The Minnesota Timberwolves have looked out of sorts in two preseason games, but don’t blame their first overall pick for a slow start.
Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards has had an up-and-down start to his first NBA preseason, to say the least.
The top overall pick in last month’s NBA Draft now has two preseason games under his belt, and while he’s had his moments, has mostly looked a little lost on the court.
The former University of Georgia guard, who turned 19 years old in August, is averaging 8.5 points, four rebounds, 1.5 assists, and four turnovers while shooting just 26 percent from the field in 26 minutes per game in his first two contests.
Those stats, taken at face value, are bad. That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that those stats and his poor start mean next to nothing, so don’t start to panic and compare him to the biggest draft busts in NBA history just yet.
In a normal season, the top pick in the draft would have played an entire 30-35 game NCAA basketball schedule, conference tournament, and likely several games in the NCAA Tournament. Then they would spend April to June with a top trainer, honing their skills to get ready for the NBA Draft. After the draft, they spend two weeks in Las Vegas competing in the NBA Summer League.
Finally, they get a full in-market training camp and preseason leading up to the start of the NBA regular season.
Edwards got next to none of that. He played 32 games for a poor Bulldogs team last season until COVID-19 shut down the SEC Tournament. He likely had much more restricted access to a gym and a trainer while much of the country was shut down from March to June. He had to wait until Nov. 18 to know what team he would be playing for and what city he is going to live in for the next few years of his life.
Edwards was in Minnesota for less than a month before the preseason started, and the Wolves only had a handful of practices before he took the court.
None of this stunted offseason is conducive for a teenager to take the next step in his career, while millions of people watch his every move and overact to every missed shot.
Edwards has looked exactly how you would expect a kid who just moved out of his home state for the first time in his life would look in his first week at his new job. He’s looked confused, lost, and overwhelmed at times.
Even still, with all of the questions surrounding Edwards, he has made enough good plays in two games to show that he might get very comfortable in the NBA very quickly.
In the second quarter of Monday’s game against the Grizzlies, Edwards missed a three, and Grizzlies guard De’Anthony Melton leaked out for a quick transition bucket. But Edwards glided back on defense to track down Melton and hit him with the LeBron James patented chase-down block.
He also showed a lot of improvement from the first game to the second. In Game One, Edwards only saw two of his nine shot attempts go in while turning the ball over three times and committing five fouls in 26 minutes. Rough stuff for the rookie.
Game Two, on the other hand, saw Edwards play some meaningful defense, drop 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting, make 3-of-4 free throw attempts, and look more comfortable on the court than in his debut.
Anthony Edwards isn’t the only top prospect to struggle out of the gate
While the first few games don’t invoke memories of other No. 1 pick debuts, don’t believe that Edwards was the wrong choice for the Wolves at the top of the draft. Plenty of other NBA superstars looked lost out of the gate.
Damian Lillard himself laid an egg in his second preseason game during his rookie campaign in 2012. In a loss against the Phoenix Suns, Lillard shot 5-of-13 and just 1-of-6 from 3-point range with five turnovers.
In his second preseason game as a rookie in 2017, Donovan Mitchell probably made some fans worry if he would ever figure it out in the NBA. The Jazz star shot a dismal 3-for-16 from the field and scored just eight points.
Nobody is saying that Edwards will have the careers that Lillard and Mitchell are currently enjoying, and as the No. 1 pick he’ll have even more pressure to produce right away. The moral of the story is, quite simply: don’t panic just yet.
Edwards is two preseason games into his first season in the NBA and has spent less than a month with his new team. Things will almost inevitably get better from here.
He’ll have a chance to keep things moving in the right direction as the Wolves travel to Dallas to finish off the preseason against the Mavericks on Thursday.