The fanbase felt despair yet again. Of course! It’s only right that the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team whose fanbase has endured endless suffering for years, won the lottery in a year where there wasn’t a consensus, franchise-altering No. 1 pick.
Boy, was everyone wrong. Like, really wrong.
Since being selected first overall back in the 2020 NBA Draft, Anthony Edwards has breathed energy and life back into a franchise (and city) that desperately needed it. After essentially calling Jarred Vanderbilt and Patrick Beverley culture-changers in the last midseason review, it’s only right to put Edwards in the same category.
Let’s hop in the time machine for a second — this team was fresh off a 19-win season. They recently acquired D’Angelo Russell, who played just 12 games for the Wolves in 2019-20 (three wins during that time). Due to that bleak season, the Wolves won the NBA Draft Lottery. After dealing with ambiguity surrounding the top prospects, the Wolves ultimately selected Edwards (you know, the kid who didn’t really like basketball).
Since then, Edwards has emerged as both a literal Rising Star — as he competed in the Rising Stars event at NBA All-Star weekend — and a figurative rising star. In his second season, he’s averaging 21.9 PTS, 4.8 REB and 3.6 AST on 43.5% shooting.
That 43.5% shooting includes 35.5% from three, up from just under three percent from last season. In addition to shooting a higher percentage, he’s taking 1.5 more three-point attempts per game. Edwards is seventh in the NBA in made threes this season.
Efficiency has been something to watch this year from Edwards, as it was evident last year he could score in bunches, but at a cost. Excluding an injury-riddled February, Edwards has improved his efficiency as the season’s gone on.
Look out.— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) January 26, 2022
Anthony Edwards True Shooting % by month...
JAN: 60.9% pic.twitter.com/fxfO1NbVsd
What stands out is his catch-and-shoot threes, which he’s making at a 40.8% clip. On attempts where the nearest defender is more than six feet away, he’s shooting almost the same percentage. He’s become a legitimate off-ball threat from deep, which sounds strange considering just how spectacular he is with the ball in his hands. Regardless, it’s an important aspect of his game, as he’ll be forced to play off the ball with other Wolves capable of running the show.
His steady progression took a hit in the nine games played in February, due in part to knee and ankle injuries. The knee injury took place during the Jan. 23 win against Brooklyn, when he collided with Day’ron Sharpe. He then twisted his ankle against Charlotte on Feb. 15. Edwards’ overall play (especially on the offensive end) has fallen off since then, most notably with his 3-point shot, where he’s connected on just 2-of-23 attempts since that game against the Hornets.
Back to the more positive, bigger picture here — it’s obvious that Anthony Edwards can do just about everything on the court when he’s right physically. He can shoot from deep, drive off the dribble, play off the ball, put anyone in the league on a poster, etc. His defense has improved, too. But it’s more interesting to think about what his role is on this team. Because he’s no longer the rookie that’s learning the ropes, he no longer gets a pass for making the wrong play or taking the night “off” simply because he’s young. He’s now a leader. He’s now someone that’s expected to put up All-Star-caliber numbers for the rest of the regular season and into the postseason. He’s also expected to be someone that holds his teammates accountable, and holds himself accountable.
That last line is extra important, as we’ve all seen ANT somewhat stumble out of the gates since the All-Star break, taking more shots (24) than he’s scored points (20). Those types of performances aren’t going to cut it for a Timberwolves team scraping and clawing their way through the Western Conference standings, which is why it’s refreshing to see Edwards do something as simple as getting extra shots up late at night even after a victory.
After the Wolves victory over Memphis, ANT was back out on the court getting up shots pic.twitter.com/Tc2LjWETXo— Real Super Dave (@SuperStatsDave) February 25, 2022
Anthony Edwards’ infectious energy took Minneapolis by storm when he arrived back in 2020, and it’s been an absolute joy to follow and cheer for him since he first put on a Timberwolves uniform. He’s incredibly transparent and honest, which the fanbase loves. So to his hope that Minnesota loves him back as he ordered McDonalds during a postgame interview: I promise it does.