Karl-Anthony Towns' return changes the dynamics of the Timberwolves offense.
That was plain to see in Sunday's win over the Raptors, when it seemed like Toronto wanted to throw as many defenders as it could on Towns any time he touched the ball below the free-throw line.
One of the consequences of Towns being out for most of the season is it was hard to gauge just how the pieces fit around him. With D'Angelo Russell still nursing an injured left leg, that evaluation still isn't 100% in operation, but there has been some evidence the team can glean from the past few games, specifically how Anthony Edwards and Towns operate together, an important question for the future of the franchise.
When the season began, Edwards said he had to learn how to play with Towns and Russell on the floor, how to pick his spots to attack and score since they are the primary scorers on the team. Edwards is getting to see what that is like with Towns back in the lineup, and over the past three games Edwards has looked more at ease playing off the Timberwolves franchise center, specifically in the pick and roll.
"Once we figure each other out, it will be way better out there," Edwards said after Friday's loss to Charlotte. "Because we really don't know what each other likes to do out there right now. We ain't played together forever."
Coach Ryan Saunders said he liked how Towns and Edwards found "synergy" in that Hornets game operating a "high-angle screen" and the Wolves did more of that against Toronto late in the game.
"We'll continue to try to put him in more actions," Saunders said.
Edwards has looked more comfortable of late taking the ball to the rim, and his numbers over the past three games in that area with Towns might not be a coincidence. Edwards is shooting 63% on plays when he drives the ball with Towns back. For the season, he was shooting 39%.
Though Edwards said he's not just looking to shoot when he plays off Towns and is trying to eye how the defense reacts when they're on the floor together.
"When he sets screens for me, I don't look for my shot," Edwards said. "It's like a quarterback, I look for whoever is helping too much, like the backside helps too much on KAT and I got a corner pass or you know however that may go. I never really look for my shot, I look for whatever's going to make the team better, the best shot."
It also helps to have a sharpshooter in Malik Beasley, who has shot 17 of 34 from three-point range since Towns' return, to take advantage of overcommitting defenses.
Towns said his advice to Edwards has been simple — keep it simple.
"When you're a rookie, you want to show your whole package. You want to show the glitz and glamour and the flair," Towns said. "But just being efficient with your movements, efficient with the basketball is better than any of that, and it helps our team more."
The dynamic of the offense might change even more when Russell returns. But while Russell is on the mend, Edwards doesn't mind the opportunity to play off Towns — and to have the ball in his hands a little more.
"I love it ..." Edwards said after Sunday's win. "I love playing with the ball in my hands. I love making my teammates better, and I love coming out victorious with it."