Timberwolves might be better off with Edwards leading

Published April 28, 2023, 8:00 AMPolo Bustamante
Polo Bustamante

The twin-towers experiment the Timberwolves did this season blew up in their faces.

The final minute of Game 5 between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Denver Nuggets is a microcosm of Minny’s entire season.

The game was tied at 104. Minnesota had an opportunity to extend their season - all they had to do was play with poise and execute on both ends. Unfortunately, this young team couldn’t make the right plays to get the crucial win.

Even with two 7-footers on the floor, they still allowed Nikola Jokic to grab two offensive rebounds, ending with a tip-in that gave the Nuggets a two-point lead. Jokic extended the lead to five a possession later after drawing Karl-Anthony Towns’ final foul. Mike Conley managed to cut the deficit to two but Rudy Gobert had to give up his sixth foul to stop the clock.

The Timberwolves still had a chance to tie the game with 2.5 seconds left in regulation. They got the ball to Anthony Edwards who fired a long triple over the outstretched arms of Bruce Brown. His shot hit back iron, ending the Timberwolves’ season.

When the Timberwolves pulled the trigger to acquire Gobert in the offseason, they had grand visions of dominating the league with their two titans. As weird as the fit was, the talent the two had was unmistakable. That’s why it’s pretty poignant that in the final moments of the game, Towns and Gobert were reduced to helpless spectators. It echoed the unavailability of the two during this season. 

Towns missed a whopping 53 games with a calf injury. That almost instantly derailed whatever plans the team had of using their size to their advantage in the regular season. Without Towns and his ability to put points on the board, Minnesota was left to look for other ways to make up for his production.

Then there’s Gobert. He was supposed to be Town’s counterpart on defense. If Towns was the bucket-getter, Gobert was the one assigned to take away points from their opponents. The multiple-time Defensive Player of the Year was a shell of himself for most of the season. He could still log a double-double easily. But the focus he showed as the anchor in the paint in Utah was missing in Minnesota.

With their twin towers both absent, the Timberwolves were left trying to create a new identity on the fly.

It also spoke volumes that when the game was on the line, Jokic took over for the Nuggets to put the game away. He showed ownership of the moment that an MVP-caliber player should have.

It’s been a problem Minnesota has had to deal with all season long. They’re outgunned in the West. Other teams had established superstars like Jokic, LeBron James, or Steph Curry to lead the way. It also didn’t help that young teams had players like Ja Morant or De’Aaron Fox who made the leap into superstardom, leading their teams to the top of the standings.

As disappointing as this season has been, the final play of this season should give the team hope. Edwards missed the game-tying shot by millimeters. If he had shot the ball with a bit more arc, Minnesota would have added an extra five minutes to their season.

Millimeters. That’s how far Edwards is to superstardom. This season was a breakout year for him. Out of the rubble of the collapsed twin tower experiment, he rose to take over as the new leader of the team. Edwards has proven time and time again this season that he can strap the team on his back and carry them to the finish line. 

He may have failed this time around but it was encouraging watching him try. He stood tall when his two tallest teammates couldn’t be on the floor with him. The Timberwolves might not have a superstar yet but they have one at the cusp, ready to claim his rightful spot among the other franchise players of the league.