The expectations for the Minnesota Timberwolves look vastly different now. They shipped off an abundance of assets to the Utah Jazz to acquire Rudy Gobert, and signed veterans Kyle Anderson and Bryn Forbes. The moves Tim Connelly and Co. made have now forced the franchise’s hand at attempting to do something unfamiliar: contend.
Connelly knew the limitations of this team before accepting the job as Minnesota’s POBO. The Timberwolves barely made the playoffs last season in an injury-ridden Western Conference, and remaining stagnant simply wouldn’t suffice.
Pairing Gobert, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, alongside Karl-Anthony Towns would be enough to carry virtually any team into the postseason. Yet the Wolves are far from your standard roster. With two young talents in Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels and former All-Star D’Angelo Russell projected to share the starting lineup with Gobert and Towns, this Minnesota team is now well-equipped to compete for a title sooner than later.
But unlike the Timberwolves, most championship teams have had one common factor.
An All-NBA 1st Team Selection.
Whether it be Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls, Giannis Antetokounmpo with the Milwaukee Bucks, or any of the championship teams LeBron James has been a part of, nearly 85% of all teams that have hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy have had a player make the All-NBA that same season. For the Wolves, Edwards appears to have the potential to receive the distinguished honors of a first-team selection.
Edwards’ arrival has been the true catalyst for returning Minnesota to relevancy. In seven seasons, Towns failed to prove that he can be the primary scorer on a playoff-caliber team, much less a championship contender. However, much of his team’s lack of success can be attributed to a lack of consistency within the organization. Still, Edwards proved to be a reliable go-to option last year, leading the team in scoring throughout their playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Ant will need to firmly cement himself as the team’s primary player for a Timberwolves team looking to make several deep playoff runs in the coming years.
And he can do so next season. After trading Patrick Beverley and Malik Beasley to Utah, the opportunity for Edwards to grow as an on-ball player has never been bigger. Sure, neither of the two former Wolves were known for pounding the air out of the ball, but they did look for their own shot from time to time. With Beverley and Beasley combining to average a total of 21.3 PPG last season, Ant will need to step up for his team in a big way – much like Jayson Tatum did for the Boston Celtics after Kyrie Irving‘s departure.
Russell has even stated numerous times that he’s “just a guard” rather than the team’s point guard – insinuating that he realizes the importance of Edwards becoming an offensive weapon both on and off the ball. With so much room to grow as a creator for himself and his teammates, there’s no reason that Edwards can’t take the strides necessary to make an All-NBA 1st team and bring the Timberwolves to title contention.
Besides the chance for Edwards to become one of the league’s most dominant scorers, the three most recent POBOs have managed to put together a competitive roster that would suit most NBA superstars in their attempt at an NBA Championship. Looking at the ages of some of Minnesota’s key rotational pieces, it’s easy to see why Edwards will need to step up in a big way next season.
- Karl-Anthony Towns – Age: 26
- Rudy Gobert – Age: 30
- D’Angelo Russell – Age: 26
- Kyle Anderson – Age: 28
- Taurean Prince – Age: 28
- Jordan McLaughlin – Age: 26
Although he’s a month away from being able to consume alcohol legally, the Wolves have surrounded Edwards with players who are either near or in their prime playing days. With last year’s key players Beverley, Beasley, and Jarred Vanderbilt on their way to Utah, Ant will have a much larger role within the organization. The ball is in his hands now, and the longer Ant waits to become the superstar we all know he can become, the smaller the window for bringing a winning culture to the Twin Cities.
Tim Connelly opted to make a win-now trade for Rudy Gobert, knowing that Anthony Edwards is years away from entering his prime. Was it because he simply wanted to make a lasting impression on the Timberwolves fanbase? Or was it that Connelly believes that this team, even with Edwards still on his rookie contract, is actually good enough to contend? Given the team’s newest additions, the expectations for Minnesota are more than just improving upon last year’s win total. Now, it’s looking like the Wolves will need to be a team that can at least make it past the opening round of the playoffs. Still, Minnesota’s chances at a title run rely heavily on just how far Mr. A1 From Day 1 now more than ever before.