Timberwolves

Edwards’ True Early-Career Comparison

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Since November 18, 2020, a strange quietness ensued around number one pick Anthony Edwards. No thanks to the Wolves’ lackluster 7-28 start to the 2020-21 season, Minnesota failed to garner much national airtime.

The spotlight has dimmed on Edwards.

Pre draft, Edwards received player comparisons like Donovan Mitchell, Dwyane Wade, Dion Waiters and Zach LaVine. Over the years, draftees are compared to NBA players from various teams around the league. With 35 games under Edwards’ belt, however, a different approach can be taken– a comparison of Edwards to a former player drafted to the organization.

Though LaVine is a former Wolves draftee and his trajectory could align with LaVine, there is another player with a similar height, weight and play style to the number one overall pick.

Isaiah Rider: Bucket Getter

Standing 6’5″ 215 pounds, Isaiah Rider could put the ball in the bucket. In his two years at UNLV, he averaged 24.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists while shooting 50% from the field, 40% beyond the arc and 80% from the charity stripe. He used his big body to bruise inside with the ability to hit an outside jumper. These reasons led to the Wolves to draft the 22-year-old with the fifth pick in the 1993 draft.

In his rookie year, Rider averaged 16.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 47% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. Rider received all-rookie second team honors. The future looked bright for the 23-year-old.

Unfortunately, Rider’s career did not blossom as some thought it would. He became a journey man who impeded his own potential. However, the focus of this piece is to compare Edwards’ first 35 games of his career to Rider’s. The similarities are eerie between their numbers.

Similarity of statistics 

Through the first 35 games of the 2020-21 season, the Wolves currently hold the worst record in the NBA at 7-28. The 1993-94 Wolves started 12-23.

Anthony currently averages 14.8 points (37% FG, 31% 3PT, 80% FT), 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Through Isaiah’s first 35 games, he posted 14.9 points (47% FG, 36% 3PT, 80% FT), 3.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists.

Similarities exist between the two lottery picks through their first 35 games, including the lackluster record of their teams. Although their numbers relatively compare, there are reasons for certain disparities between percentages.

Reason for percentage differences 

The most glaring difference between Rider and Edwards is their shooting percentage. In 1993-94, the Wolves attempted 557 shots from beyond the arc as a team.

That computes to 6.8 attempts per game. Rider contributed to that total by attempting 1.9 threes per contest. That mark was second on the team only behind Chuck Person, who attempted 3.5 threes per game.

Through 35 games in 2020-21 season, the Wolves have attempted 1,268 threes– 36.2 threes per game. Edwards alone shoots 6.1/game, over three times the amount Rider in that same span.

Shocking.

This explains the disparity between FG% and 3PT%; Edwards’ 3-point volume blows Rider’s out of the water. This is also in part the current Wolves’ system; threes, layups and free throws. He attacks the rim with regularity but his finishing at the rim leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Most of Rider’s shots came from inside the arc. He attempted 55 shots from beyond the arc in 35 games while Edwards has attempted 215. Edwards’ reliance on the three tanked his percentages, however, as he is shooting 41% on shots inside the arc alone.

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Strengths 

Edwards’ obvious strength is when he is driving downhill to the cup. With his 6’5″, 225-pound build, Edwards thrives on contact. Though his 54% success rate at the rim is below the league average (66%), he is still figuring out how to use his body to create contact and get to the line.

In addition, Edwards is also still figuring out how to contort his body and not solely attack the big man with athleticism. The center or forward defending the P&R have mainly been in drop coverages with Karl-Anthony Towns sidelined. With Towns back in the lineup, that should open up the floor more for Edwards due to KAT shooting 40% from three this season.

With the big man unable to clog the lane, Edwards can use his quick first step to attack his man off the dribble and dive to the rim. His percentage there should rise as he gains more experience.

Basketball-Reference does not have Rider’s shooting numbers until the 1996-97 season, but in that season he shot 57% at the rim. Rider looked to attack the basket with his handle, strength and athletic ability. 1996 marked his fourth year in the NBA at 25 years old. Edwards is already light years ahead of Rider in that regard, as he is seven years younger and putting up a similar percentage to a veteran player.

Overall comparison 

Isaiah Rider’s ceiling barely touches what Anthony Edwards can reach in his career. Edwards is only 19 years old and won’t turn 20 until August. Rider was drafted after his senior year, which did not allow for him to become much more than he already was. The positives between this comparison point toward a younger player in Edwards, who is putting up similar numbers to a player who was three years older in his same position now.

The sky is the limit for Edwards and he has a good head on his shoulders, talking about lifting the spirits of his teammates after the recent win against the Raptors. Now with the Malik Beasley suspension, Ant has another opportunity to show why he was selected with the number one pick. He will need to carry part of the scoring load, because KAT can’t do it all on his own.

Don’t sleep on Anthony Edwards. He has said he wants to be great in this league. The future is bright for this young Timberwolf.

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About Andrew Hansen

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