In their first full game since Karl-Anthony Towns went down with a calf strain that will sideline him for four to six weeks, the Minnesota Timberwolves hosted the Memphis Grizzlies in a rematch of last year’s first round playoff match-up at the Target Center.
The loss of Towns was the latest negative development in what has been a disappointing season for Minnesota so far. The acquisition of Rudy Gobert for a record amount of draft assets last July was supposed to push them to the upper tier of the Western Conference, yet they have instead regressed and came into the match with Memphis sporting a 10-11 win-loss record.
The painful transition period of the Towns-Gobert pairing has taken away attention from Anthony Edwards who was expected to take another leap towards stardom in his third campaign. Edwards is averaging 22.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.5 steals this season–all of which are career-best numbers by a slight margin–but much more was expected from him following the postseason exposure that he gained during last year’s series with these Grizzlies.
However, the injury of Towns has now opened up a prime opportunity for Edwards to shine as the undisputed number one option on this team. With his three-time NBA All-Star teammate out, the 21-year-old guard led the charge for the Timberwolves and carried them to an impressive 109-101 victory over Memphis that snapped a three-game losing skid.
Edwards put up his most well-rounded performance of the year so far, highlighted by a team-high 29 points on an efficient 10-of-18 field goal shooting. He also made all seven of his free throw attempts, tallied three rebounds, and handed out five assists versus only one turnover. The most impressive aspect of his stat-line though were his five steals and three blocks which were both a season-high.
The potential of Edwards to consistently become the dominant two-way force that he was in this win is what made him the first overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He is the key to unlocking the full potential of this Minnesota team and this should only grow more obvious to the public in these next few weeks without Towns.
Upon his return, Towns’ excellent perimeter shooting should allow him to slot in nicely with this team, especially if he can accept a lower rung in the team’s pecking order.
If this kind of performance can become the norm for Edwards, an NBA All-Star nod and a second round playoff appearance for the Timberwolves could be in the cards as early as this season. Minnesota has a generational talent on their hands and cannot afford to fumble this situation given that the majority of their draft assets in the next few years are controlled by the Utah Jazz.
The high-flying Edwards is the key for the Timberwolves and the sooner that they acknowledge it, the sooner they can build off last year’s momentum and break out of the cycle of incompetence that has plagued their franchise since they first entered the NBA 33 years ago.