With respect to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ incredibly talented roster, which includes All-Stars D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Rudy Gobert, it is no secret that their bright and shining star is their all-charismatic and gifted 21-year-old guard, Anthony Edwards.
In his first two seasons in the league, Edwards has already showcased his raw talent and athleticism for the game of basketball. With his high-flying dunks and ability to simply get a bucket in isolation against some of the top-tier perimeter defenders in the league, Edwards has shown the early signs of becoming a prominent star in the league. However, many believe that there is still another level that Edwards is set to reach.
Is Edwards due for a third-year leap?
What is the third-year leap? Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum, and Donovan Mitchell are three All-Star players 25 and younger who significantly improved in their third season. These three players are all the primary scoring options on their respective teams and showed many of the same early potential that Edwards has demonstrated.
For Morant, his third season undoubtedly served as his breakout year, as he went from 19.0 points per game his second year to over 27.0. Morant also improved his shooting percentages and would win the Most Improved Player of the Year Award. He would also be named an All-Star starter, make the All-NBA second team, and help lead the Grizzlies team to a surprising 56 wins and the second-best team record in the league. The Grizzlies went on to eliminate the Timberwolves in the first round. However, they lost Morant for a chunk of the second round, and the eventual-champion Golden State Warriors eliminated them.
In comparison, Tatum also had a stellar leap in his third season. Tatum went from 15.7 points per game his second year to 23.4 his third year. Tatum would also be named an All-Star for the first time and make the All-NBA third team. He led the Boston Celtics to 48 wins while leading them to a deep playoff run into the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost to the Miami Heat.
The Utah Jazz selected Mitchell only 10 spots behind Tatum in the 2017 NBA draft and also had a standout third year. While his scoring average stayed relatively the same, Mitchell made his first All-Star team his third season and put the league on notice during the first round of the playoffs, where the 44-win Jazz faced off against the Nikola Jokic lead Denver Nuggets. Mitchell played a remarkable seven-game round, averaging 36.0 points and putting stellar performances versus Jamal Murray and Jokic.
Edwards has displayed supreme confidence in himself early on in his career. Harking back on his famous, “I bet I’ll be A1 from day one” quote that went viral over social media, Edwards has never shied away from making it clear that he strongly believes in himself and his abilities as an NBA player and as an overall athlete.
In a recent interview with Complex, Edwards was asked what his expectations were going into his upcoming third season, and Edwards was fairly straightforward in his response. “Me personally, I want to be an All-Star Starter,” he said. “I want my averages to go up. I want to win many games and go deep into the playoffs.” Later in the interview, Complex asked Edwards about his thoughts on being in the ‘best player in the league category.’ Edwards responded by saying, “Yeah, for sure. I need another year. After this year, I think I’ll be in the conversation.”
Edwards’ overall impression throughout the interview appeared to indicate that the 21-year-old rising star has all the confidence in the world. It seemed that he could truly be one of the premier faces of the NBA soon.
In his second year in the league, Edwards averaged 21.0 points and nearly 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. He also improved his shooting percentages from his rookie season and helped lead the Timberwolves to the playoffs, where the Memphis Grizzlies beat them in the first round. However, many would argue that the Wolves let the series get away from them, likely because of their youth and inexperience in the playoffs. However, with the recent vividness of the playoff atmosphere in their minds, Edwards could use that as fuel to propel his third-year jump and potentially live up to his aspirations in his interview with Complex.
Edwards’ expectations to be in the ‘best player in the league’ conversation after this upcoming third season could seem a little outlandish. However, Edwards possesses a lot of the offensive prowess and superstar confidence that could allow him to have a similar leap as the three aforementioned all-stars. Edwards could also enhance his defensive capabilities, especially now with a premier rim protector and defensive anchor in Gobert. The latter could grant Edwards more security in becoming a pressing on-ball defender. There’s no telling what Edwards will truly be able to do in his third season, but Timberwolves fans have every right to believe they have a potential breakout superstar under their noses.