When Anthony Edwards started working with Chris Hines, his player development coach on the Timberwolves, Hines asked what the rookie wanted out of his NBA career.

Did he want money? To just be a good player?

The first overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, however, had his sights set sky high.

"He said he wanted to be the best shooting guard to ever play," Hines said. "I said, 'You know there's a guy named Michael Jordan?' He said, 'I know. I got to get him.' "

On Thursday, Edwards spoke to the Star Tribune via Zoom, and though he wasn't visible on the call, his voice betrayed the hint of a smile on the other end when asked about that conversation.

"I'm chasing my boy M.J., for sure," Edwards said. "It'll be hard, but I'm chasing him."

The next steps on that difficult journey come this summer. Edwards said he wants to be in the best shape of anyone in the league when next season begins. He wants to fine-tune his game for clutch moments. He wants to take the last shots, like he did at the end of Game 5 of the first-round playoff series against Denver, when his potential tying three-pointer caromed off the rim.

“Making the right play is me taking the shot. That's pretty much my mind-set going into next year.”
Anthony Edwards on closing out games

That series ended in disappointment for the Wolves, but one silver lining was Edwards' play. He backed up his desire to be the guy who gets the ball in that moment with an eye-popping five games that built on his first All-Star appearance and keeping the season alive after Karl-Anthony Towns went down for 52 games because of a calf injury.

Those kinds of performances come from players who are on deals like the one Edwards could sign this summer. He is set to receive a likely maximum contract offer on July 1 from the Wolves. It's a deal that will solidify the next stage of his career with the team that selected him No. 1 in the 2020 draft and a market that has embraced him as the franchise's emotional heartbeat.

After the Wolves were eliminated, President Tim Connelly said the team needs to keep Edwards' continued development in mind regarding every move it makes, a sign of his status as the unquestioned future cornerstone regardless of what may happen with the two-big experiment of Towns and Rudy Gobert.

In an interview Thursday, Edwards offered an even-handed description of his year, and what he has learned over three seasons in order to reach the dizzying heights he wants.

"I mean, I left a lot out there," Edwards said. "I know what I need to work on. I know what I need to get better at, and I just want to be in the best shape. My season was OK. It could've been a lot better."

Digesting defenses

Edwards has become the focal point of an opponent's nightly game plan. As Hines put it, "The kid has seen every defense."

There's one facet of each game that motivates Edwards to solve the defensive puzzle opponents put in front of him.

"The funniest thing I seen on the court when I'm playing is teams throwing different coverages, and the defensive coach for the other team is throwing his hands up like, 'It's not working. Let's try something else.' That's the most exciting part," Edwards said. "They're just trying to stop me and me trying to figure out ways they can't stop me. That's super fun."

Hines said he would have Edwards run film sessions instead of the other way around, to have Edwards spell out enemy plans.

"His growth is to accept the defense more," Hines said. " 'OK, this is how they're playing me. … If you play a drop coverage, I have to get downhill.' He's reading it."

Added Edwards: "I've gotten a lot better at it. Like knowing, OK, [if they double me] they want me to get off it. I'm going to make the right play for three, four minutes, then they're going to open the defense up. I'm gonna start back attacking."

Edwards is mastering the nuances of playing in the NBA, such as knowing the first names of officials so he could communicate with them better. He now wants to better apply this institutional knowledge he is gaining late in games.

“I know what I need to work on. I know what I need to get better at, and I just want to be in the best shape. My season was OK. It could've been a lot better.”
Anthony Edwards on improving

When asked where his season could have been better, Edwards said there would be more victories if he had made better decisions toward the end of games — and to him, making better decisions involves being more assertive. Late-game offense was inconsistent, at best, as the Wolves navigated different lineup configurations and never formed an identity late in close games.

Edwards is out to change that himself.

"Making the right play is me taking the shot," he said. "That's pretty much my mind-set going into next year."

That comes with caveats. If teams double-team him and force him to give it up, he won't be stubborn.

"If I can't get a shot off, I trust my teammates for sure," Edwards said. "But I think my teammates want me to take the shot."

'Best shape'

Going hand-in-hand with late-game execution is Edwards' conditioning.

"I want to be in better shape than everybody else in the league," he said. "The basketball stuff is going to come. It's like second nature to me. I just want to be in the best shape ever."

Edwards has missed only 13 games in his three NBA seasons. But he was learning there was more than fitness — in his first two seasons, he didn't always understand the importance of getting treatment to maintain his health. That began to change in Year 3.

"When he first came in he was like, 'Let's roll the ball out and let's play,' " Hines said. "Second year was like, 'I'm not hurt, so I'm not going in.' Now he's understanding to maintain."

During the playoff series, Edwards credited the Wolves for putting people such as Hines; Javair Gillet, the vice president of sports science and performance; and David Hines, the vice president of medical operations and performance therapy, around him to maximize his work ethic. That group complements those Edwards works with outside the team, such as longtime trainer Justin Holland, Kierre Jordan and speed and agility trainer Lily Abdelmalek.

"Those people are super important and valuable to me," Edwards said.

Between the on-court workouts, the weight room, the treatment and maintenance, Edwards goes through several workouts in a day. That will continue through his offseason, with Edwards saying he plans on being in Minnesota for most of the summer.

"From Year 1 to now, his biggest growth has just become his habits and mind-set," Hines said. "Understanding that I have to put in the work to get the results — that's where he has been taking off."

Next steps

One reason Edwards wants to stick around Minnesota this offseason is to work out more frequently with Jaden McDaniels. The Wolves forward is one of the best defensive players in the league, and he, along with others who will be around like Josh Minott and Wendell Moore Jr., can help Edwards sharpen the next area he wants to improve on the court: contested shot-making.

"It's really about just keeping your composure while you're going up through your shot," Edwards said. "I sometimes try to rush my shot once I see it's heavily contested, but I still can get it off in time. I got to learn how to keep my composure. Kind of like how [Dallas guard] Luka Doncic never rushes his shot no matter how close the defense is. I started to learn that as we were longer into the season."

Hines said in Edwards' second season, he wanted to help Edwards hone his "superpower" of getting to the rim. Edwards wants to be known for more than that, and making contested shots at a higher clip is going to be part of his identity.

"I don't think my superpower is getting to the rim. I'm a scorer," Edwards said. "I don't pride my game on just getting to the rim. I hate when people say that. I work too hard to be somebody who finishes at the rim. I can score the ball with the best of them."

It all came together in the Nuggets playoff series, when it seemed Edwards had unlocked a new level of play. He also seemed to figure out how best to operate when he, Towns and Gobert shared the floor together, something that wasn't always easy for him, especially early in the season.

"It was actually fun once I figured it out, man. I'm looking forward to it again," Edwards said.

Edwards plans on being in Minnesota for most of the summer, but there may be some international travel in his future as well. He could play in the FIBA World Cup for Team USA ahead of the 2024 Olympics, a source said.

“From Year 1 to now, his biggest growth has just become his habits and mind-set. Understanding that I have to put in the work to get the results — that's where he has been taking off.”
Chris Hines, player development coach

He also said he is planning on heading to France at some point to work with Gobert. From the outside, Edwards and Gobert didn't always seem to be on the same page. Edwards seemed reluctant to pass to Gobert when working with him in the screen and roll game. Edwards said that wasn't the case.

"Man, I love Rudy. Me and Rudy got a great understanding," Edwards said. "We talk all the time, and I think he can get a lot better as far as catching the ball, jump hooking. I tell him all the time, like 'Rudy, I'm [going to] throw you the ball every time. I want you to jump hook or money dunk on somebody,' and he be like, 'I got you.' This summer we're going to get together and work on it.

"... He told me to trust him, and I started trusting him and giving it to him and he's making the right play. Shout-out to him, he kept making the right play in the pocket whether he was finishing or kicking it out. I trust him."

Does Edwards already have a flight booked for France this summer? Not yet, because, "Rudy is gonna pay for everything," Edwards said. "He got all the money."

Business ahead

Edwards won't be too far behind in that department. He is entering the final year of his rookie deal, but he will be eligible to sign an extension that will kick in for the 2024-25 season, and that extension is likely to be a maximum contract.

"I'm ready to play. I'm not even — that's cool. The money cool. But I love the game of basketball," Edwards said about his potential new deal. "I don't do it for the money. I do it because I just want to be known who they say, 'He was a great player.' "

That's why Edwards took it so hard when the Wolves lost in the first round for the second consecutive season. When he missed the potential tying shot at the end of Game 5, Edwards stormed off the court. As he walked down the tunnel, he moved a chair out of his way, and police in Denver said two workers were injured, though not seriously, as a result of Edwards' actions. They cited him with two counts of third-degree assault, charges Edwards' attorney Harvey Steinberg said were "baseless."

Steinberg said Edwards would "vigorously defend" himself against those charges. Edwards is due in court in Denver on June 9.

"I never intended to hurt anyone," Edwards said. "I feel like I'm a great guy, a great kid. It's all love for me. Like I said, I never intend to hurt anyone. I was just mad that I missed a shot that I thought was really going in, for sure."

Edwards said before Game 2 of the series he couldn't be considered a young star in the league until his team got out of the first round of the playoffs. He feels the Wolves have the team to do that going forward. He said he prays the team re-signs his "brother" Naz Reid, and added that the team really felt the loss of McDaniels, who broke his right hand punching a wall in frustration during the final game of the regular season.

Then there's his own continued growth. After three seasons, where does he feel he stands in his quest to become the best shooting guard ever?

"I'm making strides," Edwards said. "But after this summer, I think I'll make great leaps forward"