It seems that for the past couple of years, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been the team of the future. Yes, people have been excited about the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76’ers. However, these teams are largely viewed as second class compared to this young and athletic Minnesota core. They seem to have everything needed to be a great team; a dynamic point guard in Zach LaVine; a dominant wing scorer in Andrew Wiggins; a top ten big-man in the league in Karl-Anthony Towns. Add on a couple of nice, young complimentary players such as Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad and one would think that they have a very good young core. In a top heavy western conference, this squad should be a playoff. Yet they have failed to reach the lofty heights that most media and fans have set for them. We know that they are close, but what could they do in this offseason to take that next step?
Minnesota Timberwolves Off-season Outlook
While it is evident that there is a lot of talent on this team, one department where they struggle is shooting the three. Only three players shoot above the league average of 35.7%, Brandon Rush, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins. While LaVine and Rush are excellent shooters, Wiggins is streaky at best and cannot rely on that part of his shot yet. General Manage Scott Layden will have his work cut out for him as Rush is a free agent and LaVine will be coming off of ACL surgery. When you have two point guards, Kris Dunn and Ricky Rubio, who cannot shoot and a dominant post player like Karl Anthony-Towns, it is imperative to surround them with shooting.
This young core also has very little depth when it comes to the frontcourt. The only big men that they really deploy are in their starting rotation; Karl Anthony-Towns and Gorgui Dieng. They then have two players in the shape of Shabazz Muhammad and Nemanja Bjelica who are both closer to small forwards than power forwards. Muhammad is an exceptional athlete but is only 6’6, while Bjelica lacks the strength and rebounding to play against other team’s power forwards. It is imperative that they add more players to their front court.
The Timberwolves will most likely have a top ten pick as well as the possibility of getting New Orleans’ second round pick. This is provided that the pick falls in between the 31st and 55th selection. The best option for Minnesota would be to draft 7-foot power forward/center Lauri Markkanen from the University of Arizona. The 19-year-old native of Finland had a terrific freshman season for Arizona, averaging 15.6 points per game along with 7.2 rebounds. What should be really exciting for Timberwolves fans is that he shot 43% from three on 4.5 attempts per game.
Drafting Markkanen would help in two categories, one he is a big body capable of playing beside both Towns and Dieng, and that he is an elite three-point shooter. Drafting Markkanen would be killing two birds with one stone. If they do end up with a second round pick, a three-and-D player would be a good selection. A player in the mould of Andrew White, the sharp-shooter from Syracuse or Jaron Blossomgame, the defensive stopper from Clemson. Blossomgame has the potential to turn into a P.J. Tucker on the Raptors, while White is arguably the best shooter in the draft.
As far as free-agency goes, there are a plethora of really strong role players that could become available for decent contracts this summer. Minnesota does not need a Blake Griffin; they have their stars of tomorrow. What they need is a veteran presence who does the little things like talking on defence and making the extra pass on offence. Their current crop of veterans consist of Jordan Hill, who has only appeared in seven games.
A few names come to mind when thinking of possible free-agents. The most prominent are Kelly Olynyk of Boston, Patrick Patterson or P.J. Tucker of Toronto or Bojan Bogdanovic of Washington. Kelly Olynyk is an excellent three-point shooter and a very good passer for his position. While he is not an elite athlete, he is an outstanding help defender, which is something that the entire Timberwolves team struggles to do. Patterson and Tucker are the most versatile defenders Minnesota could hope for as both players are capable of guarding up to four positions. Bogdanovic is the best scorer of the lot, averaging 13 points per game on nearly 39% from three. He would be the perfect floor spacer and secondary scorer for Minnesota.