Straight Sets: Ant Actions
Dissecting the plays that get Anthony Edwards easy buckets.
There were no quarrels about who needed to fill the gaping chasm left in Minnesota’s offense when Karl-Anthony Towns went down with a rather serious calf strain. Anthony Edwards had been hightailing his way to top dog of the Timberwolves’ offense since the backend of his rookie year; the moment it became clear he is something absurdly special with the pumpkin in his mitts.
However, for all of the self-creation fabulousness and isolation dynamite packed into his game, being the clear-cut number one option requires a little more. Edwards often doesn’t need help to score, even a screen can sometimes feel like it just impedes his side-to-side yo-yoing and his downhill fireworks, but being the defense’s primary and unobstructed focus can wear on even the sturdiest scorers.
Edwards needs a dosage of intricate or smashmouth offensive plays to free him up. Every great scorer does. Lately, even before Towns’ unfortunate injury, Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch has been slipping more and more of them into the 21-year-old’s diet. Plays that shine a bright light on his strengths without asking him to run an isolation-heavy offense.
There are very few things that spark an inferno in Edwards’ scoring package quite like being able to attack a big man. Even the nimblest and shrewdest are no match for his insane first step and his ability to bounce into nifty finishes with a player on his hip. Importantly, it also removes a roving rim-protector who could come and stifle him at the cup.
Funnily enough, Finch and his coaching staff now use a play very similar to one they use for Towns to present Edwards with that gift. Where Towns used to decoy a 45-degree cut off a wedge screen (a diagonal screen that slices from the block to the opposite elbow), they now have this wrinkle, where Towns completes the cut to the low block and Edwards pops out of the screen and straight into a down screen (or ball screen).
As you can see, it achieves its desired effect. Instead of having to circumvent the new and (very) improved defensive stylings of Andrew Wiggins, Rudy Gobert’s size and roll-man gravity mingling with Edwards’ scoring gravity of his own forces Kevon Looney to make a quick switch. Curtains.
Edwards has the big man in space, with Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Austin Rivers stretching the floor and forcing defenders to make tough decisions on whether to rotate or not. That’s a recipe for a bucket.
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