);
Minnesota Timberwolves

The Big Picture: Potential of Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards beginning to shine through

To this point of the season, the Rookie of the Year race has been headlined by three players: LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton and James Wiseman.

Noticeably missing? The No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Anthony Edwards.

It's been somewhat of a slow start for Edwards. He came off the bench for the first 17 games of his career, posting averages of 13.0 points, 2.7 assists and 1.9 rebounds on 35.5 percent shooting from the field. He had some impressive performances during that stretch - the highlight being a 26-point outing in Minnesota's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers - as well as some games in which he wasn't able to make much of an impact.

Edwards has since started in nine games, upping those numbers to 16.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists on 42.9 percent shooting from the field. The Timberwolves went 2-7, but it appears as though Edwards is starting to settle in.

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at what we've seen so far from Edwards, focusing on his offence.

MORE: Vote for NBA All-Star starters here!

Putting the pieces together

Edwards is going to make his money in the NBA as a scorer.

The good? He's already flashed his potential as a three-level scorer. The bad? He's struggled to score efficiently from ... everywhere.

We'll get to both, but let's start with the good.

The first thing that jumps out about Edwards is his size. Standing at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, he's built more like a running back than a shooting guard. According to NBA.com, there are 200 players in the NBA this season who are under 6-foot-5. Of those 200 players, only eight weigh more than Edwards.

Edwards puts his size to use on possessions like this:

That's a 19-year-old rookie barrelling into a 6-foot-10 and 279-pound centre before finishing strong at the rim. Sure, Andre Drummond isn't a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, but he doesn't get pushed around often. To absorb contact from someone that size and play through it takes an impressive amount of strength and control.

Edwards isn't all power either. A big part of his appeal coming into the league was his athleticism.

He has 14 dunks this season, the most impressive of which came at the expense of a fellow rookie in Wiseman.

Edwards has also missed a couple of dunks from being - shall we say - overly ambitious.

Something to monitor: Edwards is currently averaging 2.2 free throw attempts per game. I wouldn't put much stock into that yet - it feels like he's drawing more contact than that number would suggest - but Edwards is someone who should live at the foul line based on his style of play.

As is this case with any perimeter player in today's NBA, Edwards won't be able to rely solely on his athleticism to get by in the NBA. His jump shot is a work in progress, but he's a capable shooter, both from midrange and 3-point range.

His mechanics look good and his 6-foot-10 wingspan gives him the length to shoot over defenders, whether he's snaking a pick-and-roll...

...or attacking a defender in isolation from the top of the perimeter.

Put it all together, and Edwards looks like an NBA player. He's smooth with the ball in his hands and there isn't much he can't do. The fully developed version of him should be a monster in transition, a foul-drawing machine and a solid scorer in the halfcourt, both with and without the ball. He's actually made a decent portion of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts this season - 37.3 percent, as of this writing - and his speed and athleticism could make him a scary cutter, especially next to Karl-Anthony Towns, who is one of the better scorers and passers at the centre position.

As already mentioned, the problem with Edwards right now is his efficiency.

While he can do a little bit of everything, Edwards has been a below-average scorer from pretty much every spot on the court to start his career, including the restricted area. His shot chart is ... not pretty.

Some of that comes with the territory of being a teenager in the NBA - it's clear he's still learning the game - but there were a couple of things that stood out when watching the film.

One, Edwards can fall in love with his jump shot.

According to NBA.com, around a third (33.5 percent) of his shot attempts have been pull-ups this season. The issue is Edwards has made only 29.4 percent of his 2-point pull-ups and 27.1 percent of his 3-point pull-ups. The combination makes him one of the least efficient pull-up shooters in the NBA. He's one of 118 players who have attempted 50 pull-ups on the season and ranks 112th in effective field goal percentage.

It's important for his long-term development that he takes those shots but he'd probably benefit from reigning them in a little.

Two, Edward can get tunnel vision.

It's part of why he's struggled as much as he has around the restricted area. As strong and athletic as he is, he can't finish through and over everyone.

There are times where Edwards collapses the defence on a drive, only to settle for a heavily-contested layup rather than making the simple play, resulting in a miss or him getting his shot blocked.

Speaking of which...

More than meets the eye

Edwards probably isn't ever going to be a big-time facilitator for others, but he has shown the ability to make some high-level reads.

Again, there are times where he makes life a little more difficult than it has to be...

...but it's plays like this that make him such an interesting prospect:

That's a veteran move from the 19-year-old, putting his defender in jail before rifling a pass over Paul Millsap to Naz Reid underneath the basket.

Here's another one, this time setting Reid up for a corner 3 with a left-handed dart around Jakob Poeltl:

As long as it might be until we see him make those types of passes more consistently, he clearly has it in him. It'll become more of a factor the closer he gets to reaching his potential as a scorer because the more attention he commands when he has the ball, the more it'll free up his teammates. It's easy to imagine him running pick-and-pops with Towns down the line, as well as driving and kicking to the likes of D'Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley.

We've gotten a taste of that lately, as Edwards is getting more minutes next to Russell, Beasley and Towns now that he's starting.

"They can't help off them. They can shoot. They can't help off me because I can shoot every now and then," Edwards said while laughing.

"It just makes things easier for me to get to the rim. If I attack DLo's side, they can't help. If I attack Beas' side, they can't help. If they help, I can just kick it and it's a 3-pointer."

Outlook

The encouraging thing about Edwards is he's struggling in ways you'd expect from a rookie. Whether it's his shot selection or the way he's reading the defence, much of what he's not doing or should be doing more of are very coachable. It's the areas he's shining in - the physicality, the athleticism, the shot-making - that aren't as coachable.

Of course, that puts a lot of pressure on Minnesota's coaching staff to develop Edwards the right way in the years to come, as well as on Edwards to continue adding to his game and refining it. (We haven't even touched on his defence, which is a big part of his potential).

It leaves a lot of ways his career could go, but it's hard not to get lost in the best-case scenario when watching him play.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

More from NBA.com

#BubbleBHM
BHM: Most impactful moments from the bubble
Yash Matange
all-stars-02282021-nbae-gettyimages
All-Star matchups take centre stage this week
Gilbert McGregor
nba-plain--b403c4d3-0ac0-498e-b8bb-ec381575ca9f.jpeg
Giannis punctuates statement win with rim-rattling dunk
Scott Rafferty
#HornetsKings
Hornets' 'Miracle after Midnight' Pt. 2 in Sacramento
Yash Matange
#Tatum
Clutch Tatum spoils Beal's big game
Yash Matange
#Giannis
#NBATopShotThis: Giannis' monster block
Benyam Kidane
More News