Anthony Edwards was already confident entering the league. After a spectacular start to his career, Edwards may be the most confident player in the league. But he’s done a great job not being overly confident, which is extremely important because overconfidence is a dangerous slope. Too much confidence can lead to a loss of focus and stunted development.
Even after his highly-productive second season, where Edwards established his path to becoming a top-10 player, he still wasn’t ready to get too far ahead of himself. “I still need another year,” Edwards said. “After this year, I think I’ll be in that (best player) conversation.” Even though Ant knows that he will eventually be in that conversation, he clearly understands that he still has to put in the work.
Edwards has come back looking like a “monster,” and he’s ready for his best year yet. But even mansions are built on a foundation. Edwards has listened to the advice of the veterans the Wolves have surrounded him with.
Looking back, it’s hard to imagine a better veteran for Edwards than Ricky Rubio. They got along well, and Rubio offered Edwards veteran advice through every step of the season. Rubio was 30 and the oldest guard on the Wolves roster. The Spaniard had been in myriad situations throughout his basketball career. Anything Edwards would encounter, Rubio had likely been there before.
Although plays like this are unfortunate at the moment, it was a valuable learning experience for Edwards. Rubio ensured Edwards understood the situation, what he did wrong, and how he could fix it.
Rubio provided Edwards with quality guidance because of his experience overseas. “I love it because I’m good at talking to [young players] and letting them know that they are good, but they can be even better,” he said last year. “When I was growing up — I was 16 years old playing professionally here in Spain — I had some mentors like that, who would challenge me every day.”
In his rookie offseason, Edwards said he planned to spend the offseason in Spain with Rubio. “(Rubio) is the best leader I’ve been around my whole life,” Edwards said in March 2021.
The Timberwolves traded Rubio to the Cleveland Cavaliers in August 2021, then acquired Patrick Beverley from the Memphis Grizzlies later that month. Beverley might have had an even more significant impact on Edwards’ development. Beverley’s energy and leadership changed the whole Timberwolves organization, especially Edwards.
To Ant, playing alongside Beverley was “the best thing ever, to have somebody out there who you know want to win just as much as you.” Beverley brought years of winning basketball with him to Minnesota. Although he hasn’t played his best basketball since his Los Angeles Clippers days, Beverley was still a strong leader.
It was no coincidence that Edwards significantly increased his effort on defense after Beverley arrived. Questions surrounding his defensive effort loomed after Year 1, but he quickly dispelled them after one season under Beverley’s wing. Ant averaged nearly half a steal more per game and lowered his opponent’s FG% an entire percentage.
The Timberwolves included Beverley in the Rudy Gobert trade, but Pat Bev’s impact on Edwards will last throughout his career. Rubio and Beverley have provided Edwards with ample knowledge and boosted his development. It’s hard to overstate how important they were at the beginning of Edwards’ career.
Rubio and Beverley knew Ant was an emerging star, and they reminded him of that. Beverley had been reminding Edwards all year that “no one can guard you.” He made sure Edwards understood, “you got a chance to be Michael Jordan. … You really do.” Rubio also mentioned how impactful Edwards would become:
The Wolves have moved on from Rubio and Beverley. But when Edwards is averaging 28 points a night, fans should remember Rubio picking Edwards’ head up or Beverley jumping up on the scoring table alongside Edwards.