It’s a story that stretches back now decades in NBA history, going back at least to when Michael Jordan first turned basketball players into international pitchmen: A young star comes along, makes an impact in his first few seasons, shows the ability to be a long-term superstar and, very quickly, the assumption becomes that he will wind up in New York or Los Angeles.
In truth, it doesn’t happen all that much—almost never in the case of New York’s Knicks. But that does not stop the entire observer class around the league from discussing it.
Patrick Beverley, now with the Sixers but formerly a Laker (and a Clipper for that matter), sees such a scenario happening with Anthony Edwards in Minnesota (Beverley played there, too, alongside Edwards).
“He will get out of Minnesota,” Beverley said. “I mean, that’s just what happens. And, that’s no disrespect to Minnesota. It’s just, with that personality, he can change the world with basketball.”
When pressed on where Edwards could land, Beverley agreed it would have to be L.A. or New York. “Obviously, it has to be. For him to get the most—and I played in Minnesota. It’s no diss on Minnesota, no diss on little market teams,” he continued. “But, he is the type of player that, you need to see him, you need to see him.”
Edwards Blossomed Into Stardom Last Season
Edwards, who turned 22 last month, has played three NBA seasons and averaged 24.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists last season. This summer he signed a designated rookie contract with the Timberwolves, potentially worth $260 million over five years. This hardly seems like the time for folks in Minnesota to start wringing their hands with worry about what’s next for Edwards.
One Western Conference executive told Heavy Sports that Edwards won’t be agitating for a departure from Minnesota soon, and that if he does, the assumption that he’d be bound for the Lakers—or Knicks—is wrong.
“That is outdated thinking,” the exec said. “Obviously, we are in an era where guys leave teams, they force their way out. But the idea that you’d force your way to the Lakers, it happens, but not all that much. Anthony Davis did it (in 2019), and who else? Shaq and Kobe? That was 30 years ago.”
OK, it was 27 years ago, but same difference—Shaquille O’Neal signed with the Lakers in free agency in the same offseason, 1996, that Bryant, ahem, politely nudged the Hornets to trade him to L.A. in the NBA draft.
“Anthony Edwards might leave the Timberwolves and he might want to go to the Lakers,” the executive said. “But it is not going to be because of market size. It’s going to be because the Timberwolves made some bad decisions. Maybe that changes, but that’s how it stands.”
Other Stars Have Bolted, but Not for L.A. or New York
Another league source agreed with that assessment. One thing that Edwards has shown in his three NBA seasons is that he has a certain toughness about him, and that he wants to be surrounded by other tough players who know how to win.
Edwards has shown that during the course of the FIBA World Cup, where he has led Team USA to the semifinals.
“The problem for Minnesota is, what if they get to the third year of his contract and they’re not going anywhere? That is when he is going to look around and wonder if his future is there,” the source said. “This guy is all about winning, maybe everyone says that, but he is about it. He’s not going to go to a big-market team just because it is a big market. He is going to go where he can win.
“Minnesota was in a situation like this with Kevin Love. He went to Cleveland. When they traded Kevin Garnett, it was to Boston, not to a huge market. Chris Bosh and LeBron, in 2010, they went to Miami, not a huge market. Damian Lillard wants to go to Miami, not a big market. But they went to places where it was like, ‘OK, I can win here.’”
Maybe Edwards can win in Minnesota. If not, the Timberwolves could be on the clock. The Lakers surely will be paying attention, but they won’t have the automatic advantage so many assume.