My boss always tells me there’s two types of people in this world: motors and anchors.
Motors bring energy and push people forward, while anchors drag people down. Sure, it’s a way oversimplified view of things generally with an odd dedication to comparing people to parts of a boat, but there’s some truth to it, especially in a team setting. Energy is contagious. It’s infectious. When you’re on a team, we all know there are people that drive the team forward with their positive energy, while others drag the morale of the team down by sulking.
It’s not as if there aren’t legitimate reasons to sometimes be down, there very clearly are, especially over what we’ve all gone through the past 12+ months, but it’s in those times that those people who bring that positive energy are most important. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all need people like that in our lives, whether it’s at work or in our personal lives. Sometimes, you just need someone else to pick you up when the going gets rough.
Needless to say, the Minnesota Timberwolves have not been immune to struggles over the past year or so. At this point, we don’t really need to re-hash everything that has happened in the community or to franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns. The list is long, though, and few could blame Towns (or his teammates) if all of that, plus the continued losing, was enough to keep this team’s spirits in the mud. The entire franchise was in need of an infusion of positive energy.
They’ve gotten exactly that in Anthony Edwards.
There are warts to Ant’s game on the floor, as there are with any rookie. He’s still a work in progress on defense, can occasionally suffer from tunnel vision with the ball, and is working on his finishing and ability to draw fouls around the rim. He’s not perfect, even if the tools are starting to showcase themselves in a way that perpetuates winning basketball more often than they were early on.
Anthony Edwards: 18 pts (7-15), 7 boards, 3 assists, +14 in 35 minutes tonight.— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) February 15, 2021
Anthony Edwards' FG% in the restricted area ⤵️— Jake Paynting (@jakepaynting) February 17, 2021
Before Towns' return: 48.7%
After Towns' return: 84.2%https://t.co/KI9CTfDQBs
I know there are plenty who want to say the Wolves blew the first overall pick by not taking LaMelo Ball, who also looks awesome this season, but I still think it’s premature given how sky-high Ant’s physical tools make his ceiling. The most important player in Minnesota since Kevin Garnett has taken notice, as well.
Karl-Anthony Towns on Anthony Edwards:— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) February 15, 2021
"I've told Ryan that I believe we need to put the ball in Ant's hands more."
KAT said we saw the value of that tonight.
Anyways, while the on-court production Minnesota has gotten from Edwards recently is certainly encouraging, the fact that he is the driving force behind whatever positivity remains with this franchise is a god-send. He’s been a breath of fresh summer air during a cold, gloomy winter.
As mentioned before, it would be hard to blame this team if their morale was low, if their spirit was broken. Aside from the off-court trials and tribulations, Minnesota has lost a ton of games to injury and COVID-related absences, which has played a large part in sending a team that we thought could be competitive for a play-in spot to the very bottom of the Western Conference. Hell, we’ve still only seen about a quarter and a half of KAT and D’Angelo Russell together this season.
On top of all of that, franchise icon and fan-favorite Ricky Rubio was supposed to come back to town to mentor Russell, Beasley, and Edwards while providing a steady hand on the court. Well, the on-court value just hasn’t been there as Rubio has suffered through his worst season of his 10-year career. There just hasn’t been a lot that’s gone right for the Timberwolves or Rubio.
While Rubio has surely helped the younger wings with his experience, competitiveness, and perspective, I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted that it would be the 19-year old rookie from Atlanta, Georgia who would be helping the 30-year old Rubio’s spirit and morale.
After tonight's game, arguably Ricky Rubio's best of the season, Rubio spoke postgame about how his "spirit" was really down at the beginning of the season.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) February 15, 2021
He credited one teammate for the shift in his spirit over the past few weeks... Anthony Edwards.
When asked about Rubio’s response, I thought Edwards gave just about the coolest answer he possibly could’ve.
Anthony Edwards is 19 years old. Wise so far beyond his years. pic.twitter.com/1QlpGIfaoi— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) February 15, 2021
“I try to give everybody as much confidence as I can, because if I believe in you ... if I believe in you so much, you won’t want to let me down, let the team down, so they’ll try their best to make it.”
Ryan Saunders on Anthony Edwards helping Ricky Rubio through tough stretches this season: pic.twitter.com/TBCYu9wCPt— jace frederick (@JaceFrederick) February 16, 2021
I’m not one to put the cart before the horse with a player in term’s of on-court ability. I need to see it consistently to buy-in, so while I do think Ant’s basketball ceiling is sky-high, the part I’m most comfortable with right now is that the kid is a truly awesome teammate.
Anthony Edwards is the type of teammate who makes others better because of the confidence he instills in them. Anyone who’s played basketball knows how important that is. We’ve all had teammates like that who keep you loose and keep your confidence up, and that’s what Anthony Edwards is bringing to the Timberwolves right now.
Also, if anyone is mentally built to turn this franchise around, it’s a guy like that. I obviously have no first-hand experience of this as it pertains specifically to Edwards, but in my experience, the guys who build others up like he does do so because they themselves are so supremely confident that they can’t imagine why anyone else wouldn’t be. Sure, that might manifest itself in an ill-advised heat-check every once-in-awhile, but if that’s the tax for playing fearlessly and keeping everyone else’s spirits high, you take that seven days a week and twice on Sunday’s.
Ricky Rubio on Anthony Edwards: "It’s gonna take us time but I think with him leading the way, he’s gonna take us to the land we want to be."— jace frederick (@JaceFrederick) February 18, 2021
That’s what makes Edwards so fascinating and unique to me. He is both supremely confident in his own abilities, and yet willing to be patient and accepting of his place on the hierarchy of this team, frequently saying “It’s not my time yet” when asked about his place on this team. He’s constantly made the effort to say that this is KAT and D-Lo’s team, as the great Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic noted in one of his most recent articles.
That humility and patience has surely gone a long way for Edwards in the locker room, but the fact of the matter is that eventually it will be his time, and that day is coming sooner rather than later.
He’s ready for it, too. For a kid that people claimed didn’t have the attitude to be the top overall pick, he sure seems to have a killer instinct and a strong desire to win basketball games.
Anthony Edwards drilling pull-up 3s in crunch time against the reigning champs and giving his teammates the “I got us” nod and smirk absolutely rules pic.twitter.com/twPt5WMBUr— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) February 17, 2021
I genuinely have no clue what the ceiling looks like for this kid, but the Donovan Mitchell comp that our good friend Dane Moore has made in the past seems like a nice projection for Edwards. Plays like this dunk on Chris Boucher’s head show some of those similarities.
While Gersson Rosas’ initial vision of this team was centered around Russell being the primary ball-handler, it’s tough to argue that Edwards shouldn’t get the lions share of creation opportunities on the perimeter. It’s not Russell’s fault at all, but simply a recognition of how quickly Ant seems to be adjusting to the speed of the NBA game, and just how lethal he can be with the ball in his hands. This offense desperately needed someone who could consistently put pressure on the rim, and that’s what Ant brings.
How Anthony Edwards’ scoring gravity simplifies passing reads on full display pic.twitter.com/FKAmx6yJ0g— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) February 17, 2021
ended w a charge, but good lord this guy's *got it* as a downhill driver. pic.twitter.com/3Rl9IXOIxe— Orange is the New Openly Black (@NekiasNBA) February 17, 2021
Edwards humility seems like it should pair very well with any increased responsibility that is given to him as the season and his career progresses, so it’s exciting to envision how he and Russell might learn to play off of each other with Towns. As mentioned before, he’s so confident in his own abilities, but I think he knows he needs to find the right balance with Towns, as well as with Russell when he returns from injury.
Anthony Edwards spoke postgame about taking the majority of the shots in the 4th quarter:— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) February 17, 2021
"I'm a willing passer... It's never Ant finna score. It's always Ant finna make the right play. I tell everyone to stay ready."
Edwards led the Wolves with 28 points tonight.
Truthfully, that development makes the entire roster make a heck of a lot more sense. The thought of Edwards running PnR with Towns, while Russell and are Beasley spaced out, is a really nice framework for a good offense that won’t be predicated on the ball-handler making a ton of tough mid-range jumpers. This offense desperately needed a downhill threat to make the perimeter shooting more dangerous.
The Edwards/Beasley/KAT trio has played 126 minutes without D'Lo.— Orange is the New Openly Black (@NekiasNBA) February 17, 2021
124.3 offensive rating, 115.6 DRTG.
Without pouring gasoline on an already flammable topic, I think it’s becoming evident that the true ceiling of this Karl-Anthony Towns era may be determined by just how good the kid ends up being. He looks like a legitimate star in the making right now, and I would wager that it’s a matter of when, not if, he becomes the second-best player on this roster.
That change in dynamic is an undeniably awesome thing for this franchise, as it pushes the rest of the roster into roles that they’re more suited for. Anthony Edwards’ development into a potential star would be beneficial for every single player on the team in the sense that it moves both D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley into roles where they can be dynamite secondary or tertiary options on offense, with the rest of the roster following suit.
I don’t think that’s what Gersson Rosas envisioned when he traded for D’Angelo Russell a year ago, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and Anthony Edwards could make Rosas a very lucky man.
Is a team built around KAT, Edwards, Beasley, and Russell good enough to be a true winner in this NBA, in a loaded Western Conference? That remains to be seen, and largely depends on how close to his Donovan Mitchell-esque ceiling Edwards gets. What I do know is that Anthony Edwards is awesome, and we are so, so lucky to have him in Minnesota.