As the Minnesota Timberwolves enter the home stretch of a largely disastrous season, the natural reaction would be to look toward the future.
However, there are still games to be played! Even though it’s a lost season in terms of making the playoffs, there are still plenty of reasons to watch the Wolves down the stretch — primarily, to see the young players on the roster get the chance to work on skills or be put in situations to get them more comfortable doing different things.
Minnesota Timberwolves to watch: Anthony Edwards as a cutter
The No. 1 overall pick’s development has been well-documented as Edwards has truly emerged post-All-Star break, averaging over 24 points per game with a true shooting percentage that has risen by nearly 10 percent.
He’s been able to work on-ball a lot more under Chris Finch, which was due in part to an injury to D’Angelo Russell. Now, with Russell back, and in addition to Karl-Anthony Towns handling the ball and playmaking more, Edwards will be asked to work off the ball a bit more often.
Because of this, it would be beneficial to see Edwards be used as a cutter. This isn’t an area that Edwards needs to improve, necessarily, but rather a role that he should be used in more often.
In fact, Edwards has the second-highest points-per-possession as a cutter on the team at 1.40 (a mere 0.01 behind Reid). But, due to his usage on-ball and his developing two-man game with Towns, Edwards has only been used as a cutter on 3.8 percent of possessions.
Edwards clearly has the strength and athleticism to be a good finisher at the rim — he’s shooting 63 percent on shots at the rim since the break — but why not give him some clearer lanes and easy opportunities?
Under Finch, Edwards has been used as a cutter more in set plays.
Typically they’ll run a player that is being defended by a guard through the space and then have Edwards cut in behind them and allow him to attack the basket against a smaller player, similar to a Corey cut, but not off of a ball screen.
First, the Blazers help way off of the weakside corner once Towns catches the ball. Then, with Damian Lillard hidden on Jake Layman defensively, they run Layman into the open space, essentially as a decoy, followed by Edwards, who is now unguarded due to his defender having to help down on the cut by Layman. Edwards can now run right into the lane with Lillard as the only defender at the rim.
Here’s another example.
Finch just makes life so much easier for Edwards off-ball. Jaylen Brown is a fantastic one-on-one defender, so instead of having Edwards try to score against him on-ball, he gets him a chance to attack the rim on a cut with Marcus Smart in the restricted area. Smart is in no position to contest this shot without fouling and Edwards finishes with Brown trailing.