MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — In a year without consensus about the top NBA prospect, Anthony Edwards came with questions about focus and effort along with immense potential with and without the ball.
The Minnesota Timberwolves came with answers. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Georgia emerged from their pre-draft meeting with an extra dose of confidence about where he’s headed.
“They made me feel like I was doing something right, because I get criticized a lot,” Edwards said. “It made me just want to work even harder, just to know that I have this enormous amount of potential in their books. I just want to fulfill those shoes at all times.”
The Timberwolves made Edwards the first overall pick on Wednesday night, adding the dynamic scorer before reaching an agreement to bring back point guard Ricky Rubio on a busy night.
According to a person with knowledge of the negotiations, the Timberwolves planned to send the 17th pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 25th and 28th overall selections and Rubio, the popular Spaniard who played for Minnesota his first six seasons in the league.
The Wolves then reached an agreement with the New York Knicks, the person said, to send the No. 25 and No. 33 overall picks to New York in exchange for the No. 23 selection. The person confirmed the deals to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trades had not yet been announced. Once they’re finalized, Minnesota will net Argentine small forward Leandro Bolmaro (No. 23) and Washington power forward Jaden McDaniels (No. 28).
The 6-foot-5 Edwards was the nation’s freshman scoring leader at 19.1 points per game in 2019-20 for the Bulldogs before the pandemic halted the season. The 19-year-old native of Atlanta has sharp long-range shooting touch, an ability to score off the dribble and a nose for driving to the basket, plenty to overshadow his uneven one-and-done college season.
“We really challenged him on who he’s been to this point and what he’s going to become into the future,” president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said. “The passion for who he wants to become is something that we’re excited about.”
Edwards said he had a feeling a couple of months ago he could be the first pick and then met recently with Wolves officials.
“The energy they bring, it made me feel like I was headed to be the best player that ever played basketball,” Edwards said.
Rosas promised to be aggressive about entertaining trade offers for the top pick but ultimately opted to keep it. Memphis center James Wiseman and guard LaMelo Ball, who played professionally in Australia last season, were the other prospects widely considered in the top three. Rosas said the Wolves talked with more than 10 teams about trading out of the first slot, but they were convinced the value of Edwards was greater than any offers they were fielding.
Rosas and his staff kept working the phones, though. They agreed to send the 17th pick, which originally belonged to Brooklyn and came from Atlanta in a four-team, 12-player, three-pick trade in February, to the Thunder for the pair of late first-rounders and Rubio, the slick-passing ball-handler who was beloved by the fan base despite a rash of injuries that minimized his impact.
Edwards will now slide into the lineup on the perimeter, buttressing center Karl-Anthony Towns and point guard D’Angelo Russell. There’s plenty of room to grow after a 19-45 finish that had them left out of the NBA’s postseason bubble. Minnesota has made the playoffs only once in the last 16 years, a first-round loss to Houston in 2018.
This was the second time in 32 drafts for this woebegone franchise that the Timberwolves held the top pick. They took Towns, now a two-time All-Star, with the first overall selection out of Kentucky in 2015. The Wolves had the worst record in the league the previous season, so they earned that spot, but this year was stunningly the first time they’d ever benefited from the ping-pong balls and moved up from their default slot.
Rosas wasted no time putting his stamp on the team during his first year in Minnesota, making three significant in-season trades. The trio of swaps dumped a total of nine different players, including Andrew Wiggins, the up-and-down scorer whose athleticism once had him as the ideal sidekick on the wing to Towns.
The most significant of those deals sent Wiggins to Golden State for a package that included Russell, the offense-minded ball-handler who has been a close friend of Towns since they were the first two picks in the 2015 draft.
“I’m not coming in as his star player or anything like that,” Edwards said. “I’ve got two superstars on the team, and I’ve just got to come in and play a role.”
Notes: Four former Minnesota high school stars came off the board in the first 41 picks: Zeke Nnaji, Tyrell Terry, Daniel Oturu, and Tre Jones.
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