Isabel Gonzalez @cisabelg
Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards has talent as big as his personality. While the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft was not the favorite to win Rookie of the Year at the beginning of the season, he is certainly making his case now.
When the season started, LaMelo Ball looked like the most probable candidate for ROY, but the Charlotte Hornets guard suffered what at first seemed to be a season-ending wrist injury on March 20. He is healing faster than expected and there’s a chance he could return to the lineup soon, but Edwards started to pick up steam in March and will likely continue to be competitive even if LaMelo does come back.
Edwards is leading all rookies in scoring with 18.3 points per game, as well as in total three pointers with 142 of them.
The 6’4 guard is athletic and has raw scoring ability. He has been scoring in double digits since he put on the Timberwolves jersey, but he’s taken it up a notch in the last two months.
On March 18, Edwards had a career-best 42 points against the Phoenix Suns, a team that has one of the best defenses in the league. Edwards became the youngest player with a 40-point performance in Timberwolves history and the third youngest in NBA history.
Edwards averaged 24.2 points per game during the month of March and didn’t slow down in April. He’s averaging 21.3 points per game but is also showing he has the potential to help in the Timberwolves weaker area: the defense. The team as a whole has been inconsistent on that side of the ball, but stepping up on the defense helped the Timberwolves pull off a surprising sweep against the Utah Jazz, who currently have the best record in the NBA.
Edwards got five steals during Saturday’s game to complement his 23 points, nine rebounds and four assists. When focused, the 19 year old can be a difference maker. He feels very confident in his ability to read passers and credited his football background for it.
“I tell Coach (Chris) Finch all the time, when I’m in gaps, don’t be telling me do this, do that. I play safety. I play cornerback,” Edwards said after Saturday’s 101-96 victory against the Jazz. “I know what I’m doing. If I bite a little bit and they make a pass, it’s a steal… Football definitely helps me with picking the pass off all the time.”
Edwards struggled offensively during the last game of the Utah series on Monday, particularly from beyond the arc. He struggled again on Tuesday against the Houston Rockets, but Finch was happy with the effort he saw and the fact that Edwards fought to pick up nine rebounds during each of the last three games. Finch said he’s been asking Edwards to work on being more active on the glass.
Another thing the coach is liking is his strong performance during fourth quarters. He described Edwards as an explosive player who can “put a hot streak together quickly.”
The Timberwolves have the second worst record in the Western Conference at 19-44. They are struggling, but Edwards has been improving and could give them some hope for the future. He is seeing significant playing time, having appeared in all 63 games for Minnesota so far while averaging almost 32 minutes a game.
Finch said Edwards can be a consistent rim attacker and potentially grow to be one of the best in the league. While he doesn’t expect the rookie to have it all figured out yet, he said Edwards is an important asset to the team.
“He has the ability to make plays that not every player can,” the coach said. “When you see that, you get inspired. When he is playing that way, he plays with great energy and that translates to his teammates.”
It’s not just his own team who sees the potential in him. Edwards is already earning the respect of some of the biggest stars in the league. Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George talked highly of him during a postgame press conference on April 18.
“He can be a big player. Big time talent, explosive kid. He’s got a powerful game and he can do a little bit of everything,” George said. “He can do a lot of things. You talk about a three-level scorer. He’s elite. I see star, All-Star, possibly superstar. Sky’s the limit for the kid.”