If I could sum up the Timberwolves past season in one word it would be: Mediocre.
And guess what, mediocrity is going to continue.
As a Wolves fan, it’s hard to get excited about the upcoming season, especially in an absolutely stacked Western Conference. There are so many things that needed to change, that Wolves fan wanted to see change this offseason, and none of that happened.
The wolves still have an overpaid Teague, an overpaid and extremely disappointing Wiggins, they couldn’t keep Derrick Rose (the most exciting part of last season), they couldn’t keep young and native Minnesotan Tyus Jones (who I thought should’ve been our starting Point Guard), and realistically, the Wolves are still suffering from that dreaded 2017 Draft night trade for Butler. Just…please…give me back my Zach LaVine.
I’ll admit, it’s definitely not all doom and gloom. The trade-up made for Pick #6 was a necessary one, and while I’m a fan of Dario Saric and what he brought to the team, Minnesota desperately needed to secure a quality rookie talent that arguably wouldn’t have been available at Pick #11. I love the look of Jarrett Culver. He has the right attitude and work ethic to grow quickly and make an impactful contribution…unlike someone else I know. At 6’5” he is an explosive and quick combo guard/forward who shows promise of being a solid two-way player. He seems to be quite similar to Josh Okogie (with higher potential) and coming off the bench they could be quite the dangerous duo at Shooting Guard/Small Forward.
What IS unexciting are the players Minnesota picked up in Free Agency. Sure, grabbing Jordan Bell on a 1-year minimum contract is great. He’s a solid young player that will bring something different to the team and will definitely increase the excitement factor throughout the season. If Bell can expand and improve his game through KAT then he might be a cheap option at the Power Forward to stick with for the next 3-4 years. But, as Bell completes the starting 5, the new bench options are just…meh.
Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham were given to the Wolves from the Durant/Russell trade for basically nothing. While Napier is an okay undersized player, I’m not convinced he can be hugely productive coming off the bench, and Graham is still yet to prove himself with both limited time and poor shooting. Getting Jake Layman (3yr/$11.5m) for essentially for nothing is not a terrible deal, he adds some quality shooting off the bench but the rest of his game is average. Noah Vonleh on a 1-year minimum could be good too, he showed some small signs of improvement at the Knicks, but again, I’m not convinced he can improve much more. Lastly, after a decent Summer League showing, Naz Reid got himself a 4-year minimum/two-way contract. He seems to be a cult hero at the Wolves so I expect to see him in the rotation at times. He is essentially an unknown at 19 years of age, but he shows good promise.
PG: Jeff Teague Shabazz Napier
SG: Andrew Wiggins Josh Okogie Treveon Graham
SF: Robert Covington Jake Layman Jarrett Culver Keita Bates-Diop
PF: Jordan Bell Noah Vonleh Naz Reid
C: Karl-Anthony Towns Gorgui Dieng
Looking at next season, I need to address the biggest question mark of the team. No surprises here, it’s Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins has got 4 more years with $122m guaranteed money remaining on his contract, and with his last two seasons being worse than his rookie year, it’s no bloody wonder that no other team wants him. Both the media and fans have been constantly slamming him, and it seems to be doing nothing, he’s literally regressing. And the annoying part is that he just doesn’t seem to care. From the outside he looks unmotivated, apathetic, and he plays a really unenthused style of basketball. As a player with seemingly so much potential, it is incredibly frustrating for fans to watch. Sure, he’ll have 1 or 2 standout plays a game, but other than that he just has no impact. So for the Wolves, their success relies heavily on Wiggins improving and having a greater impact on games much more consistently. The Wolves couldn’t get a star player because of Wiggins and his contract, no team wanted him and his contract, so he needs to become the star that he can be, and fast.
The rest of the squad I don’t really have any expectations for other than to continue what they’ve been doing. Obviously Karl-Anthony Towns is an incredible player, and he’s consistently delivering in every single game. Durable, strong, and elite. If he could improve his defensive game, which I know he will, he could be a guaranteed All-Star for the next 10-15 years and can push for MVP nominations. If Robert Covington can avoid injury, it’s going to be amazing having him back in the squad. Covington is an incredibly important 3&D player that can have a huge impact on the Wolves season. He was missed dearly last season.
At this point I’m indifferent about Jeff Teague and his contract. Hopefully Teague passes the ball a lot more and shoots a lot less. And as long as Gorgui Dieng can improve just a little with his effectiveness, his $16m a year contract can be overlooked…for now.
Predicted Wins: 40. The Wolves are very difficult to predict, but they will ultimately struggle in the very talented Western Conference. Can definitely push for playoffs if the improvement available to all players is achieved.
How far Minnesota will go: 9th seed. Lottery Pick. Stuck in the middle.
Best Player: Karl-Anthony Towns – will become a 3-time All-Star, and an improvement in his defence will see him get both 3rd All-NBA Team and 2nd All-Defensive Team nods.
Golden Nugget: Andrew Wiggins – this will be the last season he gets to prove himself before he will officially be called a bust and have his contract as one of the worst of all time.
Coach: Ryan Saunders. Thankfully this legend took over from Tom ’48 minutes a game’ Thibodeau. Even though he’s the youngest coach in the league (33), he has 10 years of experience as Assistant coach at both the Wizards and Wolves, and as the son of late Wolves coaching legend Flip Saunders he brings an otherworldly quality that most other coaches wouldn’t have. The team and the state of Minnesota both love and appreciate Saunders, and whilst he’s yet to prove his coaching prowess, he can have a great impact on the players and the organisation.