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Can Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards ascend on a Ja Morant trajectory? He’s on his way

No one is drawing direct comparisons, calling Edwards “the next Morant” or anything to that effect. They don’t even play the same position. But their impacts on a team, and winning, could potentially be similar.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (1) shoots as Memphis Grizzles guard Ja Morant (12) defends during the first half Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, at FedExForum in Memphis.
Petre Thomas / USA Today Sports
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In a game that featured Karl-Anthony Towns and Ja Morant, a rising MVP candidate at just 22 years of age, Anthony Edwards was standing head and shoulders above the rest.

Two nights after erupting for 20 points in the fourth quarter of Minnesota’s loss to New Orleans, Edwards exploded for 25 first-half points in Memphis on Thursday.

The production wasn’t sustained, as Edwards faded in the second half in Minnesota’s 116-108 loss to the Grizzlies. But the first two quarters provided yet another flash of how dominant the 20-year-old wing can be.

What exactly does that look like when it’s sustained? Morant is a good barometer for that. At 22, Morant is already the best player for what currently is one of the best teams in the NBA.

Which begs the question: What’s to stop Edwards from reaching a similar point over the next two years? He’s equally as dynamic. They’re both elite athletes. Certainly, Morant and Edwards are different players — Morant is shiftier, a better finisher around the rim and a better playmaker, while Edwards is more powerful and a bigger threat from 3-point range.

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“I’m my own person. I’m my own player. I don’t see myself as anybody else. I see myself as Ant Man. That’s it,” Edwards said after the game. “But he cold. He’s his own player, he does it his own way. He’s unstoppable. I see myself as Ant-Man. However I do it, I do it.”

That’s fine. No one is drawing direct comparisons, calling Edwards “the next Morant” or anything to that effect. They don’t even play the same position. But their impacts on a team, and winning, could potentially be similar.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis Grizzles forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (13) shoots as Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (1) defends during the first half Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, at FedExForum in Memphis.
Petre Thomas / USA Today Sports

There are countless instances where Edwards does what Morant is so often known for — taking over the game and inspiring his teammates with spectacular play. Edwards has the personality to command a locker room in the way Morant does in Memphis. And the way Morant didn’t back down from spats with Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley on Thursday was highly reminiscent of the way Edwards treated Jimmy Butler earlier this season at Target Center.

Minnesota’s clearest path to making legitimate playoff runs is for Edwards to reach the heights Morant has soared. It’s not a crazy thought given the way Edwards has developed early in his career. The number comparisons between the two guards over their first two seasons are comparable, and Edwards was a full year younger than Morant when he was drafted.

It’s not far fetched to assume another giant leap is coming from Edwards in the near future. The fact that he has become of the League’s best high-volume 3-point shooters in just his second season is a sign of how quickly he can take parts of his game to the next level.

Should that continue, perhaps Edwards will be the next young star to lift a franchise to heights it hasn’t reached in a long time.

“If they were on the same growth path, I’d be happy about that,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “It’s part of Ant’s maturation as a player where as you see different things, then you become more of a player that is game-planned for, whether it be in part or exclusively. Now you have to have answers to those things. That’s part of your growth, and everything that goes into that as far as preparation, approach, work ethic, consistency.

“That’s one thing we talked about (Thursday) morning is young players playing more consistent as they grow into that third year, the fourth year, and that’s really where they start to stack these types of performances on top of each other.”

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