The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t wowing anyone this season. That said, they’re 16-18, mostly healthy and in prime position to take advantage of the early struggles that frequent playoff participants like the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks are dealing with. Them actually doing as such, though, comes down to Anthony Edwards’ progression.
Edwards has followed up an encouraging rookie campaign with a standout and auspicious second season. As it concerns his team’s competitive standing, the 2020 No. 1 draft pick is the omen for Minnesota’s playoff hopes. Him continuing to be the player he has been keeps them trying to claw and scrape their way into the NBA Play-in Tournament, whereas continued improvements make them a dark horse in the Western Conference.
Here’s why the Timberwolves’ future hinges on Anthony Edwards.
Anthony Edwards is already a star for the Minnesota Timberwolves
Last season, Edwards was a bright spot in a dark Timberwolves’ season. This time around, he’s the motor of their operation.
Edwards is getting his points in a variety of ways. He’s scoring in isolation, getting to the rim off the dribble and sticking shots from beyond the arc. Edwards can take over games and is someone who the Timberwolves can defer to at the end of games.
He has become the impetus of Minnesota’s offense. Without the University of Georgia product, head coach Chris Finch’s rotation is one with a combination of inconsistent guards and forwards, accompanied by Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, who have unfortunately been plagued by injuries in recent memory.
- Anthony Edwards stats (2021-22): 22.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 43.4/36.0/78.8
Edwards is nowhere near a finished product. He has just 100 NBA games under his belt. He could become more efficient on mid-range jump shots and attack the rack more. That said, it has taken a mere year for him to become one of the premier young players in the NBA.
Edwards played a great deal of games with Towns and Russell sidelined last season. This season, all three players are on the court – barring health and safety protocols.
Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell have peaked
As previously alluded to, injuries have held back Towns and Russell over the last two years. Furthermore, the two players have peaked.
Towns is one of the most productive big men of his era. He’s a walking double-double who scores and hits the boards at a high level. All the while, Towns can score in the post and drain shots from the perimeter. At the same time, he can be too reliant on his outside shooting and has been inconsistent on the defensive end.
Russell is a smooth scorer. He can score and create his own shot off the dribble and from the perimeter. Russell has done as such at a high level from a production standpoint. At the same time, he’s in the midst of a monotonous season.
- D’Angelo Russell stats (2021-22): 18.7 points, 6.7 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game while shooting 38.3/33.5/80.4
To be clear: Towns and Russell are good players who can be primary catalysts on a championship team. The issue with the top two selections of the 2015 NBA Draft is that they’ve been the same player for the better part of the last four years and have minimal, if any room for growth. Edwards’ progression is the X-factor, here.
If Edwards continues to blossom into an overwhelming scorer so much so that he’s the number one source of offense, it makes Towns and Russell secondary scoring options. While health is pivotal, having someone who can divert attention away from the established duo is vital, too. The 20-year-old Edwards looks like he’s going to be that player.
Minnesota Timberwolves go as Anthony Edwards goes
The Timberwolves have been hell-bent on getting this team healthy and seeing what it can do. On the contrary, this season is showing that the key isn’t Towns and Russell feeding off each other: it’s Edwards becoming the centerpiece of their future.
Edwards has all the tools to be the Timberwolves’ franchise player. He’s a stout guard who can score in several ways and is still in the raw stages of his NBA career. In time, Edwards can be the team’s clear-cut top scorer and draw more fouls off the dribble. Towns and Russell are what they are. Malik Beasley can score but has been less efficient in more of a complementary role this season. Naz Reid, Jaden McDaniels, Jaylen Nowell and Jarred Vanderbilt have had their moments.
The bulk of the aforementioned players have been inconsistent while some aren’t long-term rotation pieces. Depth is an issue for this Timberwolves team. For the meantime, they need their stars to be stars. Past this season, they need to get more shooting and complementary skill sets around their stars, specifically Edwards.
The player with the most upside is the most positive part of the program, which is a blessing for the Timberwolves. Minnesota is playing well enough to be of the mindset that they can get on a roll in the second half of the season and establish themselves as a player in the West.
Anthony Edwards’ progression determines how far the Timberwolves go this season. Long term, he’s what everything revolves around.