Can Ant Take Another Big Leap In the Second Half?

Photo Credit: Nick Wosika (USA TODAY Sports)

Anthony Edwards’ rookie season was exciting. Finishing as the 2021 KIA Rookie of the Year Runner-Up, on top of numerous posterizing dunks, someone who didn’t pay much attention to the first overall pick may have thought he was solid throughout all of last season.

But fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves remember otherwise. After the Georgia native’s first few games in the league, fans were beginning to wonder if the front office had made the right selection. Eventually, their eyes began to wander elsewhere towards the Charlotte Hornets’ LaMelo Ball.

After being taken first overall, expectations were high for the 19-year-old. Over Edwards’ short-lived collegiate career, he proved to be exactly what the Timberwolves needed: An explosive wing who could take over a game at a moment’s notice with his offensive arsenal. But the beginning of Ant’s career was far from explosive.

Edwards’ first couple of games had people salivating. But after putting up 33 points on 54% shooting throughout his first two games, everyone realized that everything that glitters is not always gold.

Poor shot selection and a complete lack of defensive awareness soon haunted the first overall pick. Night after night, the box score would show single-digit points on well below average shooting efficiency. Wolves Twitter routinely went into full-blown panic mode as it seemed the team had just drafted the second coming of Dion Waiters rather than Dwyane Wade – the players who Edwards was compared to most by draft experts.

Where was the Georgia Bulldog who put up 33 points in a half? Does he love football more? Should the Wolves have traded the pick?! There seemed to be no end to the questioning of Minnesota’s rookie.

Edwards’ play was rough in his first 32 professional games. While averaging an inefficient 14.1 points per contest, it seemed as though the Wolves had made the wrong pick back in November 2020.

Take a look at these numbers:

Yes, it was far too early to cast Ant as the wrong pick. Thirty-two games isn’t even half of the regular season. After one of his worst games, which came during a 27-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Edwards could only put up a total of nine points and shot 23% from the field. And once again, visions of Big Baller Brand bounce passes to Karl-Anthony Towns danced within the minds of thousands.

Following his abysmal play that came during the ass whooping from the future NBA champs, Edwards finally seemed to be able to put it all together. Sure, he had put up high-scoring numbers before. But for every jaw-dropping performance that came before Game 33, there seemed to be countless other instances of him putting on underwhelming performances.

Just take a look at these All-Star like numbers provided by Thurski himself:

And do you know what’s right around the corner again? Game 33. Yes, the Timberwolves take on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But Brooks, what’s that got to do with anything? The answer is simple: We could potentially see Mr. A1 From Day 1 himself take yet another giant leap.

Yes, his minutes per game increased by a margin of eight last season. And I’m pretty positive that head coach Chris Finch isn’t trying to “Thibodeau” his star player by playing him upwards of 40 minutes a night. But Edwards is remarkable. And exceptional players know how and when to turn it up a notch. Just look at what LeBron James has been doing over the last several years of his career.

Even now, there are still plenty of flaws in Ant’s game despite how good of a player he is. Still, we see him settle for contested jump shots when it’s well-known that there is hardly anyone in the entire NBA who can stop him from getting to the rim. And for goodness sake, when will we see him receive the same officiating as some other stars across the league?

I’m not saying that Edwards will have a drastic nine-point increase in his PPG average. But what I am saying is that maybe it simply takes him a solid thirty or so games before he feels like he can give 110% effort. And with him stating in Wednesday night’s post-game interview that, “We are going to the playoffs,” it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Ant try and back up his words.

Edwards’ 33rd game as an NBA player will forever be a game that sparked the player we all know and love today. Whether Ant can turn his game up to an entirely other level or not, what he’s been able to do this year when available has been mesmerizing. Even if he doesn’t make the All-Star team and the Wolves miss out on the playoffs, Edwards is a special player who is well on his way to stardom. But we should all continue to have our eyes on the charismatic second-year player from this point forward to see if history repeats itself.

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