Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Minnesota Timberwolves Season Preview

Minnesota Timberwolves
CHICAGO, USA - FEBRUARY 10: Karl-Anthony Towns (32) of Minnesota Timberwolves in action during the NBA basketball match between Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, United States on February 10, 2018. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Following another year of the Minnesota Timberwolves failing to reach the playoffs, it’s evident, even in the consistent shortcomings, there is a silver lining. Karl-Anthony Towns, the sole Timberwolves NBA All-Star, is under contract until 2024. Towns is a saving grace for an otherwise treadmill of mediocrity franchise. The Minnesota Timberwolves preview looks at what could be.

Despite the continuity of losing, the Minnesota Timberwolves are far from lost. Ryan Saunders was a breath of fresh air necessary of ridding the players from Tom Thibodeau’s old-fashioned ways. Still, despite the feel-good story, the rookie coach didn’t take Minnesota to new heights.

Minnesota Timberwolves 2019-2020 Season Preview

Recapping the 2018-2019 Season

Notwithstanding Minnesota’s final record, the Timberwolves season began on salvageable grounds. However, in light of Jimmy Butler‘s chaotic quest to getting traded, change was imminent. After a surmountable 4-6 start, enough was enough. Minnesota granted Butler the wish, thus sending the outspoken star to Philadelphia. The reverse Fresh Prince, if you will.

In return, the Timberwolves acquired Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick. No first-round picks, but at least Thibodeau gained a few win-now players fit for a playoff push. Unfortunately, by January, the former Coach of the Year recipient was out of a job.

By then, the Timberwolves donned a 20-21 record. Once again, hovering around the familiar mediocre standings. Saunders, the son of the late former Timberwolves’ coach Flip Saunders, changed the tone but unfortunately not the win-loss column. The rookie head coach finished with a 17-25 record.

Nevertheless, at least Towns gave the Timberwolves’ fans something to watch, other than Andrew Wiggins subconsciously tanking his trade value. With the polarizing figure in Butler off to the Eastern Conference, Towns was given the keys to the family car.  The results, at least in terms of individual stats, were promising.

The dynamic center attempted 6.7 three-point shots per contest and miraculously finished with a 40 percent average. Though the efficiency of Towns’ three-point shot radiated unicorn vibes, it’s the assist percentage (17.2) which truly illuminated the looming-and-booming potential of the two-time all-star.

Offseason Moves

Ironically, the most significant transaction of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ offseason was one which never happened. Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell are close friends. Which made for no surprise when Towns posted an Instagram picture with the words “Loading” inside a symbol representing of said word.

However, the Golden State Warriors, before outright losing superstar Kevin Durant without value, swooped in and pulled a sign-and-trade for the 2019 NBA All-Star. The Timberwolves, clearly without many significant signings on the table, didn’t recover. Instead of signing a star player, the Timberwolves front office focused on role players to support the young core of Towns and Wiggins.

The subtle signings of role players Jake Layman and Jordan Bell as the significant acquisitions in free agency aren’t ringing endorsement of a successful outing. Admittedly, not at all a flashy pair of free agents, but both provide some relief for the starting lineup. However, once again, the most significant signing was the one who was left for the Detroit Pistons to make. The Timberwolves didn’t tie up future money in former league MVP, Derrick Rose.

Tyus Jones, a restricted free agent, another player the front office deemed expendable, by not matching the Memphis Grizzlies three-year, $28 million offer sheet. The Timberwolves let a lot of players walk this offseason. There isn’t much positive to say about Minnesota’s underwhelming free agency.

However, the 2019 NBA draft gave the Timberwolves and its fans a reason to rejoice. The franchise was able to bring in a scoring option at a relatively low cost by trading Dario Saric and the rights to its 2019 11th overall pick. Jarrett Culver, the scoring threat out of Texas Tech, is slated as a backup guard for the playoff-starved Timberwolves.

Minnesota Timberwolves 2019-2020 Season Expectations

Ryan Saunders, as the full-time head coach is a change of the guard and simultaneously a nod to the good days. Flip Saunders, although never touted as an elite head coach, was at the helm during the Minnesota Timberwolves’ golden years. Ryan Saunders has his own identity, but it’s hard to ignore nostalgia rearing its head.

Envisioning the Timberwolves making the playoffs only for an early exit is a realistic outcome. Reminiscent of the Kevin Garnett years, Towns will play his heart out only for the supporting cast to ultimately collapse. However, this prediction is sadly the ceiling of this current roster.

Unless Wiggins unlocks the star player scouts once proudly proclaimed the Kansas star would become, the familiar lottery tier is where the Timberwolves will remain. Between his contract and the constant accusations of a questionable motor, Wiggins is the greatest x-factor of the Timberwolves season.

Minnesota Timberwolves 2019-2020 Season Predictions

Disney isn’t real life; not all stories end in a joyous cheer. It’s easy to slate the Timberwolves as a lottery-bound team, especially in light of its uneventful free agency. Frankly, it’s quite easy to see the Timberwolves at the bottom of the barrel in the Western Conference, but then you realize the Phoenix Suns exist.

Even so, the playoffs-starved Timberwolves aren’t better than the Dallas Mavericks or the New Orleans Pelicans, two teams who finished with inferior records last season. It’s a tossup between the Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzles for which team finishes with the second-worst record in the Western Conference.

Expect the Minnesota Timberwolves to finish with around 30-33 wins.

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