With more than a quarter of the season somehow already behind us, it’s time for the Canis Hoopus crew to look back at the best and worst of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ season thus far, and what we’re looking forward to in the weeks and months ahead.
What’s been the best part of the season?
Kyle Theige: Despite the disappointing results so far this season, I still think there’s been a lot of things to get excited about: Jaylen Nowell’s development, Naz Reid taking a mini leap, and as Mike points out below — Malik Beasley’s intoxicating (and inspiring) effort on both ends.
For me personally though, the best part of this season has been everything we’ve seen from Anthony Edwards — both on and off the court. The lack of Summer League, condensed training camp, and Timberwolves dysfunction has done ANT no real favors, and yet despite of it all he has continued to show more and more promise as the season rolls on. Add in his freshness and authenticity when talking to the media, and you begin to have all of the necessary ingredients for a superstar in the making.
Jack Borman: Naz Reid and Jaylen Nowell proving they are both here to stay. A perk of the unfortunate circumstances facing the Timberwolves to start the season has given the two second-year players ample opportunity to prove they belong in the Minnesota rotation, even when the team is completely healthy again. Reid has looked like a guy who could start at center for other teams, while Nowell has been a sorely needed bench spark plug ever since Anthony Edwards entered the starting lineup.
Mike O’Hagan: Malik Beasley’s effort has been the one thing I’ve been able to count on, night in and night out. His shooting hasn’t been as consistent as we’d love on the road, but the guys seriously plays his ass off every single night, and that’s what I love about him. He feels like he’s making another mini-leap, at least to me. Regardless, the energy and passion that he brings to each game is my favorite part about this team, and I think it’s starting to rub off on guys like Anthony Edwards. The 4-year, $64-million contract that he signed this offseason looks like a steal early on.
Leo Sun: Ant’s personality. Sure, he’s had some sparkly moments on the court, but off the court is where he’s been A1 since day 1. From his candid responses in postgame pressers, to his ear-to-ear smile on the hardwood, he’s consistently left a smile on my face. If I had to pick just one out of his many hilarious moments thus far, it’d have to be the postgame press conference after the first Warriors loss. He casually strolled to the seat with rap blasting from the headphones dangling around his neck (I’d guess it was Lil Baby). After 2-3 seconds, he realized he couldn’t hear anything so he turned his music off and muttered “Oops... dang my bad.” Classic.
Josh Clement: The Wolves have managed to find and develop quality back-end rotation players. Naz Reid, Jordan McLaughlin, Jaylen Nowell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and now Jaden McDaniels are making significant positive contributions. When the team is bad, this is not necessarily as valuable, but these types of players are extremely valuable as trade chips or components of a good team. Of course, it has also been incredible to see the outlines of a superstar taking form in Anthony Edwards.
Jake Kelly: Anthony Edwards is undeniable. The amount of character, quotes, and meme content he’s brought to the team is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. There’s really nothing he does that isn’t enjoyable; even his missed shots are entertaining! I can’t imagine this team without him. My confidence level in him becoming a star on the court is growing steadily by the game too. But his level of star off the court has already proved strong enough to be the second guy name Anthony Edwards to host an episode of Saturday Night Live. And that’s something I’d like to see arguably as much as him leading this team to an NBA championship.
What’s been the worst part of the season?
Kyle Theige: As the last one to submit my answers here, there’s not much that hasn’t already been said. Late game collapses, KAT’s misfortune, and the disappointing point guard play have all been major factors in this team’s horrid start to the season. I would just add that the lack of real structure, both on offense and defense, has been a real concern of mine, especially when you mix in the youngest roster in the league. The inability to put young players (including a teenager like Anthony Edwards) in spots where they can grow and succeed is the biggest question mark moving forward, and if this coaching staff continues to fail on this objective, then someone else needs to be calling the shots.
Jack Borman: 4th quarter meltdowns. The Wolves have seemingly found new ways to lose games, between trotting out ill-fitting lineups that don’t have enough offense or defense, to not moving the ball, not rebounding, turning it over, and everything in between. Even without Karl-Anthony Towns, this team has zero excuse to not have at least 10 wins. Losing games like the meltdowns against Memphis, Orlando, San Antonio, and most recently, OKC, are simply unacceptable and have arguably taken the Wolves out of the playoff race just 23 games into the season. 10-14 is much more workable than 6-17.
Mike O’Hagan: How much time do you have? I think everyone else hits most of the major points, but I’ll add the poor fit between Ricky Rubio and D’Angelo Russell. I’m not interested in arguing about who is more at fault there, but it’s pretty clear that it hasn’t worked in the sense that we’d hoped it would. That’s a bummer.
Leo Sun: Karl-Anthony Towns’ misfortune. 2020 has taught so many of us, none more than KAT, that life is about so much more than basketball. He showed the amazing mental and emotional strength he possesses by simply showing up to start the season as he sacrificed his previously injured wrist to drag the Wolves to a 2-0 start. Just 2 games after his return? His worst nightmare: A positive COVID-19 test. Lastly, he just recently shared that he was hit by a drunk driver last offseason. My god... please let something good happen to KAT soon.
Josh Clement: All of it? The point guard rotation is the clearest black hole. Ricky Rubio has been terrible and is an entirely different player than he was six months ago on the Pheonix Suns. Is that an indictment of the Wolves or is he on the other end of the point guard age curve? Both answers are bad. D’Angelo Russell, while often putting up good stats, has not demonstrated he helps a team win, as evidenced by his terrible plus-minus numbers. Those two bets were how the Wolves could be competitive this year and both are going poorly.
Jake Kelly: There has been so much obvious bad that it’s tough to fairly balance and give weight to the superficial bad versus the actual bad. So I’m going to cop out and answer from a selfish bad perspective. And as an individual that’s firmly implanted in the Ricky Rubio Fanboy Club, it’s just been a real bummer seeing how things have gone out there for the guy who we named our club after. Bringing myself back to the night of the draft, and recalling the insane joy that the news of Rubio’s homecoming brought me, it’s been tough to reconcile with the results we’ve seen so far. And I know I’m not the only one. And that’s often how these things go! But it’s still something that I’m adjusting to saying out loud. Ok that feels better.
What’s your one hope for the rest of the season?
Kyle Theige: This one is simple — we need to see Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell play basketball together. This entire phase of the rebuild is predicated on the partnership of those two friends, and without them on the court together, everything else remains a disappointing mystery. If Karl an D-Lo can finally play something like 30 or so games together in order to provide a clearer picture of what this franchise really has, that should *finally* give the front office a good enough sample size to start strategizing for their next major step (which hopefully involves — brace yourself here — prioritizing winnings).
Jack Borman: The Anthony Edwards flashes become more consistent. Anthony Edwards has been a huge bright spot in a desolate start to the season. His physicality attacking the rim is a major weapon, but his finishing has been inconsistent, and as a result, his scoring has been too. If Ant can continue to attack the paint, find his touch at the rim, shoot the ball from deep like he has been recently, and keep taking care of the ball, he could very well end up being the Timberwolves second-best player by the end of the year.
Mike O’Hagan: With the play-in tournament likely out of reach already given how far back Minnesota is and how many teams they’d have to jump, I just want to watch Karl-Anthony Towns play some basketball games. He’s had such rotten luck over the past year-plus, so I’m just rooting for him to stay healthy. That’s pretty much it.
Leo Sun: Ricky finds his groove. I am an unabashedly Ricky stan and it’s been so sad to watch him this season. I’ll forever support him both on and off the court so my biggest hope is that he regains form. Obviously there are a lot of other factors that will dictate his chances at improving, but I just want a happy Ricky Rubio again. And if it’s with an other team, then so be it.
Josh Clement: Jarrett Culver gets his confidence back. Culver was a huge surprise in the preseason and first two games. He immediately plummeted back to his rookie woes after Karl-Anthony Towns was injured and is now dealing with his own injury. With the Wolves' plethora of mediocre wings, Culver has a chance to step forward or fall back behind the rest of the pack. A resurgence could help spark our naïve hopes of the Edwards-Culver combo.
Jake Kelly: I hope the Minnesota Timberwolves win some games they shouldn’t win. I hope they beat the Clippers by 30 again. And then win a really close game against the Nets. At this point, it’s hard to make an argument that there are games that the Wolves should win, but we can absolutely those they they shouldn’t win by a lot. And The spectrum of outcomes has been pretty wide. But what we’ve been missing are a few extreme highs to make up for the variety of lows and mediums. Smacking a few really good teams in the face with an unexpected loss will always, at least until the next game, make you forget about your place in the standings.
What’s your one bold prediction for the rest of the season?
Kyle Theige: Anthony Edwards wins Rookie of the Year (hey, you said bold prediction). It does seem like the 2021 ROY award is LaMelo Ball’s to lose, with Tyrese Haliburton coming in as a close second, but depending on how long Russell is sidelined due to a lower leg injury, ANT-Man could see an even increased role over the next month or so. Again, the odds are greatly in LaMelo’s favor, but if Edwards can continue his recent upwards trajectory, you’d be silly not to take the current odds (which vary at different places online from 9-1 to 15-1).
Jack Borman: Ryan Saunders survives the season. Glen Taylor said recently he wants to see Saunders coach the team at full strength before even thinking about making a change at Head Coach. This Wolves team has a ton of young offensive talent, and when KAT comes back, this team score and win enough for Saunders to patrol the sidelines for the remainder of the season. Don’t be surprised if Minnesota has a top seven or eight offense once Towns is back, either.
Mike O’Hagan: Anthony Edwards breaks out in the second half of the season and looks like a future star by season’s end. The flashes with Ant are getting more frequent, but I still need to remind myself that not only did he not get Summer League or a real training camp, but he also reclassified in high school to get to college (and subsequently, the draft) a year earlier. He is really, really young, and is still learning how the game works. I think keeping him in the starting lineup once KAT returns should do wonders for his efficiency. In my eyes, this future of the Timberwolves works if Edwards ultimately becomes the second-banana to Towns, moving Russell into a third-banana role he’s probably more suited for. Ultimately, I believe Ant can be that good.
Leo Sun: KAT will drag the Timberwolves to a .500 record. We’re currently sitting at 5-15 as I’m writing this so that means we already have to make up 10 games from the remaining 52. 36-36 is a bold prediction, but Towns has shown all of us that he is capable of overcoming crazier mountains. I’m more confident in this man than I’ve ever been. I hope you grab some popcorn, enjoy the very nice 0.69 win rate, and witness the 36-16 finish to the season, baby!
Josh Clement: The Wolves continue to be terrible, even when Karl-Anthony Towns returns. I know Towns absence makes it feel like the Wolves could turn things around, but this team is flat-out bad. The Wolves have the worst net rating in the league for a reason and barely look competitive against teams with wildly less talented rosters. The Wolves' future will rest on lottery night.
Jake Kelly: I had a premonition that Malik Beasley scored 50 points in a game. The circumstances of such event I will not specify, but I’ve seen enough to believe that this outburst is coming. His career high is 35, and the easy thing to say would be that he breaks that. But 50 feels achievable, and much bolder. And the last time I had a premonition about a Wolves game, it was that they won on a buzzer beater. And you know what happened? They lost on a buzzer beater. So my intuition has been pretty close lately.