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Anthony Edwards, Yuta Watanabe, Timberwolves

Anthony Edwards had the Dunk of the Year but the Timberwolves are the Yuta Watanabe of the season

It was the dunk heard around the world. With time winding down in the third quarter of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ game against the Toronto Raptors Friday night, former number-one overall pick Anthony Edwards caught an emergency pass from teammate Jordan McLaughlin.

Reeling in the pass behind the arc, Edwards found himself with a wide-open lane towards the basket. Showing just a moment’s hesitation, the 6’4 guard sprinted towards the rim before achieving lift-off, slamming the rock home over a defenseless Yuta Watanabe with a primal scream of ferocity and joy that is rumored to still be echoing around the halls of the Target Center.

Yet, for all the superlatives and mileage that the dunk is sure to see on highlight reels for seasons to come, the slam was only worth two points and did little to jumpstart an anemic Timberwolves’ offense that generated a measly 81 points in an eventual loss. Perhaps most ironically, however, Edwards’ posterization of Watanabe serves as the perfect encapsulation of what the rest of the league has done to the Timberwolves for much of the season.

Despite entering the year with high hopes that they could contend for a spot in the playoffs thanks to a new backcourt tandem in Edwards and D’Angelo Russell, Minnesota currently finds itself at the bottom of the league’s standings with a record of 7-23.

Not only does the .233 winning percentage leave them far out of the race for the postseason–because, well, winning games is usually a prerequisite–but the team could face a scenario in which they lose their draft pick to the Golden State Warriors if it falls out of the top three selections in the lottery.

With the NBA recently revamping the odds that govern the lottery to discourage tanking–which, to their credit, the Wolves aren’t this bad on purpose per se–Minnesota could end being both the worst team in the league by the end of the year and have almost nothing to show for it.

As if one indignity isn’t enough, the franchise will also face former head coach and team president Tom Thibodeau on Sunday, who will almost certainly take the opportunity to bask in his recent good fortune compared to his former employer.

While the media and Wolves players once derided Thibs for his inability to connect with younger players and penchant for over-relying on his stars, the Wolves atrocious 43-93 record since his departure has only served to rehabilitate the coach’s image.

Perhaps worst of all, however, has been the production, or lack thereof, from Edwards. With fellow rookies like LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton lighting up the league and paying immediate dividends to the teams that drafted them, Edwards has struggled in every facet of the game for the Timberwolves.

Originally projected to be a sharpshooter from behind the arc, the rookie guard has instead seen his field-goal percentage drop to a mere 37% from the field and only 30% from three. While it’s still far too early to declare him a bust, it’s also fair to wonder if the team planned on having the top overall pick in the draft turn into such a project.

All told, the Wolves have spent the last year watching as opponents have taken their draft picks, seen their former coach move on with a younger, more exciting team, and had to endure the growing pains of their great hope for the future.

Yu Watanabe may have gotten posterized on a single play, but the rest of the league has been dunking on the Timberwolves for more than a year now.