This offseason has been marked with unabashed love and support for Anthony Edwards.
Do not get me wrong, I by no means want to undermine that positivity and I think it is great for healing the broken hopes and dreams that we have experienced as Minnesota Timberwolves fans throughout our 34-year history. With that being said, it is still important to know and be aware of Edwards’ faults as a player and how he can improve upon those areas going forward. I need you all to know that I am nit-picking and the reason for that is only because of how phenomenal Edwards is as a player. This is the only way to go about looking at this question and answering it effectively.
To break this up into a neat organized article, I am going to pick one thing offensively, defensively and intangibly that we as expert fans should keep an eye on if Ant is able to improve upon these heading into the 2023-24 season.
Offensively: Distributing to Teammates
We all know that the former University of Georgia phenom can score. He has proven that in the NBA and now on the international stage. The next step in his game is to use that scoring talent to become a better distributor and playmaker for his teammates. Being a superstar is not only a result of doing it all yourself; it is also about empowering and helping your teammates become the best players they can be. There are two ways that Edwards’ development can go heading into this season. He can either be a straight scorer who can carry a team with his basket-making ability, or he can be a playmaker who scores but also get his teammates involved when he is getting double-teamed or having an off night.
When I think of this distinction, Devin Booker comes to mind as one of the best players to study when talking about this development. For his whole career, Booker was always able to score. He scored 70 points against the Boston Celtics back in 2017, and has always been lethal when it comes to this aspect of his game. Booker (and not coincidentally the Phoenix Suns as a team) turned a corner when he became a better distributor and used his scoring gravity to set up his teammates for success. That needs to be the track that Edwards follows as he takes another step in improvement for this year.
The 22-year-old started to understand that importance during his stint with Team USA at the 2023 FIBA World Cup. He was great at not only getting his own shot but setting up his teammates with good looks. He may have only averaged 2.7 assists a game in seven games with the Stars and Stripes, but I saw flashes of his understanding for when to take his own shot and when to give it up. This will be huge come regular season time.
Very small, but notable thing: good recognition by Edwards. I’ve seen him pull up there and take the shot plenty of times. But he waited and rewarded Banchero after the big block. Nice bit of recognition from him. https://t.co/ebqU2JIV4H— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) August 26, 2023
Defensively: Staying Locked In
One of Edwards’ most glaring struggles over his first few years in the league is that he tends to fall asleep off the ball and at lower leverage moments in the game. He has the capability to be a truly elite defensive player in this league and part of that comes with effort and focus. This is understandable for a young player gaining experience, but he is entering Year 4, and we need to see more progression in this area. He has started to understand the importance but it is something that we need to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
What we saw from the young star in the FIBA World Cup was his potential on the defensive side of the ball. He was focused and often took the best player on the other team. While he was mostly just guarding them at the biggest points in the game, he was doing it for longer stretches and staying focused the entire time. This comes mostly with age and it is something that has been a knock on him since he came into the league. An improvement in this regard will help Jaden McDaniels and Nickeil Alexander-Walker be able to breathe a little easier knowing Edwards has their backs on that end of the floor.
Intangibly: Performing When the Lights Are Not So Bright
We know that when the lights come on, Ant shows up. The All-Star has proven that time and time again. In the playoffs, in the marquee matchup, on national television. But what about in the Sunday matinee game against the San Antonio Spurs in mid-November? This is the other knock on Edwards during his time in the league. He does not perform as well when the stakes are lower. Becoming that superstar player that he wants to be comes with bringing it every single day or night no matter who you are facing.
To show his improvement in this area, I think of the exhibition game against Germany in the lead up to the World Cup. Outside of it being an opportunity to play with USA on the jersey, the game was fairly meaningless. Edwards turned the intensity up to 15 — making the game feel like an NBA Finals game — and responded with 34 points and some great defense on Orlando Magic star Franz Wagner down the stretch for Team USA. He nearly single-handedly pulled them out of the trenches and to a victory. This is what is needed no matter the importance of the game.
Anthony Edwards has me ready to enlist. pic.twitter.com/gOmNcAnXmW— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) August 20, 2023
Anthony Edwards is the hope for Minnesota and reaching the upper echelon of the NBA and while he is amazing and nearly perfect as a person and player there are still things that we should expect to see improvement on in Year 4. These improvements lead to wins, national accolades, and being regarded as one of the top players in the NBA, all right here in Minnesota.