Minnesota Timberwolves star shooting guard Anthony Edwards is many things. But today, he demonstrated something that feels very much like a trait that only runs in players far older than 22 years of age. Today, in a blowout victory, Edwards did not put on a scoring clinic. Rather, he exhibited patience in what Team Italy gave him, and complete trust in his teammates.
And they did not let him down
Team USA faced off against Team Italy in a 2023 FIBA World Cup quarterfinal contest that would decide who would advance and who would not. By the end of regulation play, Team USA was the clear winner. But you would never have expected the path taken to get there.
This was not the best game in the FIBA WC tournament for Minnesota Timberwolves SG Anthony Edwards, but it was a solid performance nevertheless. Despite scoring just three points in the game, Anthony Edwards finished with a +/- rating of +20.
There certainly is a bias towards players who can score at will. At least, that is the tone of casual NBA fans. But as fans learn more about the game, defense rapidly grows in perceived value. It’s the ability to score points in the NBA that fills seats in the arena. But it’s the ability to stop opponents from scoring points that wins championships.
Anthony Edwards played stifling defense today.
Now, look at the score of today’s game once more. Team Italy had never scored less than 73 points in the 2023 FIBA WC tournament before this game and had averaged 80.8 points per game in the previous five games.
Anthony Edwards was the difference. While he did not put up 30+ points, he helped to limit Team Italy to 18 points less than their average. Great NBA players can score at will. But elite NBA players contribute to a win either by scoring points or by shutting down the opponent’s ability to score.