The 2021-22 NBA season is set to tip off on Oct. 19 (ET). In preparation for the upcoming season, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Today, the focus is on the Minnesota Timberwolves.
2020-21 season record
23-49, 13th in Western Conference
Leandro Bolmaro, No. 23 pick in 2020 NBA Draft
Patrick Beverley, trade
Taurean Prince, trade
Jarrett Culver, trade
Juancho Hernangomez, trade
Ricky Rubio, trade
|PG||D'Angelo Russell||Patrick Beverley||Jordan McLaughlin||McKinley Wright IV|
|SG||Anthony Edwards||Josh Okogie||Jaylen Nowell|
|SF||Malik Beasley||Jake Layman||Leandro Bolmaro|
|PF||Jaden McDaniels||Jarred Vanderbilt||Taurean Prince|
|C||Karl-Anthony Towns||Naz Reid||Nathan Knight|
3 key storylines
The dynamic duo
Ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season, only the Los Angeles Lakers (LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis), Brooklyn Nets (Blake Griffin and Kyrie Irving) and Timberwolves (Towns and Edwards) can say that they have more than one former No. 1 overall pick on their roster.
It's a rarity that shouldn't be overlooked.
As Edwards grew during his rookie season, so, too, did his bond with Towns, as the two would often display their chemistry during postgame Zoom sessions in which they would share the spotlight with one another. That sharing of the spotlight could be symbolic for the type of growth in store for Minnesota's talented duo in its second year together.
Edwards, who only recently turned 20, is a naturally gifted scorer and world-class athlete that has reportedly grown to 6-foot-6 over the offseason. It's easily forgotten that Towns, who will turn 26 a month into the season, was regarded as the league's best center just a few years ago, and the big man is primed to provide a reminder this season.
The two complement one another well and, as a result of their undeniable talent, make Minnesota an intriguing team to follow.
Improving the defence
There are a number of areas of improvement for this team, but its defence should be priority No. 1.
Last season, the TImberwolves ranked 28th in the league in defensive rating, allowing 114.5 points per 100 possessions, ranking ahead of only the Portland Trail Blazers (115.3) and Sacramento Kings (116.5).
In response to their defensive woes, Minnesota motioned to acquire Beverley and Prince this offseason, two players that should help the team improve on that end of the floor. Beverley, who has garnered a reputation for his defensive intensity throughout his career, can step into a role in which he sets the tone defensively and impresses an attitude upon his other teammates.
Edwards, who has the athleticism to be a plus defender, has acknowledged that defence is an area of focus for improvement and McDaniels has the length and instincts to wreak havoc defensively, something that Okogie has done up to this point in his career.
An improved defence is the key to any hopes at a shot at the postseason.
The guard rotation
When looking at Minnesota's depth chart, it's hard to ignore that it isn't lacking for rotational guards.
In addition to Russell, Edwards, Beasley, Beverley and Okogie, the team has rotational guards in McLaughlin and Nowell that each have shown flashes when given the opportunity. It leads to questions surrounding who starts and who mans the second unit, with Beverley and Okogie as options that can improve the defence, while Russell, Edwards and Beasley make the offence potent.
Head coach Chris Finch will likely tinker with lineups to figure out what works best, but in a league in which perimeter players often dictate a team's success, the Wolves have a number of players capable of creating for themselves and others, specifically the über-talented big man they have in Towns.
5 games to watch
Oct. 30 vs. Denver Nuggets
Two of the league's best centers take the spotlight as reigning MVP Nikola Jokic goes head-to-head with Towns for the first of four potential matchups.
Nov. 15 vs. Phoenix Suns
Last season, Edwards dropped a career-high 42 points (which he has since tied) against the Suns in an impressive win. Not only will Edwards look to have another big game against Phoenix, but the game will also feature Russell, Towns and Devin Booker, who are three extremely good friends.
Nov. 24 vs. Miami Heat
Jimmy Butler, who appeared in 69 games over two seasons with the Timberwolves, returns to the Target Center as a visitor for just the third time since he was traded away in 2018.
Nov. 26 at Charlotte Hornets
Edwards finished second in Rookie of the Year voting behind LaMelo Ball and the two stars of the 2020 draft class will forever be linked together. The first of two meetings between the second-year phenoms isn't one you want to miss.
Dec. 8 vs. Utah Jazz
A fun fact from the Timberwolves last season: they earned a season-series sweep over the Jazz, owners of the league's best record. That fact will certainly be on Utah's mind as the teams meet for the first of four times, setting the stage for battles between Towns and Rudy Gobert as well as Edwards and Donovan Mitchell.
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