With the first pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select ... Anthony Edwards from the University of Georgia.
The moment. 🐺 pic.twitter.com/Y0YecUrKVd- Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) November 19, 2020
Leading up to the day of this year's draft, there was still uncertainty surrounding who\ the Timberwolves would take with No. 1 overall pick. Highly-touted prospect LaMelo Ball was in consideration, but the fit didn't make a ton of sense with the team already establishing one-time All-Star D'Angelo Russell as their floor general of the future. Top-ranked big man James Wiseman was another name in the mix, but like Ball, didn't fit with Minnesota's other franchise cornerstone being two-time All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns.
That left Edwards, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound shooting guard out of Georgia as the fitting puzzle piece to the Timberwolves future. With no overlap of either current T'Wolves star and an opening at the starting shooting guard position, it was the perfect match for a team beginning to try and shape itself into a playoff regular for years to come.
Edwards only played one year of college basketball but racked up the accolades in his freshman campaign. Averaging 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals per game, he was named SEC Player of the Year, SEC Rookie of the Year and earned a spot on the All-SEC First Team. Three feats that are nothing to sneeze at.
While he showed a lack of dedication on the defensive end at times and didn't shoot extremely efficiently (at 40.2% from the field and 29.4% from 3), I anticipate Edwards becoming a more efficient scorer in the league, taking advantage of less attention from opponents on the offensive end, while changing his mindset on the defensive end to fully utilize his physical tools to become better on that side of the ball.
Now that you know what Edwards brings on the surface, how will he fit alongside his team's superstars?
How will Anthony Edwards fit with the Timberwolves?
In my Mock Draft leading up to draft night, this is what I wrote on the No. 1 pick:
"Edwards is an explosive guard with the body of a 6-foot-5 NFL running back, punishing defenders when he attacks the basket. He has a tight handle with the ability to create his own shot off the bounce and should thrive as a shot-maker, even at the NBA level. He can finish in a variety of ways and is confident enough with the ball in his hands to play the 1 or the 2, but his playmaking could use some polishing. His effort on the defensive end leaves much to be desired at times, but he has the physical attributes to become a solid defender in the league."
The majority of those things are perfectly in line with what the Timberwolves need, woes on the defensive end aside, which we'll get to in a minute.
Minnesota needed a wing scorer that can put pressure on the rim in transition, running the floor to give Russell another option to make opposing defences uncomfortable . Edwards' shotmaking ability also gives the Timberwolves a secondary scoring threat from the perimeter, which should take some of the congestion off of Towns in the paint. It works out that Edwards likes attacking the basket because Towns also likes to float to the perimeter at times, attempting 7.9 3s per game last season, the most in the NBA by a centre.
Although Edwards shot low percentages from the perimeter in college, he was the focal point of every scouting report, often seeing opponents' best defenders or multiple bodies each time he touched the ball. With two scorers of Russell and Towns' calibre and NBA spacing, Edwards should get the best looks he's seen since ... probably his entire life.
Another thing that fell into place after the draft that should work in favour of Edwards' development is the acquisition of Ricky Rubio, which should take all pressure off of the rookie to become a combo guard in his first season. Learning under an elite playmaker like Rubio and a solid passer like Russell should help fine-tune Edwards' point guard skills at a comfortable pace.
But the one area that needs improvement immediately - which I already alluded to - is Edwards' defence. He has all the physical tools to be a high-calibre defender, his effort and IQ just need to be ramped up.
According to NBA stats, Minnesota had a defensive rating of 111.6 last season, ranking 20th in the NBA. If they're going to become a playoff team in the Western Conference, that simply will not suffice.
Edwards is aware of that, though, already saying the right things ahead of his first NBA season.
"I've got two superstars alongside of me, so I'm not really going to feel too much pressure," he told Mark Medina of USA Today. "They already can score the ball, so defensively I'm going to impact the game."
He's also reportedly been putting in work with the Timberwolves "defensive coordinator" in assistant coach David Vanterpool.
"I feel like one of the great things is Coach Vanterpool took me under his wing and he realized I could be a really good defensive player," Edwards told the media in a post-practice media availability earlier this week. "He taught me areas to cut off, areas where we want (players I cover defensively) to get to, where we don't want them to get to, so I feel like my defense has improved since I got here."
Showing improvement just one week into his first season is a great start for the 19-year-old. If he can continue to build on that throughout the season, Minnesota may have found its third franchise cornerstone of the future.
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