On paper, this starting lineup has some offensive power. Four of the five starters are proven 19+ PPG scorers. The only problem is, three of them haven’t played more than 50 games in each of the past two seasons.
Over the past two years, the main thing that’s been holding the Timberwolves back - Injuries. Since they have formed the duo of DLo and KAT, they two have only actually played 25 games together. So Minnesota doesn’t have a good idea of what that will look like yet. And now with the emergence of Anthony Edwards, there’s another young star in town.
The Wolves have only made the playoffs twice in the last 18 years. But this year, the T-Wolves finally have a fully healthy roster heading into the season. Could they be in the position to surprise some people this year?
Point Guard - D’Angelo Russell
It’s felt like DLo has been in the league forever, yet he’s still only 25 years old. He began his career in LA mentoring behind all-time great, Kobe Bryant. The Lakers didn’t give him much of a chance and he was quickly shipped to Brooklyn after only two seasons in LA. In Brooklyn, DLo landed in a much better situation and had a better opportunity to show his true colors. Within a season, D’Angelo Russell was averaging 21.1 PPG, 7.0 APG, and 3.0 RPG.
Fast forward to now - and DLo has found himself in Minnesota. It’s been sort of an awkward fit thus far. Russell started in 26 out of 42 games played last season. Russell still averaged 19.0 PPG, 5.8 APG, and 2.6 RPG, but it didn’t seem like he was in a role he was comfortable playing.
This is a new year and a fresh start, so it could go different this season. But don’t be surprised if the Timberwolves pull the trigger and trade DLo and some assets for Ben Simmons.
Shooting Guard - Malik Beasley
Malik Beasley is another young guy who was traded over from Denver a couple of seasons ago. He found himself in a much better predicament here in Minnesota and went on to average 19.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 2.4 APG until getting injured. He sat out for the rest of the season after playing only 37 games.
Malik Beasley will be the fourth option offensively, but a great one at that. There are not many teams that you can say has a 20 PPG scorer as their fourth option… He shoots 40% from three and is an athletic finisher at the rim. He’ll have to cater toward the other guys here in Minnesota, but if he can figure out how to utilize himself best alongside them, then the Timberwolves will be in good shape.
Small Forward - Anthony Edwards
The #1 pick out of Georgia may have started a little slow, but he finished the year on a very high note. Pre-All-Star break Edwards averaged 14.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 2.5 APG. Compared to Post-All-Star break he averaged 23.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 3.4 APG.
It just took half of the season for Edwards to transition to the NBA level and he’s already a 20+ PPG scorer. He showed off his extreme athleticism with the dunk of the year against the Raptors (if you haven’t seen it, you should look into that).
Edwards also has the potential to become a lock-down defender if he wants to. His athleticism provides him with excellent on-ball defense, and the ability to get out and go in transition.
Power Forward - Jaden McDaniels
Jaden McDaniels is another player coming into his second year in the league. Last year he only averaged 6.8 PPG and 3.7 RPG, but the Timberwolves clearly see some potential in him if they plan on starting him. Jaden McDaniels has been mentioned by head coach Chris Finch as one of their, “cour-four” players. Although, It’s not a guarantee he will be starting as he’ll be competing with Taurean Prince and Jarred Vanderbilt for that four-spot.
There has been other news that he grew two inches in the off-season to 6’10 and that he has been watching a lot of films on Brandon Ingram, Jonathan Isaac, and Pascal Siakam to sort of mirror his game behind theirs. At his size and stature, these are perfect examples of players that he can learn from.
Center - Karl-Anthony Towns
The centerpiece of the entire organization - KAT.
KAT has spent his entire career here in Minnesota. 6 seasons. During that period, they made the playoffs once when he had help from Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins. Butler and KAT never seemed to be on the same page though, so that relationship didn’t last very long.
Towns has always been known as one of the best centers in the league. He’s practically been a 25/10 guy his entire career. The past two years haven’t gone so smoothly due to injuries, but this year looks to be a promising year for the T-Wolves.
KAT has dropped nearly 30 pounds from last season. One - due to COVID and other health issues, but he could also be trying to get to a weight that works better for him. Towns will be the go-to guy offensively for this team as Coach Finch plans to run everything through him.
Patrick Beverley, Jordan McLaughlin, McKinley Wright IV, Jaylen Nowell, Leandro Bolmaro, Josh Okigie, Jake Layman, Brian Bowen, Taurean Prince, Jarred Vanderbilt, Chris Silva, Naz Reid, Nathan Knight
The Minnesota bench features a couple of new additions in Patrick Beverley and Taurean Prince. Beverley should be in for some big minutes off the bench and bring some much-needed grit and toughness to this team. Prince was solid last season for the Cavs and could be another player that takes up a lot of minutes from the bench.
Some other players that should make an impact off the bench are Josh Okogie, Jake Layman, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Naz Reid.
Okogie started for half the year last season and was one of the first guys off the bench if not in the starting lineup. He’s not a stat-stuffer by any means, but he does all the little things. He is a great defender and hustler.
Jarred Vanderbilt was very impressive last season. For a 6’9 PF, he is a crafty finisher that has the ability to handle the ball as well. At only 22 years old he should come in much improved this season.
The final key player off the bench is Naz Reid. The big man from LSU is the primary backup to KAT. He averaged 11.2 PPG and 4.6 RPG last season.
Can They Finally Surprise This Season?
One of the main issues the Minnesota Timberwolves organization is lack of stability. There has always been change here. Every season it’s something new. For example, this off-season the Timberwolves not only got a new head coach but new team owners. This can change the trajectory of a team because all of the decisions for a team go through the owners/management. With new team owners, the hope is that this can lead the T-wolves in the right direction and they can start to find some stability within their organization.
This roster is one of the youngest in the league. Everyone in the starting lineup is 25 or younger. This is great for the future, but for now, they lack a veteran presence. KAT has the skillset to be a top 5 center in the league, but he isn’t known for being a true leader. If KAT can step up into that leadership role, it would make a world of difference for this team.
With the emergence of Ant-Man, a healthy DLo, and a KAT in peak condition - there seems to be a Big 3 forming in Minnesota. All of these guys are approaching their prime, so give them a few years together and they could be lethal.
The Timberwolves have a real chance at surprising some people this season. Even If they could sneak into the play-in tournament then that would be exceeding their expectations. The Minnesota Timberwolves ceiling is a play-in tourney bid, but their floor is once again being a bottom dweller of the Western Conference.