The Minnesota Timberwolves‘ rebuild took a turn for the better when they selected Anthony Edwards with the first pick of the 2020 NBA Draft. Two seasons later, Edwards and the T-Wolves are an impressive 43-32, securing the franchise’s second winning season since 2004-05.
Where things currently stand, Minnesota is the seven-seed in the Western Conference. That guarantees them a play-in spot at minimum with a real playoff spot close by. However, the Timberwolves’ postseason success falls entirely on Edwards, whose recent play has left a lot to be desired.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been one of the NBA’s biggest surprises
The last time the T-Wolves were a postseason threat, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins flanked franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns. So it’s been a while since basketball fans have had to worry about Minnesota making a run.
But that’s changed this year thanks to the duo of Towns and Edwards. Suddenly, the Wolves have become one of the more well-rounded teams in the NBA.
Entering its huge matchup against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, Minnesota’s offensive and defensive ratings sit sixth and 11th, respectively. For perspective, only the Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, and Memphis Grizzlies are in the top-11 in both stats. They’re also averaging 115.4 points per game, more than every other team in basketball.
Few expected the Timberwolves to break through this season, especially after their 4-9 start. But since then, they boast a 39-23 record, the seventh-best in the league.
With All-Star talents like Towns and Edwards, supplementary scoring from D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley, plus young forwards Jaden McDaniels and Jarred Vanderbilt providing strong defense, Minnesota’s future is as bright as its been in a long time.
Anthony Edwards’ struggles could ruin the T-Wolves’ playoff hopes
There is good news and bad news accompanying the fact Minnesota has won 19 of its last 26 games. The good news is that Minnesota has managed to win despite Edwards mightily struggling on offense.
The bad news is that Edwards is mightily struggling on offense.
Since Jan. 30, the day Minnesota’s scorching hot stretch began, the 20-year-old is averaging just 17.1 points per game. Over that time, he’s shooting 39.9% from the field, 31.4% from three, and just 72.7% from the free-throw line. Before then, the 2020 top pick was scoring 22.9 points while shooting 44.6/37.0/80.6%.
The last two months have been rough for Edwards. It also doesn’t help that the All-Rookie selection is battling a knee injury that continues to cause pain.
“It’s something that you can play through,” Edwards told the Star Tribune earlier this month. “Certain people can play through it, but if you don’t have a certain tolerance for pain, you can’t play through that.”
Edwards’ steady decline, along with a nagging knee injury, calls his effectiveness moving forward into question. If he can’t turn things around in a hurry, the T-Wolves will be at the mercy of their playoff opponent, thus ending what’s otherwise been a year to remember.
The Timberwolves might want to think about giving Edwards some rest
Edwards, the young Georgia native, should be commended for toughing it out over the last couple of weeks. It hasn’t been easy, but he knows the T-Wolves need every man on the roster to secure a top-six seed in a tight Western Conference.
That said, Minnesota should think about giving its young star a breather.
The Wolves are already proving they can overcome a subpar Edwards throughout a decent stretch of the regular season. But that won’t be the case in the playoffs when they’ll face the Suns, Grizzlies, or Warriors. In those matchups, they’ll need every bit of dynamic offense they can get from Edwards in order to pull off a shocking upset. So allowing him some time to heal may help him reach that point again.
There is one big issue with that, however. If the T-Wolves decide to sit Edwards for at least some of their final seven games, that puts them dangerously at risk of securing a play-in-round spot. Given their proximity to the six-seed, they’ll surely be fighting to pass up Denver and punch their ticket before the regular season concludes.
It would be much easier to see Minnesota pull off an upset if Edwards was making huge strides this year and feeling healthy. But barring any huge changes, any Timberwolves’ postseason run will likely be brief.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.