• The Wolves managed to change opinions on the Rudy Gobert trade with a Western Conference Finals appearance. Now Minnesota will look towards their superstar Anthony Edwards to take another leap and potentially bring them to their first NBA Finals…that is unless ownership is unwilling to pay up for the team.

    How’d It Go?

    The Wolves entered the 2023-2024 NBA season with high hopes. With the ascent of Anthony Edwards, continued offensive excellence of Karl-Anthony Towns, and acquisition of defensive center stud Rudy Gobert, the Wolves expected to propel themselves to the Western Conference’s elite…oh whoops that is a straight copy-paste of the beginning of the season wrap I wrote last year at this time. It held true again for this season though. After a seemingly disastrous trade going all-in for Rudy Gobert, the Wolves had little recourse except to run it back, hope for better health from Towns, and that an extra offseason of team continuity would build the contender that was promised.

    Fortunately for them, that is essentially what happened. Additionally armed with Mike Conley from the get go, the team gelled together rather quickly. They were the clear-cut top defensive team as well, littered with talented defenders up and down the roster. Gobert obviously wears the crown for them at the end, but starter Jaden McDaniels also earned his flowers this season. Tack on Anthony Edwards and Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kyle Anderson coming off the bench, and the Wolves had numerous answers to whatever offenses they were playing.

    A gentleman’s sweep against the Mavs ended their season, and now the Wolves will be asking how they can take their next step. The simple answer to that question is Anthony Edwards taking a leap into a full blown two-way star. Some proclaimed Edwards as “the next Michael Jordan,” but he has some additional steps to take if he is to break into the true elite of the NBA (more on that later). Expect to see much of the same Wolves roster heading into next season, with some fine tuning around the edges.

    Coaching

    Head coach Chris Finch solidified himself as the coach of the Wolves going forward. The past two seasons he has orchestrated top-10 defenses, with this season being the crown jewel. Per Cleaning The Glass, the Wolves were the top defense this season with a 108.9 defensive rating. That led the league by 2.6 points per 100 possessions, the same margin that separated the 2nd-ranked defense and the 11th-ranked defense. Much of the system was built last year, relying on Rudy Gobert to wall off the rim and allowing the perimeter defenders to play aggressively on opposing ball handlers. This was on clear display in the postseason series vs. the Nuggets, where the Wolves at times applied full-court pressure to Jamal Murray and others. The Nuggets were not used to this sort of pressure, and it took them until Game 3 to find an appropriate solution for it. We touched earlier on just how many tough perimeter defenders the Wolves had at their disposal, and Finch utilized each and every one of them to create a stifling defensive monster that no team was eager to square off against.

    Offensively, Finch didn’t change all that much. They played less transition than the ‘22-23 season, dropping in transition rate from 14.7% to 13.2% according to Cleaning The Glass, but many of the other metrics such as team turnover rate and eFG% were in similar ranges. With a full season of Mike Conley, you probably could have expected the team to play a little slower. Referencing Basketball Reference, the team’s possessions per game did drop from 101.0 to 97.1, a change from the 7th-fastest pace to the 7th-slowest pace. However, this didn’t come with any noticeable offensive rating changes or too many stat changes for the players themselves. Perhaps if Anthony Edwards handles the point more often, we could see that pace tick up a little. Most likely though, Finch will rely on greater offensive efficiency and continue to allow the defense to stymie opponents.

    The Players

    Anthony Edwards
    SG, Minnesota Timberwolves
    SeasonTeamGPGSMPG FGMFGAFG% FTMFTAFT% 3PTM3PTA3PT% PTSREBAST STLBLKTO
    23-24 MIN 79 78 35.1 9.1 19.7 46.1 5.4 6.4 83.6 2.4 6.7 35.7 25.9 5.4 5.1 1.3 0.5 3.1
    22-23 MIN 79 79 36.0 8.9 19.5 45.9 4.0 5.3 75.6 2.7 7.3 36.9 24.6 5.8 4.4 1.6 0.7 3.3
    21-22 MIN 71 71 34.5 7.7 17.4 44.1 3.1 3.9 78.4 3.0 8.4 36.0 21.5 4.8 3.9 1.5 0.6 2.7

    ADP: 9.4/14.8 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 12/20 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 28/37 (8/9-cat)

    This may shock you based on his playoff run, but Anthony Edwards didn’t actually improve his fantasy finish all too much. His finishes in both total and per-game value were in the same range as last year, as Edwards did improve his assists and efficiency some (notably FT%) but saw decreases in his threes and rebounds.

    Edwards can be a dynamite force – we saw that in the playoffs as he was one of the few consistent offensive threats for the Wolves. But we also saw the main issue that hinders his fantasy game in his inconsistency and lack of elite playmaking. This isn’t to say that either of these categories are bad, as 46% from the field on his shot diet is nothing to sneeze at, and 5.1 assists is fairly solid as well, but they aren’t at the level that we see from some of the top fantasy options in the game today.

    We believe his FG% can improve as Edwards continues to hone his game. The assists, however, could have a bit of a ceiling as long as steady initiator Mike Conley is in town (he was extended during the season for an additional two seasons). Edwards is a sure bet to play in a majority of the games and put up strong total values, but his per-game impact most likely lags behind his reputation. Feel free to target him starting in the second round of drafts, but the first round will be a smidge too early.

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