At the age of 21, Anthony Edwards has grown up the A team leader with deep playoff aspirations.
like Minnesota TimberwolvesThe 2022-23 season has threatened to derail several times, they’ve looked to their burgeoning superstar as their captain tasked with averting total disaster. The relationship between Edwards, the most important person in the Timberwolves franchise moving forward, and his locker room has shown itself this season. It is this connection that keeps you sleeping well at night, largely because it is organic.
Edwards wasn’t thrown into a group full of teammates who also couldn’t legally celebrate their victories with a post-game beer – one he had by default. The locker room was owned by many vets before him, but now in his third season in the NBA, he has earned the right to lead the locker room through his play and the way he interacts with his teammates. He is able to offer constructive criticism in an appropriate manner, but he also makes a point of deflecting the praise he receives for a teammate who helped him win.
You can set your watch on that during your on-court interview with Bally Sports after the game, where the only murky part of the equation is which of his buddies will get credit on any given night. Whether it’s Taurean Prince, Kyle Anderson, Jaden McDaniels, Jordan McLaughlin, etc., Edwards makes a point to introduce genuine Praise your teammates in public. Surely, it means a lot to the other players in the locker room.
This is all great, because it’s just part of what Ant is. It’s real. Wolves have a leader for the foreseeable future, but they aren’t Just Because of his personal skills. Of course, a lot of Edwards getting a lead role has to do with his actual playing on the ground, too.
Edwards has won this shield in part by playing in every match. This may not sound like much, but it is not the norm in modern times. It is particularly unusual for a superstar to play through a nagging injury in the way that Edwards continues to play through what the team describes as sore left groin. He landed awkwardly on that hip in Milwaukee on Dec. 30, but he hasn’t missed a game since.
In January, he averaged about 23/5/5 over the average league efficiency, despite being the focal point of every opponent’s defense. Minnesota has a net rating of +7.8 with Edwards on the floor during that stretch, leading them to a 6-2 stretch to start the new year. Those raw numbers also include the two games he started and left early (although, oddly enough, he did return after being ruled out in Detroit on Jan. 11). The point is, Edwards seemed to falter at times, but he more or less managed to play through this injury and look like himself.
You better believe his teammates appreciate that strength and desire to win.
Austin Rivers on Anthony Edwards: “It just sets the tone for such an invested guy. He’s here. This guy plays through injuries, it doesn’t matter. At the Houston game, a lot of guys were sitting around, like, ‘Hey, we’re going to win without him.'” But Ant He got out there and really showed us.”
– Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) January 14, 2023
Not only does Edwards show up and play every game, but he plays as well as a 21-year-old charged with the extra burden of leading a team.
What makes him so unique, though, is that we still don’t really know who or what he’ll become. I mean, we’re flattered by his chances of becoming a legitimate superstar during his prime, but because of the way his career started, we don’t have a good understanding of what it is. Type Elite player He will be. While he’s only 21, it’s not uncommon for a young player to be of this good form, and there’s still a lot of mystery around what kind of player he’ll eventually be at his peak.
We knew guys like Ja Morant and Luka Dončić would become dominant stars because of their talents on the ball, and while Devin Booker was thriving, it was fairly clear what made him special was his willingness and ability to get out of the game. Ball and be a killer play catch. The #1 General Pick of 2020 flashes a bit on both sides of that spectrum, which is nice, but it only makes it difficult to project accurately. Who is the is in the future.
The most common discussion of Edwards moving forward revolves around how much he will be on the ball, and how much playmaking responsibility he will have. Ant can be tempted all the way to play a role on the ball, trying to follow in the footsteps of other ball-dominant stars like James Harden or Doncic. On the other end of the spectrum, he can keep his balanced, more offensive diet and rely on Paul George, a Poker archetype. More use will come, but it’s about how much for Edwards.
The Timberwolves have a very talented clay ball. Over the first two and a half seasons of his career, they saw material quality steadily improve without starting to take on strong form. Edwards is still the flamboyant yet sculptable player he was when he entered the league; Only now, the final product that Wolves’ coaching staff works on is of the highest quality. Safe to say, it is Not next Dion waiters.
You can tell me that in five years, Edwards has become one of the five most used players in the league and I wouldn’t be surprised. In a similar vein, you could tell me his use increased from where he started his career (27.2% career, 28.5% this season), but he’s maintained his off-the-ball role to a degree a la George/Booker, and I think so too. He can still become true Any thing, He is likely to excel in either role.
It is simply a matter of which is better.
I’ve noted several times here that I personally think Edwards’ skill set is best used in George’s archetype than in a full-time lead guard role. Part of that belief stems from how great it is to play.
for every nba.com/statsThe Atlanta, Georgia native has made 42.3% of catches and catches 3s this season, up from making 41.3% of those attempts last season. He doesn’t take a lot of them, but his sample of him being a 3-point hit-and-run shooter is big enough now to say he’s pretty good at it. It would be a shame to exclude that from his game.
He’s made real strides as a playmaker this season, which makes it all the more tempting to increase his Ant usage significantly. What still worries me is that the leap he made with the ball in his hands took him from a sluggish as a passer to a more poised, less reactive, but still less of a player. Proactive passerby. To be assigned to use guys like Morant, Dončić or Harden, being a proactive passer is usually a requirement. These three are orchestrators, while Edwards is still learning his scales.
Furthermore, the only ballplayers who have really been able to maintain this level of utilization while remaining a good defensive player are LeBron James and the late great Kobe Bryant. I think Edwards is a potential MVP candidate during his prime years, but excuse me if I hold him to a lower standard than LeBron.
In all seriousness, the effect Ant has shown he can make defensively is an important part of his progression and should be factored into the discussion about who he becomes. The consistency he’s shown at the end of the floor this season is a marked improvement, and the value he adds there in the future is really important.
It is extremely rare to be able to do things like this.
The defensive combination of Edwards and Jaden McDaniels on the wing for the foreseeable future is something to be appreciated.
If this wing duo were to hit the roof of Jayson Tatum/Jaylen Brown, it would have a lot to do with how good they are defensively. It is unlikely that they would be as good as this duo collectively in attack, but there is potential to make up ground in defense to create a legitimate pair at wing level.
So, while I don’t prefer the role of heavy use of Ant, it’s fair to admit that every point against this role is speculative. Meanwhile, Wolves had already begun the process of putting more on his plate, with impressive results. Since Karl-Anthony Towns’ utilization rate went down on November 28, Edwards’ utilization rate has increased to 29.5%, compared to 26.5% before Towns’ injury. Moreover, over the last 15 games, its use has reached 31.0%, and in January it reached 31.9%.
For context, only 16 players averaging 30 minutes or more have a usage rate of 30.0% or higher. Steph Curry’s utilization rate is 29.8%, the highest among those under 30.0%.
The point is, Minnesota continued to give their young star more and more responsibility, and the results only encouraged them to continue to find the inflection point between team-wide use and efficiency. Since Towns’ injury, Minnesota has an offensive rating of 116.1 points per 100 possessions with Edwards on the floor compared to an ORTG of 106.4 with him off the bench. Over the last 15 games, those numbers are 116.4 points/100 on the court and 105.8 points/100 off the field. In January it was 177.7/100 points and 115.4 points.
For reference, the Boston Celtics Leading the NBA in offensive ratings this season at 117.8 points/100, and posting an ORTG of 119.8 with Jason Tatum on the court. In short, Ant doesn’t just drive a good offense, he drives amazing Insult because he gave more responsibility.
On a similar note, believing Edwards’ fleeting vision isn’t good enough to be a super-sized star is what conventional wisdom suggests, but I’m beginning to believe that Edwards’ appeal may be one that defies convention. wisdom.
Anthony Edwards is no Giannis Antetokounmpo, but teams are beginning to prepare for his leadership in the same way teams do two-time MVP.
It’s not just one clip either. The shot didn’t go in, but there’s a reason McDaniels stood alone in the strong corner of Edwards’ fourth-quarter shutout drive against the Jazz on Jan. 16. At the time of an ant pass to McDaniels, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson were chasing Edwards, Ochai Agbaji was helping D’Angelo Russell and had two feet in the paint (partially to Kyle Anderson’s sign), Walker Kessler left Anderson on the weak side of the ground to step in front of the drive also.
The assist was a bit overrated since it was the last bit of the game, but the point remains. Baby attracts a crowd that makes fleeting angles so much easier for him, and having them make his current imperfect vision really not matter much. This only promises to be more fruitful when Towns returns and Minnesota has two deadly on-the-floor scoring options in a time of crunch.
As with most things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Personally, I like the mix of opportunities Edwards has had on and off the ball throughout his career, but I would be foolish not to admit that he happened More responsibility for handling the ball through his game. I don’t want to stretch those responsibilities to the absolute limits where his offensive carry negates his ability to be a defensive asset, but the Wolves would be ridiculous not to at least see how he would handle a utilization rate above 30% for a long period of time, in the same neighborhood as him. Guys like Tatum, Booker, George, Brown, Donovan Mitchell.
With all that said, there are enough signs out there to point to a path that leads to superlative use in the Dončić/Harden mould. In the end, that’s probably the best way to capitalize on his prowess, but I think that would eventually work out if coach Chris Finch was still the leader of the Timberwolves during that time. As a huge proponent of a freer offense as opposed to a heavy pick and damage offense, I think it’s near impossible for Ant to ever be pushed into a 35%+ utilization role over the course of an entire season as long as Finch is his coach.
If the first few seasons of Anthony Edwards’ career have taught us anything, it’s that he can probably handle a lot more than we give him credit for, even if those standards are high. We should know by now that it’s going to be awesome, but the road to getting there promises to be the most enjoyable part. That we hardly have any idea what this trip will look like is what excites us most.