A look at the Timberwolves season and franchise. You usually don’t see somebody publish an article with four question marks in the main headline. But I’m so genuinely confused by the Timberwolves, that I went ahead and put all of the question marks in. They don’t seem to have a vision. They keep losing. And the roster makeup is very odd.
Minnesota last made the playoffs during the 2017-18 season, losing in the first round. They haven’t won much since then. They are a franchise notoriously known for losing, having only advanced in the playoffs twice in their 32-year existence. The team that reached the conference finals in 2004 stands alone.
So, what exactly are they doing now? They went 19-45 last season. They are just 2-7 this year. And the pieces don’t seem to fit together.
The Timberwolves Season: Minnesota Has the Worst Frontcourt in the NBA
I can sit here praising Karl-Anthony Towns for hours. Maybe even days. Possibly even months. He’s one of the best centers in the league, and has been from the day he was drafted by the organization in 2015. But, the talent around him right now is downright putrid. Juancho Hernangomez, Jake Layman, Jarred Vanderbilt, Naz Reid, Ed Davis, and Josh Okogie are the other notable guys that play anywhere from small forward to center.
The only consistent player on that list is Josh Okogie, and it’s with his defense. He struggles to score, as do most of those other players, who are, at best, provide marginal contributions. They have second-year disappointment Jarrett Culver playing anywhere from point guard to power forward. He’s not doing much to help them win.
And when KAT gets injured, which sadly happens often, the team falls apart in his absence. After starting this year 2-0 with Towns in the lineup, the Timberwolves have responded with seven losses in a row, including six in which Towns didn’t even suit up. 0-6 with him out of the lineup, after going winless for nearly two months last season.
They have no other players who can play next to him effectively. Not one. The best starting power forward the team has had during his tenure has been Robert Covington. No disrespect to RoCo, but that is terrible.
The Timberwolves Season: The Guards Don’t Play Much Defense
I can sit here and tell you why D’Angelo Russell is one of the most impressive scoring guards in the league. Or I can just flat out say Malik Beasley is a bucket-getter, and has been since Minnesota acquired him last year. I can laud them for bringing back Ricky Rubio to spice up the second unit. But I would be choosing to ignore the problems these guys present.
For all of the scoring DLo does, he plays little to no defense. The number of steals a player averages very rarely proves accurate in examining a player’s impact. The 1.2 that he averages mean very little in the scheme of things. His effort is generally only there on the offensive side of the ball. 20 points and five assists per game is very good. But there is reason Minnesota is #27 in points allowed per game.
Malik Beasley can fill up the stat sheet with three-pointers and effective field goal percentages. But when you flip the coin and watch his defense, you notice the effort isn’t always there. Both he and DLo rely heavily on Josh Okogie to get the stops on defense. And when Okogie isn’t playing, like the last few games, they will surrender an endless number of points.
Ricky Rubio is decent on defense, but he isn’t a difference-maker. They lack that when Okogie isn’t playing. Jarrett Culver is decent, but his inability to score almost negates his value.
We’ll have to see what Anthony Edwards brings to the table, but so far, he hasn’t been a difference-maker. Yes, we’re only 10 games in, but you expect more from the first pick in the draft.
The Timberwolves Season: What Are They Going to Do Long-Term?
The big reason for trading for D’Angelo Russell was to appease KAT to want to stick around. The two of them have been close friends for a number of years, something that’s well known around the league. They haven’t been able to win much together, yet.
There isn’t too much to be impressed with when you peak up and down the depth chart. So, is there a fix there? Do they just lose a lot this year and hope for another pick? The 2021 NBA Draft class is loaded, brimming with players that teams can build around. But, what if they whiff? What if Anthony Edwards doesn’t pan out?
Culver looks to be a bust thus far. Okogie hasn’t shown any offensive improvements. And they don’t have any guys that will be able to consistently provide as role players.
Personally, I’m a big fan of Ryan Saunders. He’s a decent head coach, though it doesn’t seem he’ll ever be as good as his beloved father, Flip (RIP) was. It’s the fact that he’s coaching the same team that his dad was leading last decade that makes me want to see him succeed. But, he might not be the answer.
He’s got a lot of experience as an assistant, but whatever he’s doing, it isn’t working. He also seems unsure of how to manage the rotations, the starting lineup constantly flipping. Some of it has to do with injuries, and some of it is just head-scratching.
If they’re going to lose and commit to building through the draft, so be it. But they are wasting the career of an All-NBA center. KAT deserves better. One playoff trip. They don’t seem to know how to draft so well. Here’s to hoping they fix things.