NBA Season Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves

2019-20 Regular Season Record: 19-45 (.297%), 14th in Western Conference, Missed Playoffs
Head Coach: Ryan Saunders

The Minnesota Timberwolves have only made the playoffs once in the last 17 years, during the 2017-18 season when they finished above .500% and had Jimmy Butler on their team. Other than that lone playoff year, the T'Wolves have been generally awful, resulting in 11 seasons with a winning percentage under .400% since 2003-04. Last year was no different. Karl-Anthony Towns was excellent once again, averaging 26.5 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 4.4 apg and shooting 50.8% overall, but only played in 35 of the team’s 64 games due to injury. Minnesota made a mid-season trade, sending Andrew Wiggins to Golden State in exchange for D’Angelo Russell. Unfortunately, the Wolves only got 12 games out of Russell before the COVID-induced stoppage. Not that there was a ton to cheer for after KAT and Russell. 

1st Overall Draft Pick Anthony Edwards

Leading up to the draft, there were three players rumored to be going number one overall: Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman & LaMelo Ball. Both Ball and Wiseman didn’t seem to be a good fit considering the Wolves already have KAT and Russell – so they went with the uber-athletic Edwards at number 1. With no overlap of either current T'Wolves star and an opening at the starting shooting guard position, it was the perfect match for a team beginning to try and shape itself into a playoff regular for years to come. Edwards brings skill to a team that is in desperate need of an exciting player on the wing that can score in bunches. Expect serious highlights from the high-flyer in his rookie year. Edwards also understands the value of defense, and knows it will be one of the major factors in staying on the court as a rookie in the NBA. He spoke about his recent work with Minnesota’s defensive coordinator:
I feel like one of the great things is Coach Vanterpool took me under his wing and he realized I could be a really good defensive player. He taught me areas to cut off, areas where we want [opposing players] to get to, where we don't want them to get to, so I feel like my defense has improved since I got here.

If Edwards can improve on the defensive end throughout his rookie year, it will allow him some leeway on the offensive end, too. Picking him 1st overall was a wise move by the Wolves, as Edwards has the potential to be one of the league-leaders in points through his career.

How will KAT & Russell Pair Together?

The Timberwolves now have the number 1 & 2 picks from the 2015 draft, pairing good friends KAT and Russell. They first met playing each other in high school in New Jersey and along with 2015 13th overall pick Devin Booker, have formed a close bond between the trio. In all of the pre-draft workouts, KAT and Russell were teammates, usually having to battle against Booker and Willie Cauley-Stein in front of league executives. The chemistry is evident between the two, and it should show up on the court - KAT even picked up Russell from the airport.
At 24 and 25 years of age, both KAT and Russell are entering the primes of their respective careers and the duo should be able to control the offense with their pick-and-roll & pick-and-pop option (KAT shot 41.2% from 3-point land last year, connecting 3.3 makes on 7.9 attempts). Look for both players to excel with each other on the court and become one of this era’s most unstoppable duos. 

Will the Wolves Make the Playoffs?

With the combination of KAT and Russell, and the All-Star potential of Anthony Edwards, there is no doubt that the Wolves should be a better team this year. Adding Ricky Rubio to the mix should allow the offense to flow in the half-court set as he has averaged 7.8 apg in his 9 NBA seasons and will take the pressure off Russell to be the primary playmaker. Malik Beasley played well (averaging 20.7 ppg and 5.1 rpg) in his 14 games following a mid-season trade with Denver and will be a solid contributor off the bench, along with free agent signing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. However, the West is stacked, and although the Wolves will be better, there are still some growing pains to go through. This isn’t their year to make the playoffs again.

Photo Credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire