Anthony Edwards wishes Minnesota could play defense like the Knicks
Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards has been a vocal leader from the start this season for Minnesota. He hasn’t minced words about opponents either and recently, Edwards was effusive in praising the New York Knicks’ defense. He followed it up by wishing that his team could play defense like the team from Gotham.
Anthony Edwards with high praise for the New York Knicks.. calls them the best defense in basketball pic.twitter.com/3tz4TG2ZQJ
— Ben Stinar (@BenStinar) April 8, 2021
Give credit to Edwards for recognizing what a good defensive team looks like. The Knicks are third in overall defensive rating and are also allowing the fewest points per game (104.1), the fewest field goals made per game (37.5), and the lowest field goal percentage (44.1 percent) in the league. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has completely transformed the Knicks on that end of the floor, and the New York defensive strength is a big reason why the team is in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Of course, Edwards’ praise of the Knicks’ defense can also be construed as a referendum on the Timberwolves lackadaisical standing on that end of the floor. Then again, the 2020 number one overall pick left little room for doubt with that interpretation.
Anthony Edwards says it's on the players, not the coach, for the Timberwolves to start playing defense:
"Coach can't come on the floor. He can't do shit but tell us what to do… Shit, he just saying words. We gotta go out there and do the shit. Defense is effort."
— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) April 8, 2021
It is with a pinch of irony that Edwards is the one who’s putting the Timberwolves on blast for their lack of defensive effort. According to FiveThirthyEight’s RAPTOR metric, Edwards ranked dead last (-3.5) in defensive rating among Minnesota Timberwolves players who have played a minimum of 870 minutes in the season.
Edwards’ -3.5 rating basically means that the Timberwolves defensive performance takes a 3.5-point hit per 100 possessions when he’s on the court. He’s right, though, that defense is effort. But he failed to point out that it also starts with his own effort on that side of the ball. This is not to take away from the tremendous season the rookie has had. It’s a team effort on the defensive end and there’s plenty of room to grow in that area across the board in Minnesota.