Minnesota Timberwolves: Making the future All-Star case for Anthony Edwards

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Minnesota Timberwolves, Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards has the natural talent to become a perennial All-Star, but with a loaded Western Conference, what does Edwards need to do to get a spot?

The Timberwolves have skidded through the first half of the 2020-21 season on their way to the worst record in the league at 7-29. COVID-19, injuries, coaching changes, and team chemistry have all factored into one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.

The lone source of joy for Timberwolves fans this year has been the emergence of 19-year-old phenom Anthony Edwards.

What will Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards need to do to be an All-Star?

While his overall game has been shaky at best to begin his career, Edwards has provided endless highlights, including the dunk of the year, and has been a breath of fresh air on a team that desperately needs a larger-than-life personality.

As Minnesota takes a much-needed rest for the All-Star break, Wolves fans watched the game loaded with the biggest stars from across the league and wonder if or when their rising star will make his big break and become the franchise’s next All-Star player.

Looking at his numbers through just 36 career games, Edwards is having a fine, albeit, inefficient rookie season. At the All-Star break, he’s averaging 14.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game with shooting splits (field goal, 3-point, free throw percentages) of .371/.302/.805 with a true shooting percentage of 46.6.

Those are obviously far from All-Star numbers, but he’s just a rookie, and there hasn’t been a first-year player to make the All-Star Game since Blake Griffin in 2011.

Going back to 2017, there have been 11 different guards to make the Western Conference All-Star team. The average per-game stat line from those guards over that time period before the All-Star break looks like this: 26.2 points, 6.9 assists, 5.9 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 0.4 blocks per game with shooting splits of 46/38/85 and a  59.3 true shooting percentage.

Those are some pretty daunting numbers for anyone hoping to pencil Anthony Edwards’ name onto an All-Star roster, but they are a little skewed because they include the three most ball-dominant players of this generation: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Luka Doncic. All three are in the top-five in usage rate among active players.

Realistically, a line of around 24 points, five rebounds, and five assists with a shooting split of 45/38/85 should get him in the conversation.

It’s clear that one of the biggest improvements that Edwards has to make in order to be considered for an All-Star team is his shooting efficiency. He currently ranks 102nd out of 122 qualified guards in the West in shooting percentage, and 92nd of 116 in 3-point percentage.

The good news is that Edwards’ numbers have begun to slowly tick up in the 19 games since he became a starter. His line as a starter is 16.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game with basically the same shooting splits. If he can keep increasing the counting stats by taking better shots and improving his shooting efficiency, Edwards will keep growing and in a few years could easily put up All-Star-level numbers.

Take a look at the current All-Star landscape in the West and it’s easy to see that it will be an uphill climb for Edwards to become an All-Star. There are no fewer than a dozen guards who should be perennial contenders for All-Star spots over the next 5-10 years.

Of the current and probable future All-Stars, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Mike Conley, and DeMar DeRozan are more than 10 years older than Edwards and will likely age out of contention by the time Edwards reaches his prime.

That leaves current All-Stars Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell, and Devin Booker, along with other young stars including De’Aaron Fox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jamal Murray, and Ja Morant as Edwards’ main competition for an All-Star guard spot for the better part of the next decade.

That’s seven great young guards that Edwards will have to battle for somewhere between four and six roster spots, and that’s even before including the possibility that Eastern Conference guards move west, or any Western Conference team drafts a future All-Star guard in the next five years.

Aside from Doncic and perhaps Morant, Edwards came into the league with the most hype and highest ceiling of anyone else on this list. The current projections of all of these young stars, Edwards currently lies somewhere in the middle with probably a higher ceiling than guys like Murray, Fox, and possibly even Mitchell and Booker, but he also likely has the lowest floor among the group.

A lot of that comes with the territory of being the youngest player on this list. We’re 36 games into the season and Edwards’ potential is still relatively unknown for a kid who won’t even turn 20 until August. Some people around the league, including the man himself, think Edwards could be the second coming of Dwyane Wade, a potential MVP and Hall of Fame-caliber player, while there is still a large group that sees him as no more than an inefficient volume scorer closer to the career of a Tyreke Evans or Andrew Wiggins type player.

But what part will the Timberwolves franchise play in Edwards’ candidacy?

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