether that is making the right pass or a cross-court assist, it will only raise Minnesota’s ceiling for success.

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