Timberwolves

We're Getting A Glimpse Of What An Edwards-Centric Wolves Team Looks Like

Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy (USA TODAY Sports)

As COVID-19 continues to ravage the professional sporting landscape, teams are getting a unique look at lineup combinations they wouldn’t otherwise see. With the influx of emergency 10-day contracts, benches across the league are getting cleared out as NBA exiles, retirees, and rejects alike are vying for playing time.

The validity of teams’ records at the end of the season will invariably be scuffed, but this is the reality of the world we live in. Money rules all as the league tries to push its way through Omicron with brute force. Players’ and public health are being jeopardized, but at least the show goes on.

It is not all doom and gloom, though. The opportunity to watch the depth pieces of teams play is great for NBA savants. It is a chance to learn about players more objectively instead of conjecture stemming from limited playing opportunities. A unique look at players and how they adapt to the speed of the professional game at least give the viewers some reason to watch the games without their respective superstars.

Some of these teams playing without their superstars also provide a unique look into their futures. In the case of the Minnesota Timberwolves, these games without Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell give the front office and fans alike a chance to see how the team would operate if it fully gave the keys to Anthony Edwards.

Edwards is undoubtedly an ascending superstar. The thought of curating future draftees and free-agent acquisitions to maximize his skill set has been floating around the fanbase’s collective conscience for quite some time. It’s far from a certainty, but it is the de facto fallback option if the DLo-KAT pairing fails.

An Edwards-led team is an exciting thought. His energy and enthusiasm are among the only things that may be able to wash away the last decade’s worth of failure and nonchalance. The Timberwolves have a league-wide reputation of ineptitude, passivity, and losing. Edwards is the first player that the Wolves have had since Kevin Garnett that can challenge all three of those depictions.

The window to get a glimpse into an Edwards-led future is admittedly small, but it is reason enough to watch extra closely for the next couple of games. Giving up an 18-0 run in the fourth and losing to the Utah Jazz on Friday night hurt. But it was emblematic of a young and talented team going through some growing pains.

Edwards paced the Wolves with 26 points in his first game back from the health and safety protocols before fouling out after only 32 minutes of play. His plus/minus was minus-1, tied for second among Minnesota players who played at least 15 minutes. (Nathan Knight was plus-6 in 19 minutes off the bench). Edwards did not shoot the ball efficiently (9-of-21), but he was a magnet for defenders while he was on the floor. With a disheveled lineup and little time to regain cohesion, the narrow defeat was about all anyone could ask for against the Jazz, one of the NBA’s best teams.

It was a different story against the Lakers on Sunday night.

Despite the nifty finish above, Edwards finished the game 7-for-19 for a mere 18 points with eight turnovers. He also went 0-for-6 from deep. The Timberwolves had multiple opportunities to close out this game against Los Angeles but ultimately floundered in the moments that counted. A usual barrage of hero-ball from Malik Beasley doomed the team yet again. The pieces on the court did not add up to the collective whole of its talent, and it was a disappointing loss buoyed by an even worse performance from Edwards.

Edwards may be under an unfair amount of pressure, but it is the reality for a team mired in its own mediocrity. With new ownership coming to town and legitimate fears of Alex Rodriguez moving the Timberwolves moving out of Minnesota, the young core of Wolves players need to establish themselves as winners right now. If the team can win games now, attendance and revenue will start going up, and Rodriguez and partner Marc Lore should see the long-term viability of the Twin Cities market.

As we are approaching the midway mark of what surely feels like the make-or-break year for the DLo-KAT tandem, all options remain on the table. If Minnesota makes the playoffs, there is probably enough reason to keep the core of the team as-is and try to build on the chemistry and culture that has been building. If the Wolves fail to make the playoffs, it may be time to get as much value for what remaining assets are on the team. Liquidate while Towns’ value is high, and use the returns to put a competent team around Edwards.

We’re not at that point yet. I have advocated for moving on from Towns in the past. But the early returns on this current iteration of the team are worth seeing it through. However, a look into the potential future cannot hurt. One way or another, this will eventually be Edwards’ team. We should assess what he will need around him while we can.

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Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy (USA TODAY Sports)

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