There is no uniform path to superstardom.
Some players enter the league with that title while others gradually ascend to those heights. Then there are those who kick the door down and demand our attention. Their arrival is like a hit of smelling salts that makes the Kool-Aid man look subtle. In the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 114-109 overtime win against the Boston Celtics, Anthony Edwards entered rarified air as a true superstar.
This ascension shouldn’t be totally shocking from a former first overall pick. However, most No. 1 picks don’t enter the league with the tag of “doesn’t like basketball” and “not a winning player” before they even step foot on an NBA court. A lot of that reporting was flawed at the moment, but most people, myself included, vastly overthought it. What made matters worse was Minnesota’s extensive history of sports heartache, underachievement, and tendency to miss “the guy.”
There have been plenty of great Wolves performances, but this one feels different, mainly because it was different.
This wasn’t against a middling team in the doldrums of the regular season. It wasn’t a random role player getting hot and having the night of his life. It wasn’t a real contender resting their players against a lackluster Timberwolves team. It was the franchise’s young cornerstone controlling every aspect of the game against the best team in the league to this point. It was a charismatic leader picking his spots perfectly, getting his teammates involved, and consistently one-upping both an opposing MVP candidate and an All-NBA guard. It was a superstar who actually showed up when he said he was going to.
Anthony Edwards didn’t just win that game for the Timberwolves; he took any hesitations, doubts, or concerns, threw them off a cliff never to be recovered.
Edwards finished with 38 points on 15/25 shooting, nine rebounds, seven assists, and 1 steal. It was arguably the most well-rounded start-to-finish performance of his career. We’ve seen Ant deliver monstrous scoring performances before, but again, this was different. In the previous 12 games where Edwards scored at least 35 points, this was the first time while making only two 3-pointers, the third time he attempted less than 10 treys, and the lowest 3-point percentage he shot. This was different.
Edwards didn’t simply get hot shooting; he surgically dissected the defense over and over and over again until they couldn’t get back up.
this man took the game over.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) November 7, 2023
38 PTS / 9 REB / 7 AST / 1 STL pic.twitter.com/xqKrXuvZQe
In nearly every other previous iteration of the Timberwolves, they would’ve lost this game. Every time that they came close to doing so, though, Edwards was the one to pick them up. There were other tremendous performances like Rudy Gobert’s defense, Jaden McDaniels’ ceaseless influence on both ends, and Mike Conley’s clutch shot-making. The win was a true team effort, but Edwards was the catalyst for all of it.
Aside from being one of the most well-rounded performances of his career, it was also one of the most mature. While his seven assists are sublime, his three turnovers are even more impressive. Edwards took care of the ball despite seeing multiple double teams and knifing through crowded lanes. When the Wolves offense was starved for a bucket, he got to his spots in a meticulous fashion that resembled shooting guards of previous eras. Even when there were some questionable shot selections, they came after he had strung together a series of professional buckets. When a player is in that type of zone, the occasional heat check is understandable.
What was so surprising, though, is that those reckless heat check attempts didn’t carry over to the following possessions. Instead, he proceeded to hunt a better shot or get his guys involved. Even though McDaniels got off to a rough start, Edwards consistently went to him over and over again.
Jaden McDaniels was 1/9 prior to this moment. Not only did Anthony Edwards continue to trust his teammate, but he also gave him a pep talk after the make.— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) November 7, 2023
Jaden went on to shoot 6/8 after this, including 12 big points in the 4th/OT.
That type of confidence in your teammates is infectious. It makes guys believe in themselves knowing that they are going to have to step up sooner or later. McDaniels started the game shooting 1/9 and ended with 8/18. Edwards didn’t assist all of them, but he was constantly keeping his eye on the weak side to find McDaniels if he needed to kick out of a drive.
CORNER POCKET. 3️⃣ pic.twitter.com/vLMCfBAGSX— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) November 7, 2023
To make all of this even more impressive, Edwards was a stellar defender. At the 10:49 mark of the fourth quarter, Ant picked up his fifth foul and got subbed out. This easily could’ve derailed the team and his already impressive performance. Edwards re-entered the game at the 7:09 mark and played the rest of the fourth quarter and overtime, aside from a 10 second substitution, without picking up his sixth foul.
Edwards wasn’t just going through the motions on defense either, trying to avoid his sixth foul. During this time, Edwards spent most of his time defending Jaylen Brown while also switching on Tatum and Jrue Holiday. Instead of allowing guys to drive and give minimal resistance, Edwards executed his defensive fundamentals at an even higher level. He was physical, slid his feet, and was disciplined with his hands. Over the 20 half-court possessions that Edwards was part of defending after picking up his fifth foul, his assignment scored just three points. During that same time, the Atlanta, Ga. native secured multiple defensive rebounds, was making weak-side rotations, closing out to shooters and contesting pull-ups, and got physical with Tatum to force a jump ball that Edwards eventually recovered himself. This wasn’t a typical superstar hiding with five fouls performance. This was different.
Heater of the early season belongs to Anthony Edwards - who just did all of this in a two-minute sequence in overtime to beat the undefeated Celtics. pic.twitter.com/BqiFguLySN— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) November 7, 2023
We’ve known that Anthony Edwards was destined to cement his place in the upper echelon of the league for a while now. He’s provided too many scintillating moments and jaw dropping performances to think otherwise. This performance wasn’t just another outlier that fans will think fondly of looking back on the season in April. This felt like something the Timberwolves have missed for two decades. This was different.