This is the Timberwolves entry for the network-wide SB Nation series of NBA previews. Feel free to cruise around to all of the other SBN NBA sites to check out what their writers expect from the season ahead. For the Wolves, obviously finding some stability in the wake of the summer’s dysfunction featuring Jimmy Butler is key going forward.
Key Losses: Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford, Nemanja Bjelica
Key Additions: Anthony Tolliver,
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
It was shaping up to be a quiet summer for the Timberwolves in terms of roster changes after their first playoff appearance since 2004. The Wolves replaced stretch forward Nemanja Bjelica with stretch forward Anthony Tolliver, re-signed Derrick Rose, made a couple of draft picks (Josh Okogie in the first round, Keita Bates-Diop in the second,) but were looking more or less at bringing back much the same squad.
Until a week before training camp, when All-Star Jimmy Butler requested a trade after one season with the club.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
The Wolves had the 4th best offense in the league last season, thanks in large part to a low turnover rate and excellent offensive rebounding. I expect them to be strong again in both areas, and of course they have Karl-Anthony Towns, the most gifted offensive big man in the NBA.
Hopefully they expand their three-point shooting game this season, their one real weakness offensively, to help make up for Butler leaving. Towns should get even more looks from beyond the arc, and newly signed Anthony Tolliver is not remotely shy about putting up threes.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
They will likely struggle on defense once again, especially in the absence of Butler, who made the defense almost acceptable when he was on the floor last season. They will need real improvement both individually from guys like Towns and Andrew Wiggins, as well as more cohesive team play on the defensive end to avoid another disastrous defensive season.
They absolutely need to, and can, improve their transition defense. The question is whether Towns is able to become a more forceful and effective rim protector. That will be a key moving forward.
Their bench is another big question mark. Tom Thibodeau doesn’t give his reserves significant minutes typically, and last year bench units were quite weak for the Wolves. Which is cause and which is effect is up for debate, but the Wolves will need better production when the starters are off the floor. One thing that will help is that Jamal Crawford opted out of his deal. For all the positives Crawford brought off the floor, he was disastrous on it.
4. What are the goals for this team?
A very difficult question to answer until we see the final roster. They made the playoffs for the first time in 14 years last spring, but without Butler and in a brutal Western Conference, repeating that feat is going to be difficult. They are going to try, however; neither Thibs nor owner Glen Taylor have the stomach for tanking.
Personally, my goal is to see this roster develop some chemistry and collectively enjoy their basketball. Despite their most successful season in forever last year, that was in short supply. I’d like to see Towns take a step forward defensively, and Tyus Jones get the playing time he deserves.
Ultimately the goal is to see a path forward by the end of the season.