Minnesota Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards has improved in almost every single statistical category this season, posting career bests in scoring, rebounding, assisting, and getting to the free throw line. The most impressive part of this, though, is the scoring. It’s not simply because he is getting to take more shots; he’s doing it more efficiently this season compared to last year, while expanding his shot profile.
Dating back to this past summer, Edwards played for Team USA in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, during which he began to showcase a much-improved mid-range game. Some refined touch in that area added another skill to an already deep bag that Edwards possesses.
The hope for the Timberwolves faithful was that the Team USA experience was going to make Edwards better, and it has. At this point in the season, not only is Edwards a key catalyst to the Wolves’ franchise-record-best start at 13-4 — including a blowout victory over the reigning NBA Finals champion Denver Nuggets and an overtime win against the NBA’s best team by record, the Boston Celtics — he’s doing it at much improved rates on the offensive end compared to where he was last season.
Wolves 106 Thunder 103— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) November 29, 2023
-MIN 13-4 = best start in franchise history.
-MIN now 1.5 game lead over DEN in West.
-MIN .5 GB of BOS for NBA's best record.
-MIN 8-1 at home = 3rd best.
-MIN 6-1 in clutch = 2nd best.
-MIN now 4-4 when trailing by 10+ = tied for #1. pic.twitter.com/SAiiNqBohX
The biggest area Edwards has improved this season has been the mid-range, and it’s clear to see why he has gone to it time and time again this season. In the 2022-23 season, Edwards was well below or around league average in that area. This season has been a massive improvement, and he’s pacing to take more shots in this area of the floor than he ever did last season.
Why Does This Matter?
It would be extremely reductive to say “Well, it’s Ant. He’s the franchise cornerstone, and he should be getting better especially since he is young.” It gives us more insight into the long-term, as well as who Edwards is and will become as he continues to cement what his fully optimized game looks like. Comparing him to other volume, No. 1 scorers around the league that play a similar game of basketball, it indicates more sustained success for him to become as efficient as he has in the mid-range.
Comparing him to similar players (ball dominant guards/wings) such as Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum, and Kevin Durant respective to their fourth year into their careers, Ant is fitting right into this space on the floor.
Other guys like Booker and KD are going to take more shots than Ant will in a given season since they are absolutely killer from there, and aren’t needing to share the ball on a roster that has as much depth as the Wolves, but the efficiency is something to notice as the year, and Edwards career, continues to progress.
Being able to become more efficient in this space on the floor will open up so many opportunities for Edwards, considering he is proficient from other areas on the floor. It’s proven early this year that defenders are more than willing to sell out on defense guarding him on the arc which leads to simple 1-2 dribble pull ups that have fallen at a successful clip this season.
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With Edwards’ quick first step and athleticism that are matched by only a few others in the league, becoming as efficient as he has this been season bodes well for the Wolves’ team success. It makes game planning for him that much harder on a nightly basis for opposing coaches. If he can shoot well from outside and slash at the rate he has, being a midrange maestro only adds another wrinkle that defenders, and defenses need to worry about.
The greatest scorers in the game aren’t the greatest simply because they can make the toughest shots or shoot a ton, it’s because they are legitimate threats from multiple areas on the floor and can get to their spots. Edwards has proven he can knock it down from outside, and he is league average around the rim. Last year, though, he wasn’t great from mid-range; but this year is different. Coupling his ball-handling with that first step and athleticism mentioned earlier, Edwards is going to find himself getting more open looks, either through creation from other teammates, or ones he has the ability to create himself.
It also gives Ant another space on the floor to go to when the 3-point shot isn’t falling or he isn’t getting calls at the rim. I’m sure there’s been times people in Target Center or watching at home have been begrudged when Ant continues to pull 3 after 3 despite them not falling. With this being added to his game, it’s another spot he can attack and get to, that defenses now have to respect where they didn’t need to last year as much.
It will also give Edwards a much longer career. Looking at the injury he suffered on Tuesday when he landed on his hip, Edwards could have easily pulled up for an uncontested mid-range shot. This is not to say he shouldn’t continue to attack the rim, but pulling up and taking these open shots as opposed to going full throttle into a defender is going to have less wear and tear on the body in what will hopefully be a long and successfull career.