Rudy Gobert is NBA fans’ favorite punching bag. Whenever something goes wrong on his team, he’s the first person people blame. It could be that he’s French, whiny, overrated, overpaid — or all four — and that’s fine. You’re not going to hear me argue with Minnesota Timberwolves fans about how bad the trade was, or his fit is.
Be that as it may, I would like to point out that Anthony Edwards hasn’t exactly taken the leap we thought he might. The third-year guard and former No. 1 overall pick ended last season on a trajectory on par with other great, young players.
Ja Morant went from 19 points per game to 27 in his third year. Jayson Tatum improved his scoring average by almost eight points from his second to third seasons. Ant gave us a taste late last season and into the playoffs, dropping 49 in the second to last game of the year, 30 in the play-in, and 25 ppg over during the first round.
Well, marginal upticks in points (21.3 to 22.6), rebounds (4.8 to 5.9), and turnovers (2.6 to 3.2) aren’t what people envisioned out of Edwards this season. He’s taking fewer threes and also hitting fewer of them, isn’t passing the ball better, and even though he’s shooting more freebies, his percentage from the line has dipped.
Minnesota’s start to this season has sucked the joy out of the game, and it’s been evident on and off the court. The Wolves are a game below .500, with an above-average offense and a below-average defense. The team boasted a top 13 defense by rating a season ago, and that’s dropped to 19th this year. On the other side of the ball, the rating has sunk from eighth to 17th. And 2021’s numbers came in a year when they fired their head coach midseason.
Rarely able to take advantage of mismatches, Karl-Anthony Towns is a shell of the player we saw a year ago. He hasn’t figured out how to play alongside Gobert, as the two have a negative 1.5 point differential in 400-plus minutes together, and now KAT is sidelined for four to six weeks with a calf strain.
The state of the Western Conference is such that Minnesota can probably survive with a middling performance sans Towns. That’s not what anyone wants though, and Minnesota is capable of more solely because Edwards isn’t maximizing his potential.
This isn’t D’Angelo Russell’s time to take over, and we know Gobert isn’t capable of getting his own offense. The guy with the best tools to go nuts for a month stretch is Edwards. It would be easy for him to get the same stats in KAT’s absence because everything comes easy when you have the kind of talent Edwards has displayed.
He’s sleepwalking to 23, 6, and 4, but we know the ceiling is infinitely higher.
The biggest knock on Ant coming out of Georgia, and one that Jay Bilas constantly harped on, was his maturity. While I would never get mad at someone for eating too much Popeyes, I’ve never been on an NBA roster. Luka Dončić sucked down sweet tea like it was lifeblood and still put up 28, 9, and 8.
That said, it’s not the only story to make me question Edwards’ headspace. He had to apologize earlier this year for posting a video featuring homophobic language, which primarily tells me he needs to educate himself, but also that he hasn’t grasped how important he is to the Timberwolves organization.
It seems as if the 21-year-old guard saw all the backlash to the Gobert trade and let it affect him, which is understandable. Well, there are no excuses anymore. The problems when KAT and Gobert share the floor are gone, and lanes and opportunities will be there for him if he feels like exploiting them.
When Tyler Herro said he considers Dončić, Morant, and Trae Young his peers, we got a good laugh. If Edwards talked like that, NBA fans would nod in agreement because he possesses all the physical traits necessary to be on the level of those young stars, and we’ve seen him go toe to toe with one. The Memphis-Minnesota series could’ve gone either way in April, and it left NBA supporters in agreement that Ant-Man was one of the game’s next superstars.
Well, my guy, it’s time to put down the extra crispy, get off Instagram, and go to work.