Good morning, and happy Monday to each of you. Hopefully you all were able to enjoy your weekend surrounded by friends and family, and enjoy all of the entertaining basketball on display. March Madness may be the headliner nationally, but locally, your sixth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves are the top story.
The objective for Minnesota wasn’t just to get to sixth on March 21st, though. It’s to stay there or move up further and play well in the playoffs. To do so, they’re going to need the best version of Anthony Edwards, who once again seems on the verge of taking the proverbial “next step.”
As Edwards has gotten healthier, the scoring and burst have slowly but surely come back as well. The tendinopathy he deals with seems like something that could bother him again, but for now, he seems to be at least close to back to being himself athletically. Case in point, his windmill that challenged my ability to keep a straight face in my media seat.
Anthony Edwards explosive windmill dunk pic.twitter.com/MYiwbSlegQ— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) March 19, 2022
As the scoring and explosion comes back, what we’re seeing is Ant on the verge of blossoming into a true two-way star. Ant began to show his value on the defensive end earlier this season by playing the passing lanes like the basketball version of Ed Reed, but lately he’s taken on more responsibility on that end.
With Jaden McDaniels out for the forseeable future with a high ankle sprain and Jarred Vanderbilt playing through a quad contusion, it has been Edwards often being tasked with guarding the best opposing wing threat. The results, to put it mildly, have been encouraging. Ant operated as the main defender of LeBron James in a game where the King was held to just 19 points on 8-21 shooting, followed by a matchup with Khris Middleton, where Middleton scored just 15 points on 13 shots. Edwards had three steals in the game against the Bucks, and two against the Lakers.
Anthony Edwards strips Khris Middleton pic.twitter.com/O6l2RXV8NH— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) March 19, 2022
It’s not entirely surprising that Ant is a good defender, but it is kind of shocking how quickly he’s developed into a positive on that end of the floor. His rookie year was really, really rough defensively, but he’s found out how to channel his otherworldly athleticism into productivity defensively. I mean, the kid is 6’5”, 225lbs and can jump out of the gym. The physical tools have always been there, but his want-to on defense has been much better this year, and has picked up in recent contests.
As Jon Krawczynski noted, the Wolves honestly might need more from Ant on defense right now than they do on offense, at least while Jaden McDaniels is out.
Edwards has the size and athletic profile to matchup physically with pretty much any wing in the NBA, and that brings incredible value. With the offense just in an insane rhythm at the moment, Ant’s attention to defense really is what they most need from him. Whether it’s Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Ja Morant, or Luka Doncic, the Wolves are going to need Edwards best on the less glamorous end of the floor.
The exciting part, though, is that while the Wolves may need his defense more than his offense right now, this end of season stretch run and the playoffs present Edwards the opportunity to truly blossom into one of the most complete two-way players in the league.
The list of guys in the NBA who can contain the league’s best wings one-on-one AND pour in 25 points any given night is short. Ant is on the verge of being one of those guys, and how close he gets to the best version of himself will ultimately determine how high this team’s ceiling is. The kid is special, and I expect him to grab this opportunity and run with it.
Finch on Edwards: “I think he can be one of the best two-way players in the league.”— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) March 19, 2022