How rising NBA star Anthony Edwards has quickly become a historic playoff performer

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been dominant in this year's playoffs, led by their superstar guard Anthony Edwards, who is quickly becoming a historic playoff performer.
Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets - Game Two
Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets - Game Two / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages
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Ant-Man and the Joker: the 2023 NBA Playoffs

Fast forward to the 2023 playoffs when the No. 8 seed Minnesota Timberwolves took on the No. 1 seed Denver Nuggets. Spoiler alert, the Timberwolves did not win this series as the Nuggets took care of business in five games. However, Anthony Edwards showed a lot of growth from his first playoff series the year before.

Against the Nuggets, Anthony Edwards averaged a ridiculous 32 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game on 60.2% true shooting. When you look at his numbers from this series, it’s clear that he was a much better player than he was the year before.

He was spectacular as a scorer hitting shots off the dribble from the perimeter and getting to the paint whenever he wanted and shooting very well at the rim. He didn’t hit threes at an elite rate during this series, shooting 34.9% from downtown, but he was still getting threes up at a very high rate and he was extremely efficient as a high-volume scorer.

A lot of players would struggle if they didn’t shoot very well from the perimeter, but it didn’t faze Edwards and he made up for this in other areas. One part of his game that improved from his first playoff series was his passing. Vs. the Grizzlies in 2022, he had an assist rate of just 14.1%, which is quite low for a primary ball handler with a usage rate over 25%. This changed vs. the Nuggets, though, as he had an even higher usage rate and increased his assist rate to 26.5%, a way more respectable mark considering how often the ball was in his hands.

In the 2022 playoffs, he didn’t make a ton of high-level passes and it felt like he was restricted to making pretty basic reads. That changed vs. the Nuggets as he was way better at reading the floor and showed he could make more advanced reads with the ball in his hands.

I also noticed that he seemed to play off-ball more often or at least more effectively against the Nuggets. There were plenty of plays in this series in which he made good cuts toward the basket or moved to get open on the three-point line and this led to easy buckets.

One last thing, I have to give a huge shoutout to Edwards’ defense in this series because he was wildly productive on this end of the floor. He wreaked havoc on defense against the Nuggets racking up steals and blocking shots at an insane rate for a guard.

This shows up in his numbers as Edwards had a steal rate of 2.3% and a block rate of 4.4% this series, which was a big improvement from his first playoff series. This is pretty crazy because he was quite productive defensively against the Grizzlies, he just went nuclear vs. the Nuggets.

Although the Timberwolves got knocked out of the 2023 playoffs pretty quickly, it was clear they had a superstar on their team in Anthony Edwards who went toe to toe with the eventual NBA champions and was excellent.