Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards’ Rookie of the Year candidacy

Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

It’s that time of year. Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards is generating all kinds of chatter around his Rookie of the Year award candidacy, from analysts and experts to his own superstar teammate.

Unfortunately, a big reason for the uptick in conversation around Edwards is due to the injury to Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball. Realistically, Ball isn’t going to win the award after playing in 41 games with only 21 starts. That means that it’s basically Edwards, the rookie scoring leader, who must simply avoid losing the award.

Still, the peripheral numbers and efficiency aren’t good, which is what makes this debate strangely compelling.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns makes the case for Anthony Edwards

Karl-Anthony Towns won Rookie of the Year in 2016 and played with the 2015 award-winner, Andrew Wiggins.

He’s now a two-time All-Star and a one-time member of the All-NBA Third Team. Towns’ last two seasons have been marred by nagging injuries and disappointing play, not to mention the tragic offseason he suffered through between last year’s COVID-19-shortened campaign and the current season.

When asked about Edwards, here’s what Towns said:

Cynics may note that it isn’t like Towns would have made the case for anyone other than his teammates. But still, it was a clear and ringing endorsement, and notable nonetheless.

Perhaps this is semantics and unintentional from KAT — he does, after all, say that Edwards is “the best of the best” in his next breath — but note that Towns says Edwards is “the most talented player in the draft class.” That’s not a difficult point to argue whatsoever.

Clearly, the high-end, flashy things Edwards can do on the basketball court are unmatched by the vast majority of the league, much less the rookie class. But impressive dunks and gravity-defying layups don’t necessarily equal the best player.

ESPN’s intriguing ranking of Anthony Edwards among best young players

ESPN released their annual “25 under 25” list, a ranking of the league’s best young stars by future potential (subscription required). It’s a list that has included both Towns and D’Angelo Russell for years, but they both aged out of this year’s article.

That leaves Edwards as the Wolves’ lone realistic candidate for the list. And while he was on the final ranking, he didn’t make the top 25 on the individual list of one of ESPN’s most prominent experts.

Kevin Pelton, the analytically-driven analyst and writer, listed 25 players under the age of 25 and didn’t mention Edwards. If measuring current on-court production and positive impact, it’s defensible. But remember, the ranking is supposed to be about future potential.

Bobby Marks ranked Edwards No. 19 on his list while Mike Schmitz had Edwards at No. 16 and notes that he sees him as a “future All-Star, so long as he continues chipping at some of his shortcomings.”

Averaging the three rankings, Edwards lands at No 19 on the list. Ball, of course, is high on all three lists, ranking No. 3 on the master list. Edwards’ biggest competition for the award at this point, Sacramento’s Tyrese Haliburton, also appears on all three lists, but low enough that he clocks in at No. 21, two slots below Edwards.

Clearly, Edwards’ ongoing defensive struggles, turnover issues, and inefficiency knocked him far down this list, but his sheer upside and athleticism, combined with scoring touch and physicality, should be enough to cement him a spot on anyone’s 25 under 25 list.

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The Rookie of the Year battle probably won’t be close when it’s all said and done. Scoring talks, after all. But Edwards has plenty of work to do in order to prove that he’s more than simply a volume scorer.