2021 Midseason Report

2021 Midseason report: Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA.com takes stock of the Minnesota Timberwolves after the first half of the 2020-21 season.

Karl-Anthony Towns and the Wolves are in the midst of another difficult season.

First half summary: Can’t the Timberwolves and the fans still paying attention to them just erase the first half of 2020-21? It’s hard to imagine things going any worse for the team with the league’s worst record (7-29). The Wolves skulked into All-Star break on a nine-game losing streak, with one coach (Ryan Saunders) fired and his replacement (Chris Finch) still in search of his first victory after an 0-5 how-do-you-do.

There have been some positives to grab onto. Rookie Anthony Edwards, the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, has displayed athletic brilliance, even as he learns how to play at the NBA level. Wing Malik Beasley, before he was suspended for 12 games by the league due to his guilty plea in an armed felony case, had shown signs of plugging another hole. Rookie Jalen McDaniels has been a consistent help and Jarred Vanderbilt a nice surprise since arriving last February. And … that’s about it.

Biggest questions going into the second half: Was hiring Finch the right move at the right time? And what does the future portend for Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota? Just because this season seemed over for the Wolves almost from the start — let’s be honest and acknowledge that Saunders would not have been hired as coach when he was by any of the other 29 teams — doesn’t mean that grabbing Finch off Toronto’s bench is a no-brainer upgrade. Finch is considered an offensive innovator, so he’ll be charged with developing Edwards and synching things up with Towns and D’Angelo Russell (when he finally comes back from leg surgery). But the Wolves have been just as bad defensively, where David Vanterpool — the assistant passed over for promotion — wasn’t getting decent results, either.

Towns is in his sixth season. He has been beset with COVID-19 concerns, from the death of his mother and several others close to him as well as his own bout with the virus. A two-time All-Star, his reputation has dimmed due to injuries and the Wolves’ losing. He’s in the second year of a contract that has three years and $101 million remaining, but besides Edwards, he’s the Timberwolf most marketable for serious rebuilding assets.

Playoffs or lottery?: Take a wild guess. Getting a bunch of ping pong balls might excite some people, but the thrill of having three of the past seven No. 1 picks (Edwards, Towns and Andrew Wiggins) come through their roster hasn’t saved Minnesota from losing or regime and coaching changes.

Finch, boss Gersson Rosas and their staffs have to treat the second half of the season and however many months are left before 2021-22 as an extended developmental program/training camp. Games need to be used like practices, mistakes will turn into defeats, but there is no other viable option for the woeful Wolves.

— Steve Aschburner