clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What Do the Minnesota Timberwolves Need to Take the Next Step?

The Wolves’ roster doesn’t need significant work; but their intangibles do, and there aren’t any clear paths to an external solution.

Chicago Bulls v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Tik Tok was influenced by Vine. D&D was created thanks to discontinued plastic dinosaurs. The Muppets were inspired by The Who. And then Keith Moon was inspired by Animal and round and round it went. This, however, was inspired by a Cam Reddish jersey swap.

New York Knicks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

I spend a stupid amount of time in assorted trade machines. It really is a problem. I have a folder of screenshots of trades I swore would lead to a Minnesota Timberwolves championship. And yet not one ever seemed to hit anywhere on the target of realism because they lacked one vital point: a reason.

Trades happen to patch a hole or expand a strength. If we’re being completely honest, what impact would Reddish have in Minnesota? The wing rotation is strong when healthy; with Jaden McDaniels and Kyle Anderson as capable starters, along with Taurean Prince off the bench as well as the positional diversity of Anthony Edwards and the return of Karl-Anthony Towns at some point this season, the answer to that is sadly “little to none.”

So let’s look at those holes that need to be patched, and then the strengths that need to amplified and find our ideal targets somewhere in the middle.

Let’s start on offense where the Wolves are seemingly an enigma. They boast a top-10 offense in points per game, with the 2nd best pace in the NBA, but somehow only have the 16th best offensive rating. They shoot 34.4% from three on 31.8 attempts a game (basically league average). Most disastrously, the rank in the bottom six for percentage of threes that are assisted. This points to the Wolves two biggest needs on offense: off ball three point shooting and playmaking and the over-reliance on hero ball. With injuries leaving the Wolves with only first year bright spot Wendell Moore Jr. and journeyman Austin Rivers as the only rostered point guards and thrusting Anderson into occasional starting guard duty, it feels like the Wolves certainly don’t need another wing or big. This lack of playmaking becomes even worse when you consider D’Angelo Russell’s self-proclaimed “not a true point guard” label and the existence of Rudy Gobert, who could not create his own shot if they made Hamburger Helper for 3+ dribble baskets.

Dallas Mavericks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

On defense, the bar is lower. The Wolves may only have the 10th-best defense, according to Cleaning the Glass, but outside of their bottom five defensive rebounding rate, there’s nothing that stands out as a need. Gobert is still himself in the middle and Moore Jr.’s emergence has given Finch both a starting stopper (Jaden McDaniels) and a bench specialist. It doesn’t hurt that Ant and D-Lo have been playing some of the better defense of their careers as well. No, the weakness of the Wolves’ defense comes from its strength last year. The Timberwolves simply have an effort problem. And that’s a problem that a bench shooter or a newly bought out vet (even if it’s Patrick Beverley) simply cannot solve. Someone needs to step up as a voice for this struggling Wolves team, and it’s hard to find that mid-season from outside the building. Thankfully, Edwards is stepping into the role.

So back to the start, what do the Wolves need? They need a 3-point specialist like Malik Beasley, and a versatile, high-effort defender that specializes in rebounding and hustle/effort plays like a Jarred Vanderbilt. But most importantly, they need a leader.

I could sit here and talk about certain players that have some of these traits, vets like Alex Caruso or Jae Crowder (maybe all the Wolves need to get the energy flowing are some tweets in all caps...) who are already known to be available, but here’s what it comes down to. The Wolves are looking for an expensive player without having any chips left at the table. Without trading one of Russell (eh, possible), McDaniels (I would rather fight an actual Timberwolf), or Towns (blame the media machine for even making me include this), the improvements are going to be marginal at best. Never say never, but I can’t think of a single trade that the Wolves can realistically make that can actually make an impact.

So give me the Reddish jersey swaps. Give me your castoffs, your redraft candidates, and your fringe rotation players. Find me your second-rounders for Bryn Forbes and your grab bags of extra contracts in three-team deals. Give me something to hope for, because the Wolves can’t afford what they need as a ready made product. Find a diamond in the rough. Only the unprecedented can save this team because 31 games in, we know who they are with everyone available. And simply, that is not good enough.

But, this three-game stretch has brought some good news. Edwards’ new found playmaking could ease that problem, especially if his pick and roll decision making can stay where it has been with Naz Reid, but with Gobert and, later on, Towns. While it also worries me that McDaniels and Edwards are seemingly thriving in a pace-and-space, small-ball lineup, it also gives me hope that there are definite strengths to harness here and that, if we return to the world of trades, we’re not looking for a good starter with the ingredients for a five-minute craft video. In other words, the less we need, the easier it is to find it. And while the Wolves still need a lot to save this and future seasons, Anthony Edwards is plugging holes while we prowl the trade machines.