In a year of uncertainty, altered timelines and general chaos, the Minnesota Timberwolves knew three months before Wednesday's NBA Draft that they would be making the No. 1 overall pick. Yet, up until just before NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced their selection of Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, it was unclear what the Timberwolves planned to do with the pick.
In fact, the Timberwolves were working the phones "discussing possible trade scenarios," until just minutes before the pick became official, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. While an optimist may see that and choose to applaud Timberwolves' president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas for conducting his due diligence in an effort to turn the fortunes of a woebegone franchise, reality may not be so rosy.
The truth appears to be that Minnesota had three months to convince itself of who to pick, yet lacked the conviction to commit fully to Edwards until just minutes before the moment of reckoning, when it became clear that no acceptable trade offers were available. Looking at what Edwards did at Georgia last season, who could blame the Timberwolves for their desire to shop the pick?
To be clear, Rosas told reporters Wednesday night that Edwards stood "head and shoulders" above the competition as the franchise considered who to take. But that can be interpreted more as an indictment of a weak draft than a ringing endorsement for a shooting guard who made just 29.4 percent of his 3-point shots in college last season. For a franchise that just traded an underwhelming former No. 1 overall pick in January when it parted with Andrew Wiggins, Edwards carries some alarming similarities.
Both were one-and-done guards considered the No. 1 overall player in their respective recruiting classes by 247Sports. Neither did anything in college to hurt their NBA Draft stock, but neither were the model of efficiency during their brief college careers, either. Wiggins was actually a better 3-point shooter than Edwards, though Edwards showed more promise as a distributor.
So what reason is there to believe that Edwards will be the difference maker that Wiggins never was in the Timberwolves' push to consistently compete in the ever-difficult Western Conference? An examination of Edwards' intangibles reveals more questions than answers with just over a month to go until he is scheduled to begin his NBA career.
Edwards practically waved a red flag in Minnesota's face with comments made to ESPN in a story published earlier this week by saying of basketball that, "it's a job." He did say that "I love basketball." But that was preceded by Edwards remarking that "I'm still not really into it." At best, that's just the immaturity of a 19-year-old coming through. At worst, it's an indictment of his desire to be an elite player and a sign that he will lack the drive necessary to help the Timberwolves get traction.
A player with Edwards' natural talent can be a good NBA player -- just as Wiggins is a good NBA player -- but teams don't draft someone No. 1 overall hoping they will be good. It takes a different level of commitment to embrace the grind of an 82-game season and not just survive it but actually thrive within it and become great. But that's what is expected from No. 1 overall picks.
It was hard to watch Wednesday night's festivities and not be touched by the emotion expressed by so many of those selected. One who stood out was Obi Toppin, who fell to the Knicks at No. 8 overall. Though he surely expected to be picked sooner, Toppin fought back tears of joy as he acknowledged that, "a lot of people pray to be in this position, and I'm not going to take it for granted."
Edwards, by contrast, seemed pleased but not particularly moved to be taken No. 1 overall. Comparing their reactions to being drafted may seem like splitting hairs. But how about comparing them as players? When Georgia and Dayton met in the Maui Invitational last November, Edwards finished with six points on 2-of-10 shooting with no assists and three turnovers in 28 minutes. Toppin finished with 25 points and led his Dayton Flyers to an 80-61 victory.
Ultimately, Minnesota may have truly believed Edwards was the best player in the draft. But is he a winner? There is a difference.