The similarities, differences between Anthony Edwards and Michael Jordan

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards has done his best to skirt any comparisons to Michael Jordan, but it’s becoming increasingly hard to ignore the similarities between the two.

Aside from the elite athleticism, pestering defense and silky smooth mid-range jumper, Edwards — like Jordan — knows when to take over a game. Facing elimination Thursday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Denver Nuggets, Edwards scored 14 of his 27 points in the first quarter to spur Minnesota to the win.

During the game, the 22-year old Edwards became the fifth-fastest player in NBA playoff history to total at least 600 points, 100 rebounds and 100 assists behind only Jordan, LeBron James, Luka Doncic and Tracy McGrady. 

So far, Edwards has averaged 29.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists over 21 postseason games in his first three seasons in the league while shooting 50% from the field and 39.9% from 3-point range. He has notched 40 points or more three times already this postseason, most recently in Minnesota’s loss to Denver in Game 4 (44).

Comparatively, Jordan only played in 10 playoff games over his first three seasons in the league. His Chicago Bulls were beaten in the first round three straight years from 1985-87 even though Jordan averaged 35.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game.

Despite Jordan’s level of play, the Bulls were 1-9 in his first 10 postseason games. The lack of a supporting cast around Jordan hurt Chicago’s chances of making a deep playoff run early in his career, something that can’t be said for Edwards.

In Jordan’s third season in the league (1986-87), the Bulls only had two other players averaging at least 10 points per game — Charles Oakley (14.5) and John Paxson (11.3). Jordan’s scoring average of 37.1 points per game that regular season is the highest of any player in league history not named Wilt Chamberlain.

Edwards led the Wolves with 25.9 points per game during the regular season, but Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, Naz Reid, Mike Conley and Jaden McDaniels all averaged over 10 points per game. Minnesota is also playing elite defense as a team.

Jordan and Edwards share some personality traits, too, namely their desire to win. But while Jordan’s intensity demanded a lot from his teammates, Edwards seems to have the trust and admiration of everyone in Minnesota’s locker room.

While he spends a good amount of time talking trash, Edwards can also regularly be seen offering advice to his teammates on the court or on the bench. He has taken time in his post-game press conferences to highlight his teammates’ contributions, and he has done it all with a big smile on his face.

The biggest difference between Edwards and Jordan on the court is the latter’s lack of a 3-point game. During the 2023-24 regular season, Edwards made 190-of-532 (35.7%) of his attempts from beyond the arc. Jordan, meanwhile, knocked down 179-of-625 (28.6%) in a seven-year span from 1984-85 to 1990-91. 

Edwards could further separate himself from Jordan if he’s able to lead Minnesota to a win in Game 7. Jordan didn’t win a playoff series until his fourth year in 1988, and he didn’t reach the conference finals until the next year in 1989.

Jordan was 28 when he made the Finals for the first time in 1991. He went on to win six championships over the next eight years, culminating in his final title in 1998 at 35 years old.

If Edwards is able to carry Minnesota to the Finals, it will be reminiscent of Kobe Bryant helping the Lakers to the 2000 title at just 21 years old. Bryant then led Los Angeles to two more championships in 2001 and 2002.

Edwards still has a ways to go to reach that level of success, but the way things are looking, 2024 could be the year that Ant stakes his claim as the face of the league.

Winning a title would all but guarantee it.

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