Minnesota Timberwolves

2018-19 NBA Season Preview: What to expect from the Minnesota Timberwolves

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Timberwolves (NBA Getty Images)

With the 2018-19 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we're dedicating one day to each team in the league, starting with the five teams in the Northwest Division.

After looking at the Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets, here's everything you need to know about the Minnesota Timberwolves entering the season.

2017-18 season record

47-35 (No. 8 seed in the Western Conference)

Projected 2018-19 season record

44.5 (No. 8 seed in the Western Conference)

Notable additions

Anthony Tolliver (free agent)

Josh Okogie (20th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft)

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Keita Bates-Diop (48th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft)

James Nunnally (free agent)

Luol Deng (free agent)

Notable departures

Nemanja Bjelica (free agent)

Jamal Crawford (free agent)

3 key storylines

Karl-Anthony Towns' defence

Towns is already a star. At the age of 22, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft was named an All-Star for the first in his career with averages of 21.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game on 54.5 percent shooting from the field and 42.1 percent shooting from 3-point range.

Towns was just as dominant the season prior, with averages of 25.1 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

The only thing holding Towns back from being a superstar is his defence. Based on Real Plus-Minus and how easily opponents scored when he was the one protecting the basket, Towns checked out as one of the worst defenders at his position last season. If he can achieve league average in those categories, there aren't many players with a future as bright as his.

Jimmy Butler's impending free agency

The Timberwolves had the third-best record in the Western Conference before Butler went down with an injury last season. Add that to the fact that he is reportedly uncertain about his future with the franchise and there's a big question mark heading into the season for Minnesota about their veteran leader. He also turned down a $110 million extension this summer which made complete financial sense for him to do so but didn't help the rumours of his unhappiness.

With only a year remaining on his current contract, Butler will be one of the more sought-after free agents on the market next summer. How the Timberwolves perform this season will likely go a long way in deciding whether or not he sticks around in Minnesota long-term. It goes without saying, but it would be incredibly difficult for the franchise to fill Butler's void if they were to lose him for nothing in free agency.

A breakout season for Andrew Wiggins?

Wiggin regressed across the board in his first season next to Butler. In addition to averaging fewer points, assists, field goal attempts and free throw attempts per game compared to 2016-17, Wiggins posted the worst True Shooting Percentage (a statistic that takes into account 2-point field goals, 3-point field goals and free throws) of his NBA career.

That's especially concerning considering this season will be the first of the five-year, $146.5 million extension he signed in 2017. He still has the potential to be a special player in the NBA, but the Canadian needs to prove that he can play alongside Towns and Butler first.

Look for Wiggins to improve as a 3-point shooter, off-ball cutter and/or defender specifically.

5 games to watch

Nov. 14 vs. New Orleans Pelicans

After Towns and Anthony Davis combined for 78 points in one of their 2016-17 matchups, every game between these two big men should be on your calendar.

Dec. 3 vs. Houston Rockets

The first time the Timberwolves and Rockets will play each other following their first-round matchup in last season's playoffs. It also serves as a matchup between Butler and James Harden, two of the best shooting guards in the NBA.

Dec. 10 vs. Golden State Warriors

You've got to beat the best to be the best. This matchup with the defending champions will be a good barometer of Minnesota's chances this season.

Dec. 26 vs. Chicago Bulls

Butler had one of his best games of the 2017-18 season against his former team, but it wasn't enough for the Timberwolves to win. Look for him to have another dominant performance in the hopes of getting his first win in Chicago since being traded.

April 10 vs. Denver Nuggets

Not only is this another opportunity to see Towns go up against one of the best big men in the league, this game on the final night of the regular season could have huge playoff implications yet again.

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