Minnesota Timberwolves 2020-21 season grades: Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

While it remains to be seen if Anthony Edwards will be named Rookie of the Year, we do know that the Minnesota Timberwolves rookie made the biggest leap of any rookie during the second half of the season.

It was really a tale of two seasons for Edwards, who struggled mightily early but found his footing in a major way during the middle of the season.

Let’s take a look at his entire body of work and attempt to assign a grade to Edwards’ rookie campaign.

Minnesota Timberwolves 2020-21 season grades: Anthony Edwards

Edwards started the season coming off the bench, playing heavy minutes alongside Ricky Rubio with the second unit. His limited minutes on the floor with Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell were further reduced following Towns’ seven-game absence due to a dislocated wrist and a 13-game absence following a positive COVID-19 test.

After Towns’ return, Edwards scored 12 or fewer points in six of the next eight games as the Wolves offense tried to get its bearings with multiple ball-dominant scorers.

But Chris Finch took over on Feb. 23, and beginning with the Feb. 24 game in Chicago, Edwards went on a tear.

To that point in the season, Edwards had been averaging 14.1 points per game on 37.1 percent shooting from the floor and 31.6 percent from beyond the arc. He was only attempting 2.3 free throws, pulling down 3.7 rebounds, and dishing out 2.5 assists per game.

From Feb. 24 through the end of the season, the Wolves rookie averaged 23.5 points per game on 44.4 percent shooting and 33.6 percent on 3-point attempts. Edwards’ free throw attempts ratcheted up to five tries per game and he improved his rebound and assist averages to 5.4 and 3.3 per game, respectively.

For as inefficient and occasionally lost as Edwards was for the first 30-plus games of the season, the close to his rookie campaign was phenomenal. The only true knock on his offensive game in the second half of the season was related to shot selection; Edwards shot only 32.5 percent on pull-up 3-point attempts this season, yet he launched 3.5 such tries per game.

Edwards’ best play-types were in isolation, where he scored 0.97 points per possession (best on the team and 69th percentile league-wide), and in dribble handoff action, where he scored 1.08 points per possession (77th percentile league-wide).

Finch allowed Edwards to handle the ball late in games, frequently moving Russell to an off-ball, spot-up shooter role and stationing Towns near the elbows and in the post to assist Edwards in running the offense. There were fits and starts, of course, but it largely worked and was far better than what former head coach Ryan Saunders ran early in the season when the Wolves had plenty of second-half collapses.

Moving forward, if Edwards plays as he did in the second half of the season, he will be an all-NBA-caliber talent on the offensive end of the floor, and possibly as soon as next season. If the shot selection and overall 3-point shooting improve even a little, he’s going to be impossible to stop.

Defensively, there’s work to be done. While Edwards had an impressive 25-game streak with at least one steal, it helped hide Edwards’ issues both as an on-ball and off-ball defender. The awareness and consistent defensive effort simply aren’t there yet, but the physical tools and the overall desire to improve are clear.

This all suggests that Edwards will indeed improve, and his offense appears to be so dangerous that an average defensive performance from Edwards would still allow him to be an All-Star-level player.

Anthony Edwards’ 2020-21 Season Grade: A-

If Edwards’ performance from late February and on was the only thing to grade, then his season would be an A+++.

He only gets dinged slightly for poor early-season performance, but how many 19-year-olds coming off the bench for a bad team would have performed any better?

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Edwards was fantastic, all things considered, and the sky truly is the limit for the Wolves’ exciting young guard.