The 6-foot-4 athlete slammed home some of the NBA’s top dunks during his rookie campaign.
"ANTHONY EDWARDS.. WITH THE❗️"
— NBA (@NBA) August 23, 2021
Edwards proved to be a reliable rookie, considering he was one of 11 NBA players to play in all 72 games last season.
Averaging 19.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game should have earned him the Rookie of the Year award.
Over the final 32 games last season, Edwards posted 23 points, five rebounds, and four assists per game.
So the Timberwolves are rightfully excited to have Edwards in the fold moving forward.
These players can help push the Timberwolves to the postseason for the first time since 2018.
Key to that playoff push, though, is the development of Edwards, who must improve these three aspects of his game.
3. Improve Three-Point Shooting
During his rookie season, Edwards launched 7.2 threes per game.
But the 20-year-old made just 32.9 percent of those attempts.
So step one in his improvement for next season will be adding a more consistent three-point shot.
His play in Minnesota already demonstrated the ability to improve as a long-range shooter.
In his lone season at the University of Georgia, Edwards netted just 29.4 percent of his three-point tries.
If Edwards can improve his percentage by another three points, that will slot him very near last season’s league average of 36.7 percent.
Once teams are forced to account for Edwards beyond the arc, he’ll once again be able to deploy his above-average attacking skills.
Anthony Edwards in the lab. 🔥
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) August 13, 2021
2. Improve Shot Selection
One of the most difficult parts of Edwards’s rookie year was dealing with injuries.
Malik Beasley also missed a fair share of contests, thus foisting too much offensive responsibility on a then 19-year-old.
Once defenses turned their focus on Edwards, his efficiency numbers dropped.
Teams walled off the paint, forcing him to the perimeter.
The high flyer settled for long jumpers, but made under 33 percent of his threes.
And while that number is by no means terrible, it remained below league average (36.7 percent).
But the fact that nearly 43 percent of his total field goal attempts came from beyond the arc means he needs to improve to become a more efficient offensive threat.
Edwards finished nearly 65 percent of shots at the rim last season, an elite figure for a guard his size.
The question remains, how much opportunity will he have to score once Beasley, Russell, and Towns are regular fixtures in the lineup?
1. Improve Defensively
The biggest knock on Edwards as a rookie was his subpar play on defense.
The 19-year-old entered the league with the physical tools to be a top-flight defender, but he wasn’t that as a rookie.
According to Cleaning the Glass, the Timberwolves had a defensive rating of 117.3 when Edwards was on the floor (14th percentile among wings).
Minnesota opponents registered a 56.9 percent effective field goal percentage (seventh percentile) when Edwards was on the floor.
What made matters worse for Edwards was a seeming lack of effort, including getting back on defense.
He gambled on steals too often, which opened lanes to the paint for opponents.
To become better defensively, Edwards must improve his awareness and positioning.
He can’t continue to rely on his elite athleticism to cover the gaps in his game, because other NBA players are elite athletes as well.
But if he can leverage his athleticism and awareness defensively, that will make the most marked improvement in his game.