There are few individuals in the NBA more athletic than Anthony Edwards.
The 20-year-old Atlanta native possesses that rare combination of balletic grace and overwhelming power reminiscent of some of the game’s most iconic names, particularly those known for slamming down ferocious dunks. Larry Johnson. Clyde Drexler. Dr. J.
Edwards is among the league’s best at attacking, using his explosive first step and 41-inch vertical to blow past opposing perimeter defenders and rise above the big men waiting for him at the rim. He levitates in the air seemingly forever, contorting his body as he absorbs contact and looking for an opening around the 7-footer’s outstretched arms. He releases the ball and…doesn’t make the shot as often as one might assume. And that’s perplexing.
As of this writing, Edwards’ 64.4% field goal percentage within three feet of the rim ranks 150th out of 267 qualified players, according to Basketball-Reference. He drops to 210th (32.9%) when considering shots between 3-10 feet of the basket.
While NBA.com divvies up shot attempts differently based on distance and doesn’t provide a clean way to determine where individuals rank compared to others in the league, their version doesn’t paint a much brighter picture for Edwards. He is finishing a mere 58.1% of his attempts within five feet of the rim and only 30.0% of his attempts between 5-9 feet.
Anthony Edwards' FG% at the rim, 2020: 54.7%— Lucas Seehafer (@seehafer_) December 14, 2021
Anthony Edwards' FG% at the rim, 2021: 54.8% pic.twitter.com/ZbzohJvF5n
To hammer the point beyond recognition, Edwards’ 42.7% field goal percentage during drives ranks 91st among NBA players with at least 50 attempts while coming in 21st in total tries (143).
This begs the question: Why isn’t Anthony Edwards a better finisher? He has the physical profile and raw talent, but why does the ball fail to tickle the twine as much as it should?
As is the case with many individuals in the NBA, particularly those with less experience, the answer likely comes down to a current lack of feel and touch. “Feel” can be defined as one’s ability to instinctively select and execute an appropriate shot technique, while “touch” deals more with the amount of force applied to said shot.
In the first clip below, it could be argued that Edwards’ selected the correct shot technique — that being a finger role after Eurostepping his way past the Charlotte Hornet defenders — however, his touch was off, leaving the attempt short.
In the next clip, not only is Edwards’ touch off again — this time he’s too strong — but his shot technique is also left wanting. A better option would have been to rise up for a true jumper, which may have resulted in a foul by the Los Angeles Clipper defender who was riding his pocket, or rather not shoot at all and elect to pass out to a wide-open Patrick Beverley.
The video compilation below shows three more of Edwards’ misses, all of which display either a lack of feel, touch, or both.
NBA athletes have a certain amount of natural, inborn talent for any number of skills. Steph Curry’s 3-point stroke comes naturally for him, for example, as does Kawhi Leonard’s defensive chops and Jarred Vanderbilt’s motor. However, these athletes also worked — and continue to do so — on their craft, transforming natural talent into elite attributes.
Anthony Edwards may not have an abundance of natural skill when it comes to finishing at the rim, but he has plenty of time left in his career to work on improving. Odds are he will naturally progress with experience and repetition as is so often the case with young players. However, as of right now, Edwards is too poor of a finisher given his athleticism and strength.