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Are the Wolves Stunting Anthony Edwards’s Growth?

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Anthony Edwards’ experience is either too much or not enough, depending on when you catch it. Annoying, appetizing and satisfying all in the same game. As an objectively breathtaking 21-year-old with boundless athleticism, this season saw a flash of the budding superstar’s highs marred by a series of erratic shots and futile decisions. provided.

At his most precocious, explosiveness, aggression, and the ability to routinely make impossible shots combine to mark the leap to becoming the type of showstopper that demands award recognition. But progress is not linear. Frequent misreading. He has a tendency to shoot double-teams instead of feeding on open teammates. There’s a dry spell that counteracts his volcanic eruptions, all of which feel far less relevant than they need to be. Edwards is a peripheral character meant to shine as a central figure in the NBA season. A team with undeniable momentum and high playoff ambitions.

Instead, Edwards is the team’s main threat due to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ inconsistent rotation, various injuries (Karl-Anthony Towns has been sidelined since November), and a roster not built for Edwards’ growth. I encountered natural growing pains while learning to be. Keep in mind. Still, he held the reins and kept the flawed team afloat, averaging 24.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. league.

Minnesota attack The best features in basketball When Edwards is on the floor without the team’s nominal point guard, would-be free agent D’Angelo Russell is too happy to shoot and defensively inept to coexist with anyone but Ant long term . Russell Leth Proceedings.A line-up featuring him other than Russell, Townes and Rudy Gobert even better.

Last year’s postseason blew all expectations through the roof (which is really saying something. Patrick Beverley told Edwards he could be the next Michael Jordan before the first round begins).By going all out for the Grizzlies, Edwards He became the first player under the age of 20 in NBA playoff history. Averaged over 25 points on over 60% true shooting.

“He’s a special, special, special, special, special player. I’m so lucky to play with him,” Towns said at the time. “I would even say he’s the most talented player I’ve ever played with.”

After that series, it was easy to imagine how Minnesota would blossom going forward. Walker Kessler, a rim protector, and tried an expensive shortcut by swapping the draft-pick barrel for a Jazz for a 30-year-old Gobert. Defensive Player of the Year whose offensive limitations complicate his value. Instead of setting Edwards (and Townes) up for success, the trade prompted the young Wolves star to navigate trips through his wire-filled room. Minnesota tried to strengthen its defense by skipping steps. This forced Edwards to absorb more offensive responsibilities than ever before.

Things are not going according to plan. The Wolves started his 5-8 record, and by New Year’s Eve he was 16-21.Attack power below average, no rebound on both sides, first time in a while Gobert’s team is better off the courtIn the opening weeks of the season, Edwards (understandably) complained about narrow lanes (more on this later) and his conditioning is (legitimately) summoned in publicTowns then went bankrupt in late November, leaving Edwards without an ideal pick-and-roll partner who had spent his entire career dragging the big guys out of the paint. But midway through the mixed bag of the season, Edwards settled on a borderline all-star campaign.

He’s not where Ja Morant was in 2022 (himself in the middle of a third-year leap, or a realistic All-NBA/most improved player candidate), but his complement Analyzing Ant’s production within the context of an environment where there is a dichotomy, it would be nice to have a pass-first point guard who could free up space on the floor and not be overwhelmed on defense, but he’s been on multiple All-Star teams. The question of whether or not to make aIt was very difficult not to choose him this year!)

Instead, it is more convenient to ask what type he will be the force For Edwards to reach his full potential and become a bona fide competitor chief his ball his handler, he must become a playmaking master who can set the tables. When Please turn over.

Estimating his best moments, it’s not too hard to imagine a shade of James Harden or Luka Doncic. Threatening Future is the future that 29 NBA organizations fear.

The tools that become an elite offensive engine are visible whenever two defenders come close to the ball, Edwards moves the ball before the defense expects it, and creates an advantage over the other four Wolves. Here’s a perfect example (not perfect after Gobert flabs a dunk):

Instead of pulling up or turning a corner, Edwards is much harder to stop when read like this.

But also Edwards really like Ultimately, he could be the type of star who can score at will with efficient splits, but that doesn’t necessarily make life easier for those around him. Think Donovan Mitchell or Zach LaVine. He’s a very athletic and brilliant scorer who’s consistently unaccustomed to balancing being a full-time floor general with his own bucket. That version of Edwards might win a scoring title he might or he might two, but success in the playoffs would be another proposition.

Of the 85 players with at least 400 pick-and-rolls this season, Edwards Passes Least, Shots MostHis shot choices are unsettling (pun intended). If an opposing player is in the gap and a teammate is wide open to his 3, he may respond with a competing midrange pullup. Regardless of time and score, if a defender hides under the screen, the ball will go into the air.that’s not great Considering his pullup rate.

Much like the franchise that drafted him, Edwards skips a step. These possessions do not have enough patience. A spin to the left hand is fun, especially for someone with unparalleled physical prowess who can blast through slits in space with a myriad of moves.You can throw him into the paint.

With a 3-point rating, 11 points lower than last year, Edwards also developed a pseudo-obsession with the worst shots in basketball.More specifically, he leads League of A 2-point jumper should stay at least 21 feet from the basket so that his toes smear the arc frequently.

Edwards doesn’t need to perform 50 pick-and-rolls in a game to reach his ceiling. But knowing he’s got a fair amount of attention, a physical advantage, and advanced ball skills, it’s easy to rationalize having the ball in his hands whenever possible.

The chemistry (or lack thereof) with Edwards and Gobert is a chapter in his own book of struggles. It’s politely described as a work in progress and dismissed precisely as non-existent. With Edwards and Gobert linking up, the Wolves generate just 1.05 points per possession (52nd of 55 combinations).More Notable: Gobert Made 8 shots all season After he set the Edwards screen. 8! And only a few of Gobert’s eight shots were clean lob dunks. This nicely encapsulates the ugliness of the rest.

During Wednesday night’s win over the Pelicans, Jonas Valanciunas defended Edwards and Gobert’s high pick-and-roll, ran up to the screen, and made one play that left Rudy wide open with a dive to the rim. there were. Edwards saw his open teammate cut into the rim and instead picked his contested three that didn’t go in.

this is not a crisis very Not yet, but becoming one. Earlier this year, I asked Mike Conley What was the biggest difference between this Jazz offense and the one he helped the Shepherd over the past few seasons? When, or standing in a dunker’s spot and not waiting for Rob, he’s usually dodging into the paint and clogging the lane. Those moments disturb Edwards.

Of 97 players who have driven the ball at least 250 times this season, Edwards finished with just 16.7% of the passes. 6th lowestAt least one Help Defender is present 85.7% of the time.

Spacing issues are real. The Timberwolves have him making just 11.6 3s per game, which puts him 18th in the league. Down 21.5% from last seasonTownes’ absence has something to do with it. Jaylen Nowell’s shooting percentage is her 28.5% and there are no other large outside threats playing meaningful time on this roster. Gobert and Kyle Anderson (together took 53 3 shots in 2,291 minutes) shared the floor.

When Edwards plays without Gobert and Anderson, Minnesota’s offense will be historically efficientThe general lack of space helps explain why Edwards, who can’t capture his first steps in flash photography, doesn’t slide downhill more often. His 12.06 drives per game is a lot, Fred VanVleet, RJ Barrett and a whopping 29 others. Bad spacing or not, Edwards accelerates too quickly to get into the paint more often than he does. His dunk rate is a career-low of his 4.4%, and he didn’t score his first shot on the court against Gobert until his 12th game of the season.

Edwards’ defense is touch and go. In a recent game against the Bucks, he chased Giannis Antetokounmpo up and down the court for several minutes.

He handles the ball well and is strong and quick enough to hold the ground against multiple positions. He’s also averaging 1.7 steals per game (tied for him for 5th in the league), which is certainly impressive. But Edwards got there by gambling way more than Minnesota needed or wanted.

Overall, Edwards’ trajectory remains steep, considering the circumstances he’s had to endure and the positive growth steps he’s taken over the past few months. There is a possibility.

Something to think about in the early days of Edwards’ steady evolution is that Edwards’ playmaking instincts could need some work. But his path to becoming a reliable, high-usage conductor has been haunting his execution, especially if he stops settling and hones in on his shot selection, which at times becomes his own worst enemy. It’s possible. He’s already demonstrated the ability to get the shot he wants. Once his priorities shift and he’s able to operate on a system that can actually free up space on the floor, Edwards becomes unstoppable. Only he can prevent himself from reaching the

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