One of the hardest things in the world to do as a 19-year-old kid is to take over as the face and future of an entire company, with millions of people scrutinizing your every move. That’s exactly what Anthony Edwards had to do when he was selected first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2020 NBA Draft. Edwards wasn’t the consensus top pick and had to hear that the Wolves probably made a mistake taking him ahead of LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman for a month before the season started.
None of that outside noise seems to bother him at all. Edwards came into one of the worst franchises in sports after the wonkiest offseason in NBA history with an abridged training camp and still had LeBron James-level confidence. He knew he would be great even if most people around the NBA doubted him. Ant truly was A1 from Day 1.
After struggling early in the season, Edwards is on a tear over the last two months, and he’s brought a breath of fresh air to a previously lifeless franchise. His mix of tantalizing skills, personality, and fun-loving nature is quickly endearing him to Wolves fans. And he is on the precipice of becoming one of the most popular players in the NBA.
Edwards, 19, is somehow one of the most gregarious and downright hilarious players the league has seen in a long time. Just watch any of his interviews and try not to laugh or fall in love with the kid.
- He told Marney Gellner before the season that he was the best at every sport.
- Brought Popeye’s to a zoom press conference.
- Loves an Irish reporter’s accent.
- And most recently crashed this Malik Beasley press conference after leading the charge in Wednesday’s comeback win over the New York Knicks.
Timberwolves fans have been waiting for a player and personality like Edwards since Kevin Garnett left to win a title with the Boston Celtics in 2007. Since the KG era, the Wolves have had their fair share of talented players, but none had the it-factor that Edwards seems to possess.
- Al Jefferson was a gentle giant.
- Kevin Love was an old-school player who grabbed rebounds and threw outlet passes.
- Michael Beasley didn’t know his leg from his teammate’s.
- Andrew Wiggins is too quiet and passive, never living up to his massive expectations.
- Zach LaVine tore his ACL and was traded to Chicago before he became a star.
- Jimmy Butler was beloved for 15 months before one of the most spectacular NBA break-ups this century.
The only other star since KG that has come anywhere near his talent has been Karl-Anthony Towns. Even KAT gets dinged by the fanbase for his lack of defensive intensity and inability to drive winning. Many fans have never been all the way in on any subsequent Wolves star as they were with Garnett, even when they’ve been great on the court and in the community, and for good reason.
KG was the heart and soul of the team in the heyday of the Timberwolves franchise. He led them to eight straight playoff appearances and came one Sam Cassell injury away from potentially playing in the NBA Finals in 2004. He created a legend that will be hard to top for any die-hard Wolves fan.
I’m definitely not saying that Edwards will come anywhere close to Garnett in terms of impact on the franchise, but he’s the perfect young player for a fanbase that has been sleepwalking for the better part of two decades.
Ant is currently the odds-on favorite to win Rookie of the Year after LaMelo Ball went down with a broken wrist. He is surging since Chris Finch took over the team in February, averaging 22.9 points per game, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.6 steals on a shooting split of 40.7/30.2/75.3 in the 17 games since Finch took over. Minnesota is 5-12 in that span, which is objectively bad, but given their record was 7-24 before the coaching change, it’s a step in the right direction fueled by their budding young star.
The rest of the schedule is brutal. The Wolves only play five of their remaining 24 games against teams who would be out of the play-in tournament if the playoffs started today. They will still be bad down the stretch, but at least it will be fun to see what Edwards does next.
Ant’s antics this season on and off the court are giving the fanbase a pulse for the first time in 15 years. If he continues to develop as a player, he has the potential to be one of the best and most popular players of his generation.