Anthony Edwards Is the NBA’s Most Fearless Rookie

The Timberwolves rookie is talented enough to light up the scoreboard on a hot night. But can he become a reliable leading man?


Anthony Edwards understands why he’s received so much scrutiny in his first NBA season. But he doesn’t necessarily care about the attention thrown his way.

“I’ve always been a player that nobody gives excuses for,” Edwards says. “If I have a bad game, it’s because I suck, I’m a bust, whatever. … But it’s fun at this point. I like having so much expected of me.”

The spotlight on Edwards isn’t exactly puzzling when you consider his resume. Minnesota’s rookie emerged as the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the class of 2019 following his junior season at Holy Spirit Preparatory School, and he was largely regarded as the leading prospect for the 2020 NBA draft throughout his freshman season at Georgia. Disregard the past accomplishments, and even a cursory glance at a Timberwolves broadcast reveals Edwards’s impressive ceiling. He’s perhaps the league’s most athletic dunker, with a detonation over Toronto forward Yuta Watanabe standing as the slam of the season. Edwards is an impressive isolation scorer with a smooth handle, and despite some shaky shooting percentages, he still boasts a dangerous step-back jumper.

It’s clear why Edwards is the subject of such significant scrutiny. The real question is whether his critics will be proven correct.

Edwards has been vindicated thus far on the basis of counting stats. He leads all rookies in scoring and threes, and he sits in the top five in rebounds, assists, steals. Edwards is arguably the Rookie of the Year favorite at the moment after LaMelo Ball’s wrist injury, with Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton standing as another challenger. Yet Edwards’s statistical totals don’t paint the full picture. His talent is undeniable. His impact is a murkier question.

The sheer amount of offensive responsibility given to Edwards is jarring. He didn’t play high school basketball at a power program, and he subsequently skipped a year after reclassifying. Edwards logged just 32 games at Georgia, and upon arriving in Minnesota, he was quickly thrust into a lead playmaking role. It’s rare to see a player with such a limited resume thrown into the fire from his first NBA minutes.

Edwards’s 27.1% usage rate leads all rookies. Only three players in the entire league attempted more shots since the All-Star break. Sharpshooters Buddy Hield, Steph Curry and Duncan Robinson are the only players to attempt more threes. Edwards has run more isolation possessions than Chris Paul or Bradley Beal over the course of 2020-21, and he’s initiated more pick-and-roll possessions than Paul George and Jayson Tatum. The results haven’t always been pretty, with Minnesota entering Friday night tied with the Rockets in the Western Conference cellar. But for a team without any real playoff expectations, letting Edwards learn on the fly is a worthwhile decision.

Edwards chuckles at the idea of a checklist before next season. He still has just three weeks left as a rookie, a new coach to adjust to, and a burgeoning chemistry with Towns and Russell to build upon. Setting expectations for the next season is difficult, and moreover, it’s effectively meaningless. Edwards isn’t interested in timelines or a slow build. He’s an eager learner and a natural athlete, with his physical gifts previously leading teams past their assumed potential. The Western Conference isn’t thinning out anytime soon. Minnesota’s roster isn’t a finished product. Edwards doesn’t care. He’s confident the scrutiny will turn to respect sooner than later.

“Everywhere I’ve been I’ve had to prove myself,” Edwards says. “This is no different.”