Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards cracks Kevin Pelton’s top 25 under 25

Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards is improving rapidly enough that ESPN’s Kevin Pelton was forced to acknowledge that he’s now on his list of the top 25 under 25 years old.

Pelton, ESPN’s primary analytically-minded NBA analyst, had previously excluded Edwards from his list due to his lack of efficiency and sieve-like play on defense.

Now, Edwards’ improvement has been too significant to ignore.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Pelton ranks Edwards No. 3 among rookies

The Edwards conversation was brought up again between ESPN’s Pelton and Mike Schmitz in the context of the Rookie of the Year battle (subscription required).

Both analysts list LaMelo Ball as this year’s best rookie, which is anything but a surprise given just how impressive this year’s No. 3 pick for the Charlotte Hornets prior to his wrist injury. The player listed second, however, was a point of slight contention.

Schmitz ranks Edwards as a “clear-cut” No. 2 and notes that he thinks Edwards “has a chance to be one of the NBA’s top scorers for years to come”. He lists his recent jump in efficiency (over 50 percent on 2-point attempts and 35 percent on threes in his last 10 games) and a positive trend in assist-to-turnover ratio as primary reasons for slotting him as the second-best rookie.

Schmitz then prompts Pelton by asking him why he didn’t have Edwards on his list of the best 25 players under the age of 25, an article that was written about two weeks ago.

Pelton brings up Edwards’ disappointing true shooting percentage as a representation for his relative inefficiency this season but also acknowledges that there is plenty of precedent for rookie volume scorers to have efficiency issues as rookies — including LeBron James, as Pelton points out.

He is also concerned about Edwards developing bad habits on both ends of the floor, from inconsistent defensive effort to a pullup-jumper happy offensive game, especially in extended minutes played without Karl-Anthony Towns on the floor.

Ultimately, Pelton concedes that Edwards has improved enough of late that he would have to crack an updated “top 25 under 25” list, albeit third among rookies following Ball and Tyrese Haliburton of the Sacramento Kings.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Why Haliburton has been better than Edwards

To be clear, there is a reasonable argument for Haliburton over Edwards.

Haliburton has been a truly starting-caliber player as a rookie, whereas Edwards’ defensive shortcomings and inconsistent offensive efficiency have made him a considerable net-negative at times.

Of course, the argument here isn’t about the ceiling of either player; Edwards clearly has the potential to be a star while Haliburton is more likely to be a solid-to-strong starter.

On a bad Kings team, Haliburton is a relatively distant fourth in usage rate among primary rotation players, and his offensive game to this point has mostly consisted of spot-up 3-pointers (which he’s knocking down at a 41.5 percent clip) and driving and kicking to teammates. He doesn’t draw fouls and isn’t a strong finisher in the paint, but he’s decent at virtually everything else.

In a vacuum, as of late in their respective rookie seasons, it’s reasonable to argue that Haliburton is the better NBA player.

However, Edwards has been asked to do significantly more than the Kings’ rookie, and his flashes of true brilliance have been undeniable.

The question remains, what will the Rookie of the Year voters value most? True on-court impact? Upside? “Wow” moments? Where do health and availability factor in?

Next. Anthony Edwards' favorite player is still Kevin Durant. dark

There’s no doubt that it’ll be fascinating to watch the process play out over the final weeks of the season and throughout awards season, and Anthony Edwards should have a legitimate shot at taking home the hardware.