When last seen, the Timberwolves were unexpectedly concluding a lackluster 2019-20 campaign with a 117-111 loss on Mar. 10 at Houston. The very next day, the NBA announced the suspension of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. When the NBA finally announced plans for its restart inside the bubble at Walt Disney World, the Minnesota Timberwolves were one of the eight teams not invited because they weren’t within six games of a postseason berth at the time play was suspended.
What’s new? The Timberwolves hope they’ve added a third star in Georgia’s Anthony Edwards to play alongside D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. There’s a chance Edwards could start the season coming off the bench, but as the No. 1 overall pick of the Draft, he projects as Minnesota’s starting small forward. The team reunited with point guard Ricky Rubio, a former Timberwolves lottery pick, who last played for the club from 2011-17, through a trade that also involved Oklahoma City and the New York Knicks. The Timberwolves bolstered those acquisitions by bringing aboard veteran big Ed Davis along with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, in addition to re-signing Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez. The Wolves also acquired 28th overall pick Jaden McDaniels from Oklahoma City in the trade that landed Rubio in exchange for the Draft rights to 17th pick Aleksej Pokusevski and James Johnson.
What’s missing: There’s a trio of solid, experienced veterans in Rubio, Russell and Towns. Rubio and Towns should have some built-in chemistry from their two seasons during the big man’s first two years in the league, but will the veteran even start, considering Minnesota re-signed Beasley to a $60 million contract? Everything’s not adding up there. On paper, it’s easy to see Minnesota could potentially be explosive offensively. But let’s not forget the Wolves ranked 20th last season in defensive efficiency. The current roster features a surplus of wings in Edwards, Beasley, Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver, but Minnesota will likely experiment some at the thin power forward spot. They signed Hernangomez to a $21 million deal and brought in Davis. It’s a position to keep an eye on because the Timberwolves might wind up playing lots of small ball. Could you imagine a lineup featuring Rubio, Russell, Beasley, Edwards and Towns?
POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE
Ricky Rubio | 13 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 8.8 apg
At 30, the Minnesota fan favorite contends he’s entering prime of career.
D’Angelo Russell | 23.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 6.3 apg
Expects the Rubio addition to provide some late-game relief.
Anthony Edwards | (college statistics) 19.1 rpg, 5.2 rpg, 2.8 apg
The fourth-youngest player of the incoming Draft class represents the third top-two pick in the starting lineup.
Juancho Hernangomez | 6.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.8 apg
Became a starter last February when Robert Covington was traded to Houston.
Karl-Anthony Towns | 26.5 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 4.4 apg
Surely pleased with the prospects of playmaking guards helping to spread the floor.
Malik Beasley | 11.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.4 apg
Probable starter averaged 20.7 points in 14 games with Minnesota last season after arriving from Denver via trade.
Josh Okogie | 8.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.6 apg
Young, inconsistent shooter should earn more minutes with his defensive skillset.
Jarrett Culver| 9.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.7 apg
High lottery pick last season still looking to develop his game.
Minnesota Timberwolves, last 5 seasons
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
They’ll be better, and definitely fun to watch. But the truth is the grouping of Russell, Towns and Edwards could easily go a variety of ways over the course of a long NBA season. Minnesota hasn’t been on the floor together since last March, and it will likely tip the season with two new starters, and one is a rookie. We’ll see plenty of Timberwolves highlights this season, but we’ll also probably see them right back in the Draft lottery.
Predicted finish: 27-45