Anthony Edwards is playing at MVP level, Wolves look like they’re for real after handing Celtics first loss

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The “MVP!” chant has become a staple across most NBA arenas, but you don’t often hear it in Minnesota unless it’s for a visiting player. That’s about to change. Anthony Edwards has come out guns blazing this year, and the Minnesota Timberwolves, who handed the Boston Celtics their first defeat of the season on Monday, look like the real deal. 

“I love that,” Edwards said of the Target Center MVP chants during his on-court postgame interview. “I love that, I love that.” 

What’s not to love? Edwards put up 38 points on Boston, including eight in overtime, as the Wolves, after a shaky start to the season, improved to 4-2 with a 114-109 victory. 

Minnesota, beginning with a win over Denver last Wednesday, has now won three straight games, largely on the strength of Edwards and the league’s top-ranked defense, which held the Celtics, the best shooting and overall offensive team in the league, to 39% shooting, including 28% from three-point land. 

Edwards, who has been steadily climbing into the ranks of the elite, laid the foundation for this superstar ascension with an alpha showing with Team USA at the World Cup over the summer. He’s carried that over, and it’s more than just the numbers. 

He knows the Wolves are now his team. 

We know about Edwards’ elite, forceful athleticism. He can create a shot against any defender pretty much on call. His defense has been spectacular this season. Two things were holding him back from being a true MVP level player. The first was his shooting, which has been inefficient through his first three years. 

Ironically, he’s been lights out this season from the most inefficient spot on the floor: 54% from the long mid-range prior to Monday, per Cleaning the Glass. Add in his 47% 3-point mark (he was well over 50% until a 2-for-8 night on Monday), and you’ve got an absolute lethal scorer on your hands. 

Also, he’s becoming an impact playmaker. He’s recorded at least six assists in four of his six games so far, and, again, more than the numbers, the way he’s using his scoring as a threat to open opportunities for his teammates, the way he’s seeing the floor and making high-level reads look simple, is high level stuff. 

I love this play by Edwards against Atlanta, particularly the way he’s in control the whole time, letting the floor space naturally before he hits the spin button and delivers a perfect pass right into Naz Reid’s shooting pocket: 

As for Minnesota’s defense, this unit is no early season fluke. Perhaps Karl-Anthony Towns won’t keep up the defensive enthusiasm and effectiveness he’s displayed to start, but if you look up and down this roster, you’re going to find big-time defenders all over the place. 

It’s starts with perhaps the league’s premier inside-out defensive tandem in big man Rudy Gobert and wing menace Jaden McDaniels, the latter of whom signed a five-year, $136 million deal a few weeks ago that is going to look like a clearance-rack bargain in the years to come. 

In his season debut, McDaniels had Trae Young locked up for most of Minnesota’s loss to the Hawks, and he has subsequently made life a living hell on everyone he’s defended since. 

Shoutout to Kevin O’Connor from The Ringer for providing this gem stat: “Opponents are shooting only 33.3% from 2-point range when defended by McDaniels, 16.6% worse than expected.”

That was entering play on Monday, when McDaniels, in addition to his normal smothering defense, put up 20 points on four 3-pointers, making seven of his final nine shots and combining with Edwards to score 25 of Minnesota’s 35 total points in the fourth quarter and overtime. 

If you haven’t been watching the Wolves, know this: McDaniels is not one of these great defenders that you just hope can be passable offensively. He’s a legit player. He’s made seven of his 14 3s so far, and he’s only going to get better creating for himself. 

Between Gobert at the rim, and McDaniels, Edwards and Nickeil Alexander-Walker on the perimeter, the Wolves are a defensive demolition crew right now. Those four guys get into you, and this is to say nothing about Kyle Anderson, who guards all over the court, the always savvy Mike Conley, and the physicality Towns has shown (he honestly banged with Nikola Jokić while Gobert floated as a roving rim protector).  

Edwards, though not quite the defender that McDaniels is, being this prideful of a defender as the team’s best player is worth more than numbers could ever quantify. 

Indeed, you can believe in this Wolves defense. It’s not Gobert propping up a leaky perimeter; it’s a unit with almost no holes at this point, and with the way Edwards is popping as an MVP-level go-to guy, the Wolves might have the makings of a closet contender in the Western Conference. 

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