After Anthony Edwards lit it up last night, going for 28 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, Minnesota Timberwolves Twitter was giddy. And how could you blame them? Their rookie, the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft, showed out against the Los Angeles Lakers. What’s more, he’s started to do so on a more consistent basis. The excitement these eyeballs saw last night, the optimism, was solely around Ant Edwards.
Thrilled as they are, the Wolves ride-or-die faithful are still hesitant about the franchise’s future.
Some of the reasons are obvious. Years of hesitation and tempered expectations, liberally sprinkled with disappointment, have led everyone to expect the worst. This year has been no different.
D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns have hardly been on the floor at the same time. With the recent news that Russell is set to have a “loose body” removed from his knee, he’s set to miss the next handful of weeks.
I hesitate to throw out the word, but this trade appears cursed.
Towns has gone through unimaginable heartbreak off the court in the last year, as well as battled COVID-19 himself. It’s impossible to blame the guy for having his thoughts elsewhere at times.
Forget about these setbacks for minute. When you zoom out to a wider view, what do you see in this Timberwolves team?
You see young rookie Anthony Edwards starting to flourish. The absence of other key players has created opportunity that Edwards has seized. The dude is a ball of energy, and if you watched his press conference after the game Tuesday night against the Lakers you see someone who has that indescribable “it” quality. The confidence, the charisma, the intelligence, the relatability, all bottled up into one being.
You see someone who could be a star.
There’s the aforementioned Towns. It seems like he’s been here for a decade but he’s only 25 years old. When healthy and in the right mindset, he’s one of the most efficient big men in the association. He’s a two-time All-Star, and a former third-team All-Pro selection. He has all the tools to be dominant in the league for a long time.
D’Angelo Russell hasn’t delivered on expectations when healthy. Still, at his worst Russell is a surefire NBA starter with the offensive prowess to get red-hot and take over a game. There are questions about the defense, and they are valid, but Russell is a solid starting guard at worst. Oh yeah, and he’s only 24.
Malik Beasley is in the first year of a four-year contract with Minnesota. He’s averaging 20.6 points per game, and while he’s more of a complementary piece, he’s been in a larger role this year thanks to injuries and COVID protocols — and he has thrived. He, too, is just 24.
That’s four pieces that could and should be in Minneapolis for years to come, and they’ve hardly had any time on the court together. I get that this year has been miserable, but is it foolish to think this team will come together eventually? Or do we believe it crumbles, like so many futile attempts in years past, as parts of this nucleus are eventually traded off?
The golden ticket is the draft pick for next year. If it’s top three, the Wolves keep it. If it’s not, it goes to the Golden State Warriors. The idea of adding Cade Cunningham or Jalen Suggs to the mix should get you salivating.
As someone who was not born and raised a Timberwolves fan, I have a little outside perspective on the current roster. Some of the talent is legit (Towns), some of it has shown early promise with unlimited potential (Edwards), and some is young and inconsistent but still valuable when healthy (Russell, Beasley). The only question is will this group blend together and will it have the right guidance to reach its maximum potential as a unit.
The Wolves ride-and-die fans see optimism in Anthony Edwards, and rightfully so. From the overall team structure, they seem to have pause. It’s hard to blame them. Every time they want to buy stock, they are left empty-handed and begging for some semblance of a competitive contender.
It appears Minnesota has a lot of the pieces currently in place. Time will tell what they do with them. Perhaps the Wolves will remain the Wolves and this will explode into a million fragments. Or perhaps this time, given the recent trends of Anthony Edwards, this time it will be different.