Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch has long held the belief that Anthony Edwards can be a franchise player – and the top pick in the 2020 draft is now showing it.
Edwards just played a starring role in the two most important games of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ season, just a week or so after dropping a career-high 49 points against the San Antonio Spurs.
The Timberwolves beat the LA Clippers in the Play-In Tournament to secure the No 7 seed and have now stolen a game on the road to make the ideal start to the first-round NBA Playoffs series against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Edwards scored 30 points against the Clippers, important given that Karl-Anthony Towns struggled to score in the first half and got in foul trouble, and on Saturday scored 36 points in his postseason debut in Memphis.
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Finch, speaking exclusively to Sky Sports, believes Edwards can go right to the top.
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Check out this huge slam from Edwards during the NBA Play-in game against the LA Clippers
“We think Anthony can be a franchise-level player, for sure,” Finch said. “He has a lot of, and he’s been doing a lot of things that are only boxes that are checked by these types of MVP-calibre players.
“He’s just a really young player, he’s very raw, so he has to also form all the habits that help support it: how you take care of your body, or how you eat, how you sleep, and all those things. We talked a lot about developing players on the floor, but the work that they do to become professionals off the floor is just as important more often than not. That’s what allows these guys to play at such a high level into their mid-thirties, developing the right habits.”
Speaking to reporters after Saturday’s victory at FedExForum, Finch said: “Ant’s in a real, great groove right now. Everything he’s doing is really definitive, he’s being sharp, he’s getting into his stuff quick, he’s making the right reads more often than not and he’s really confident in his shot.
Image: Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch and Edwards chat on the sideline during the win over Memphis Grizzlies
“We love what he’s doing out there. He just finds a way to get the offensive stick back at the end of shot clock, which was huge, you had the corner three, the little flash to the [basket]… we need those little filler points in our offense. He just finds them, which is invaluable to us.
“Sometimes his concentration comes and goes a little during the regular season, but we’ve always talked about his sense of moment, sense of timing to raise his game, and maybe that’s what we’re seeing.”
Towns bounced back from struggling against the Clippers to deliver a superb performance with 29 points and 13 rebounds, shooting over 60 per cent from the field against the Grizzlies.
Finch had no concerns that Minnesota’s other No 1 draft pick (Towns was taken first in 2015) would be able to respond.
“He’s a great player that’s what enabled him to deliver the performance,” Finch said. “I wasn’t worried at all about KAT’s ability to bounce back and perform at an All-NBA level. He’s a franchise star.
“There haven’t been many nights like he had Tuesday, it wasn’t like it’s some sort of pattern or anything like this. He came out with a mindset to be super-aggressive. I really love the way he really rebounded, how he controlled the paint defensively.”
The Timberwolves head coach has genuine belief that Towns can be the next transcendent big in a league currently being dominated by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic.
Towns takes flight for this huge contested dunk on Jaren Jackson Jr!
“I’m very proud of him in his season,” Finch told Sky Sports NBA. “He’s such a great young man, like he’s happy most about our team’s great run and play. He will, at some point, be in the MVP conversation down the road, I’m confident.
“He’s only 26, he’s really young, still learning and growing. But he’s had a couple of really tough years, whether it be injury, team dysfunction, obviously losing his mother to Covid and other family members and to be able to consistently get back to the level that he was at when his career was kind of derailed a little bit seemingly.
“It just means a lot, because, you know, he’s a great player, and he had seen his contemporaries, you know, Embiid and Jokic and these guys only going upward without the same adversity. So, I’m very, very, very pleased and proud of what he’s been able to do this season and he’s done it in a manner where his maturity is showing, he’s allowing the game to come to him.”
Finch, who was recently rewarded for doubling Minnesota’s win total from last season with a new multi-year contract earlier this month, has big ambitions and believes his team can become a genuine championship contender.
“I’d like to think that we can build ourselves into a top Western Conference team,” he added. “We’re not there yet. We’re learning now what meaningful basketball feels like every night, that that in itself is extremely important. [Getting to the playoffs is] one of the best accelerants to development, for a team and a team’s personality. Every flaw you have will get exposed in the playoffs.
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“Those are just steps that you have to go through, it’s just part of the learning curve of all these teams. We have a lot of young players that have yet to hit their prime. That’s exciting – and we have MVP-calibre talent in Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, so we’ve got to try to maximise these these next five years.
“Our young players have to still keep learning and building and developing. In a team like ours, and in a market like ours, internal growth, player development is the number one thing that’s going to take us anywhere – more than any other individual acquisition or signing or move that we could make.
“Nobody has everything they want on their roster – but we do have good young talent. If we can maximise our internal opportunities, then I think we can [become a contender], particularly as some of these teams in the West get older. In four or five years, [the superstars will be retired or on] downsides of their careers, and these teams will look very different. So that’s our window of opportunity.”
The rush of live NBA Playoffs games continues on Sky Sports this week – see the list of games here and subscribe to watch the live action.