Timberwolves

Should We Be Concerned About Ant's Commitment To the Wolves?

Photo Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Well, folks, the time has arrived when rumors about Anthony Edwards’ desire to remain in the Twin Cities start to pop up. This seems to be a rite of passage for Minnesota Timberwolves players, especially the great ones. Like so many traditions of boys becoming men, Wolves players know they are great when the rumor mill starts speculating about future trade demands.

Much of this rumor-mongerong stems from this clip circulating on Twitter. After a timeout, the designed action kept the ball out of Ant’s hands, and…um…he just watched it play out with his hands on his hips.

This is a bad look from the young star. But Edwards’ on-court engagement has been a major question mark for him since before he entered the league. Pre-draft analysis often pegged him as a hyper-athlete with elite shot-making ability who struggled to stay engaged. Here’s what Kevin O’Connor had to say about him in The Ringer’s 2020 big board:

“Inconsistent effort. At times he plays hard by cutting, running up the floor, and crashing the boards. But then he’ll disappear—teams will need to do extensive background to gauge his mentality.”

We shouldn’t be questioning Edwards’ commitment to playing here any more than his commitment to playing at all. Plenty of ball-dominant superstars take possessions off when they are not involved in the primary action. James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and others have been highly criticized for their lack of effort at times. Edwards isn’t at that superstar level yet, but inconsistent effort off-ball shouldn’t limit him from becoming a dominant offensive force.

Still, the Wolves are struggling out of the gate, which makes this clip worse. A disappointing start to the year has brought the drama front and center. Towns, Gobert, and Edwards are having trouble clicking. But should we be worried about Ant’s commitment to the team?

I think, first, we have to acknowledge that he hasn’t started the season looking like he took the leap many fans were hoping for. Though his scoring and rebounding numbers are up from last season, he is committing more turnovers per game and appears to be missing some of the vertical pop that has made him so fun to watch. Most concerningly, he has not been able to convert dunks this year. When asked about his inability to finish above the rim, Edwards provided this response:

“Every time I can get to the rim, I have no chance of dunking. Everybody is in the paint. … Everybody be asking me to dunk the ball like it’s all peaches and cream. I’ve got to get a good lane to dunk the ball.”

It’s pretty easy to read between the lines in the quote and interpret some dissatisfaction with the spacing on the floor. Last year, the Wolves’ offense was one of the most spaced out in the league, leading the NBA by attempting 41 three-pointers per game. This year, that number has fallen to 35.3. That’s still 10th league-wide, but a significant drop from the year before. Of course, the 7’1″ French elephant in the room, Rudy Gobert, now occupies a massive portion of the paint that was wide open for Edwards much of last year.

But the blame can’t be placed solely on the roster construction or the shift in three-point attempt rate. Edwards came into the season out of shape. He was listed at 239 lbs. to start the season. Karl-Anthony Towns made his disappointment in Ant’s diet known earlier this season.

“I know y’all think it’s funny up here when he [Edwards] talks about Popeyes and all that shit.” Towns said. “That doesn’t make me happy to hear. We’re high-level athletes.”

The vibes are admittedly off. I can’t help but think that if the Wolves had won a couple more games, all of this would have blown over. Few superstars can stay committed to a team if the team can’t compete. The Edwards, Towns, and Gobert experiment is in its trial phase, and we haven’t even gotten a chance to see how it can work. We’ve got a few years before we have to worry about Edwards’ sights being set on another franchise.

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