The Minnesota Timberwolves are coming off of a 23-49 season where they finished 13th in the Western Conference. It was Minnesota's third consecutive season without reaching the playoffs. They have just one playoff appearance in the last 17 seasons.
Ryan Saunders was fired mid-season and replaced almost immediately by Toronto Raptors assistant Chris Finch, which rubbed some people the wrong way because there wasn't an interview process like there usually is. Instead, Former President of Basketball Operations, Gersson Rosas hand picked Finch off another team in the middle of the season instead of promoting a top assistant.
Finch was able to go 16-25 to finish off the season in Minnesota. Karl-Anthony Towns unsurprisingly led the team in points (24.8) and blocks (1.1) per game despite battling COVID-19 during the season where he lost 50 pounds.
There wasn't a whole that happened this offseason for the Timberwolves until last week. Rosas made a few moves to upgrade the team, such as acquiring Patrick Beverley from the Memphis Grizzlies. However, the most noteworthy thing that happened before training camp was the firing of Rosas last week.
I wrote immediately following the firing that the decision made no sense but of course, that opinion changed after he reportedly had a toxic front office culture and an uncomfortable relationship with another women in the front office despite being married.
Sachin Gupta is now the head of basketball operations and will continue to engage on Ben Simmons trade talks with the Philadelphia 76ers. Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez were formally introduced on Monday as the new minority owners of the team. They will transition to being majority owners in two years.
The Starting Five
Towns is obviously the first player people think of when talking about the Timberwolves. He is still just 25 years old but as seasons go on, there's mounting pressure on the organization to get him into the playoffs for the second time in his career.
D'Angelo Russell is healthy after undergoing knee surgery last season. Russell, who averaged 19 points a game last year, likely needs to have a healthy season for Minnesota to stay in playoff contention, unless they trade him for Simmons of course.
Anthony Edwards has a chip on his shoulder after losing the Rookie of the Year to LaMelo Ball last year. He figures to be starting alongside Towns, Russell, Jaden McDaniels, and Malik Beasley.
The strongest pieces on Minnesota's bench are Beverley and Josh Okogie. Beverley has a ton of playoff experience with the Los Angeles Clippers and likely feels slighted that Los Angeles decided to part ways despite him being one of the passionate leaders in the locker room. Okogie, 22, is coming off a season where he shot about 40% from the field and averaged 20.3 minutes per game.
The rest of the bench will be filled with other guys like Jaylen Nowell, Taurean Prince, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Jordan McLaughlin.
One Potential Move to Make
The one move the Timberwolves should make is obvious and it's acquiring that All-Star guard who is under contract with the 76ers. Simmons doesn't want to play in a Philadelphia uniform ever again and Minnesota has pressure to win in Towns' prime.
Additionally, Simmons is a better player then Russell. Towns, Beasley, McDaniels, and Edwards can provide the offense in the fourth quarter if Simmons continues to struggle shooting. Also, getting Simmons onto a team nobody pays attention to nationally will benefit him because he should become more comfortable because the national spotlight won't be on him as much as it was in Philadelphia.
One example of a guard flourishing in a smaller market is Lonzo Ball. He struggled with the Los Angeles Lakers out of the gate but increased his points per game by more than four points once he got to a less pressurized situation in New Orleans.
The expectation for Minnesota this year is to contend for one of the play-in spots. They have a talented core of talent led by Towns and Edwards but their bench still isn't strong and the Western Conference is stacked again.
The Lakers are healthy again led by LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook. The Golden State Warriors are getting Klay Thompson back in the middle of the season. The Utah Jazz are getting a healthy Mike Conley back along with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. The Phoenix Suns are bringing back their Western Conference championship team. Other teams like the Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trailblazers are still better than Minnesota.
Season Prediction: 36-46 and Make the Play-In Tournament