I am a big Anthony Edwards fan. I think he is an electric talent on the court and somehow manages to be even more super-charged off the court. From his presence behind a mic to his unhinged Instagram live streams, he is an endless fountain of good vibes only content for fans to enjoy.
Anthony Edwards is awesome.
Like uncle Ben once said: “With great [awesomeness] comes great responsibility.” Seemingly, Antman has already been given an immense amount of said responsibility. His flashes on the court have made fans leapfrog the conversation from “will Edwards ever be an All-Star” to when will Edwards be a top-five player. The way in which he has been sanctified as a franchise savior after one up and down season is, um, intense. Like when he says I love you after your fifth date type of intense. Things are moving too fast.
I know that it’s exhilarating. It’s like Andrew Wiggins all over again, except Edwards is extremely charming and endlessly interesting. His game is also less floaty and more flashy. I totally understand why so many are so invested in him. But I think it’s leaning toward unhealthy. I mean, for god’s sake, his dog managed to distract the entire fanbase from the internal chaos in the Timberwolves front office.
I suppose this is good in some ways. It’s great for fans to have a player to feel attached to. But it becomes negative when we get so blinded by highlight dunks that we fail to see the whole picture. If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see that Edwards is far from a sure thing.
On the most recent episode of The CnD NBA Show, Dylan and I discussed the idea of trading a package centered around Ant for Ben Simmons. Before you walk to your shed to grab your torch and pitchfork, I don’t think a package like that is realistic or worth it. Although, the reasons are less about basketball and more about the interpersonal and perception-based implications that type of transaction would have. Edwards is the most likable and magnetic personality the Timberwolves have had in a long time who also happens to look like he could be a perennial All-Star player. Simmons is a playoff flameout who doesn’t even want his teammates to come and visit him in LA. The Wolves couldn’t possibly make that trade.
But it makes some sense from a basketball perspective, right? I don’t want to toil over the specifics of the trade because, again, this won’t happen. However, including Edwards probably means that the Wolves can retain Malik Beasley and Jaden McDaniels. Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell are potentially a potent offensive pairing. We haven’t seen much of them together. However, the idea of those two as the focal point of an offense is tantalizing. Add Beasley’s knockdown shooting to the mix, and the Wolves have the foundations of a quality NBA offense.
Minnesota’s biggest problem is their defense. If the Wolves could play McDaniels and Simmons together every night, their defensive versatility would help compensate for the guards on the roster who struggle defensively. When point-of-attack defense is the primary issue, both Simmons and McDaniels have proven that they can defend some of the best guards in the league. If a bigger wing is giving the Wolves problems, those two also fit the bill.
Let’s think about the next five years. Edwards entered the league unpolished and inexperienced. There is a chance that he makes the jump from offensive highlight factory to primary option on an above-average NBA offense within that timeframe. That jump is far from a sure thing. On the other hand, Simmons has proven that he can be the best defender on a contending team. He has already made an All-NBA team, and he’s a two-time All-Defensive player who has already made three All-Star appearances. Odds are that Simmons will be more productive over the next five years.
A while back, I wrote about Edwards and what we can expect in his second year. I used historical data to paint a picture of what type of jump rookies usually take after their first season.
The results were undeniably optimistic. In short, most rookies who lead their class in scoring made a significant improvement from Year 1 to Year 2. Also, 53% of players who averaged 19 or more points in their rookie season went on (or will go on) to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame.
This week I looked at players in NBA history who averaged between 18-20 points during their rookie season. The list was once again filled with excellent players. However, I took efficiency into account this time. Edwards ranked last in box plus/minus, last in win shares, and fourth from last in field goal percentage. We can compare that to Towns, who ranked sixth, fourth, and first in BPM, WS, and FG% respectively.
If Edwards can be the proverbial straw that stirs the drink, then all this is silly. The point here is that Edwards is still raw. If he is going to reach his peak, it is going to take time. So, no, I don’t want to trade Edwards for Simmons, or anyone else really (except maybe Damian Lillard). But I need to acknowledge that odds are this year won’t be a breakout for him. Odds are that Wolves fans get a year full of tantalizing highlights and a lot of inefficient basketball. It’s not fair to expect the world from him in Year 2, nor should we expect him to lead the Wolves to the playoffs. Second-year players don’t do that unless they’re named Luka or Shaq, Magic or Jordan. LeBron didn’t even make the playoffs in Year 2. Edwards needs time to figure out the game, and maybe someday he can put it all together, and Ant can join the “one name club” (see Luka, Shaq, LeBron, Magic, Jordan, etc.).
Until then, we’ve got to wait and cherish every small step forward we see in his game.