The Minnesota Timberwolves franchise has never been built on major star power. In its 32-year existence, Minnesota has had seven different players represent them in the NBA All-Star game.
- Kevin Garnett: 10-time All-Star with Minnesota (1997-98, 2000-07)
- Tom Gugliotta: 1-time All-Star (1997)
- Wally Szczerbiak: 1-time All-Star (2002)
- Sam Cassell: 1-time All-Star (2004)
- Kevin Love: 3-time All-Star (2011-12, 2014)
- Jimmy Butler: 1-time All-Star (2018)
- Karl-Anthony Towns: 2-time All-Star (2018-19)
Outside of Garnett, it’s not exactly a murderer’s row of sustained superstar success in the Twin Cities.
This is the most exciting Timberwolves season since the Jimmy Butler experience in 2017-18 when the Wolves made the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Starters were announced for the 2022 All-Star game on Thursday, and while no Timberwolves were voted in as starters, Towns will likely make his third All-Star appearance when reserves are announced on Feb. 3.
Minnesota sits in seventh place in the Western Conference with a 24-23 record, and KAT isn’t the only Wolves star who should be getting All-Star buzz. D’Angelo Russell is playing the best basketball of his career. But it’s the budding superstar Anthony Edwards, or should I say “Black Jesus,” who we have gathered here today to anoint as a deserving All-Star candidate.
NBA casuals would probably treat a campaign to get a second Timberwolf to the All-Star game about as fondly as NFL fans treat Roger Goodell on draft night. It’s only happened thrice in Wolves history, but Edwards deserves real consideration from the NBA coaches who vote for the reserves.
The way the All-Star team is constructed is a combination of fan vote (50 percent), players (25 percent), and media (25 percent). They choose the two guards and three frontcourt starters in each conference. Once the starters are announced, NBA coaches choose seven reserves for each conference, two guards, three frontcourt reserves, and two wild card selections in the East and West. Out West, there seems to be somewhat of a consensus on 11 of the 12 selections.
Likely 2022 Western Conference All-Stars
|Steph Curry||LeBron James|
|Ja Morant||Nikola Jokic|
|Chris Paul||Rudy Gobert|
|Donovan Mitchell||Karl-Anthony Towns|
|Luka Dončić||Draymond Green|
It’s quite the squeeze in a down Western Conference that already has big names like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Damian Lillard, and Anthony Davis (probably) out of the running due to injuries. There’s a massive queue of talented players lining up for the last spot. Edwards, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dejounte Murray, Andrew Wiggins, and Russell join another half dozen guys who could make their case.
Murray has the best stats list of hopefuls, and Wiggins is on the best team, but Edwards is the most exciting selection. The 20-year-old phenom is averaging 22.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game on an increasingly efficient 45/38/79 shooting split. If not for Ja Morant’s supernova ascent to legitimate MVP candidate and title contender, Edwards would be a contender for the most exciting young player in the game. He’s a nightly highlight reel who can be seen throwing down monster dunks or big-time threes, forcing coaches to call a timeout because he’s too hot.
The All-Star game was made for players like Edwards. He’s one of the best athletes on the planet, a big-play machine, and already one of the most likable players in the league halfway through his second season. As amazing as he is on the court, his post-game press conferences have become appointment viewing — even for the players answering questions next to him.
Edwards would stand out among the game’s biggest stars and become a bonafide superstar if they let him anywhere near All-Star Weekend. Ant has said he wouldn’t participate in a dunk contest. Still, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver should throw all the money in the world at Ant to compete in not only the dunk contest but every other competition on All-Star Saturday Night. He should be the host of the whole damn thing. Edwards is a special player who is just scratching the surface of his immense talent, but he’s a once-in-a-generation personality.
The biggest hindrance to Ant’s All-Star chances is the construction of the All-Star roster.
Each conference is guaranteed to select a minimum of four guards and six frontcourt players, with two wild cards who can play any position. Ant is at best the seventh guard in the West, and the roster constraints are compounded when accounting for Draymond Green’s injury. The odds-on favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year hasn’t played since Jan. 5 due to a combination of injuries to his calf and back. It looks like it might take longer than anticipated for Green’s back to heal, placing his All-Star candidacy in jeopardy.
If Green isn’t selected as a reserve, two other frontcourt players would need to be selected behind All-Star locks LeBron, Jokic, Gobert, and Towns. It potentially opens the door for less deserving forwards like Wiggins, Jonas Valančiūnas, or a returning Davis to get in while doing nothing to alleviate the six-deep guard rotation firmly ahead of Edwards.
The best way for Edwards to be selected to the game is as an injury replacement. If Green is selected as a reserve and can’t go due to injury, Adam Silver can select whoever he wants to replace Green. Last year Devin Booker was selected to replace an injured Anthony Davis. We could also go real conspiracy theorist with it and give Luka Doncic the reverse DeMar DeRozan treatment and call him a forward for the sake of getting a young star like Edwards in the game. But that might be too far for something as silly as NBA All-Star selections.
Some casuals might be appalled that a second-year player is even getting consideration at all, but it happens more than you think. Last year Zion Williamson made his All-Star debut after playing just 58 NBA games. The year before it was Doncic and Trae Young who made the team in their sophomore seasons. Heck, even Towns could have made it in his second season had Minnesota not been 22-35 at the break. The All-Star game should be a time to celebrate young talent, and if Ant becomes a superstar, you’d rather look back in 20 years and see that he was recognized at the right time.
For once, Minnesota’s record won’t be the reason keeping their stars from the All-Star game. The Wolves are beginning to make the right moves and possibly setting their sights on making earning a playoff series as the sixth seed and skipping the play-in tournament entirely. Of the six teams currently ahead of the Wolves in the standings, the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, and Utah Jazz are in line to have two All-Stars, while the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, and Denver Nuggets are mortal locks to have one each. It might seem weird that the seventh-best team in the conference gets two All-Stars, but Edwards has a better case than Jaren Jackson Jr., Kristaps Porzingis, or Aaron Gordon.
When All-Star reserves are announced on Feb. 3, Wolves fans could see two of their own on the big stage for the first time since 2018. If Edwards ultimately doesn’t make the All-Star team this season, he’ll be in the mix next season, even if he has bigger fish to fry in the future.