Minnesota Timberwolves Roundup: Anthony Edwards, Wolves defense

Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves have shown signs of improvement post-All-Star break, and much of that has to do with Anthony Edwards‘ steady progress.

But while the offense, Edwards, and the team as a whole have improved, the defense has gone in the opposite direction.

Recognizing Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards’ progress

Edwards has always been able to score; he scored in double digits in his first five games as a professional despite coming off the bench. Before he became a full-time starter in Game No. 18, Edwards averaged 13 points per game.

Of course, he shot a ghastly 35.5 percent from the field and 30.4 percent on 3-point attempts while only getting to the free throw line 2.2 times per game, so he wasn’t exactly efficient.

The Ringer’s Dan Devine published an extensive breakdown of Edwards’ season thus far, with a focus on his drastic improvement with both Chris Finch at the helm and Karl-Anthony Towns on the floor.

Check this out (emphasis mine):

"[Finch’s] first order of business was to figure out how to get a roster tilted toward offensive talent to actually score like one after the Wolves had sputtered to the league’s third-worst offensive efficiency mark at the time of Saunders’s firing. Minnesota has made incremental progress despite myriad injuries and lineup shuffling, moving up to 22nd in points scored per possession since Finch took the gig. Most notably: The Wolves have scored 113.8 points per 100 possessions when Towns and Edwards share the floor under Finch—equivalent to a 10th-ranked offense over a full season."

That’s exactly what we expected to see out of the Wolves’ offense this year: a top-10 finish in offensive efficiency. Also, keep in mind that much of the above number was compiled without Malik Beasley on the floor, and instead with non-shooters dotting the perimeter.

Devine includes plenty of video to showcase the myriad ways that Finch has used to get Edwards not only open jumpers but most importantly, with momentum and heading downhill towards the rim.

No doubt, Edwards is most effective when barrelling towards defenders and staying on the attack with the dribble. While his catch-and-shoot numbers have hovered in respectable territory from the perimeter, that’s not where he does his most efficient damage.

Calling out the Minnesota Timberwolves woeful defense

The Timberwolves just gave up 141 points to an extremely shorthanded Indiana Pacers squad, so the defense is obviously a hot topic.

But the problems have persisted for some time now. In fact, in Devine’s Edwards-centric article, he mentions that the Wolves’ defense has actually regressed from No. 24 in defensive points per possession to No. 27 in the 22 games under Finch. Of course, defensive coordinator David Vanterpool is still on the bench, and other than rotation and personnel adjustments, the Wolves defense hasn’t changed all that much.

Edwards himself ranks dead-last in ESPN Defensive Real Plus-Minus among players listed as small forwards. D’Angelo Russell continues to be a poor defender, and while Malik Beasley and Karl-Anthony Towns have each been a bit better than their reputations, the team as a whole has struggled mightily with consistency.

If the Wolves could improve their defense incrementally over the final few weeks of the season and can combine that with a top-10 offense, then a few more wins would obviously follow.

On Anthony Edwards' Rookie of the Year candidacy. dark. Next

To this point, however, asking for a competent defense has simply been a pipe dream and nothing more.