With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.
Today, we're looking at the Minnesota Timberwolves.
2018-19 season record
36-46 (11th in the Western Conference)
Projected 2019-20 season record
36-46 (12th in the Western Conference)
Jake Layman (sign-and-trade with the Portland Trail Blazers)
Shabazz Napier (trade)
Jordan Bell (free agency)
Noah Vonleh (free agency)
Derrick Rose (free agency)
Taj Gibson (free agency)
Dario Saric (trade)
Luol Deng (free agency)
Jerryd Bayless (free agency)
|PG||Jeff Teague||Shabazz Napier|
|SG||Josh Okogie||Jarrett Culver||Jaylen Nowell|
|SF||Andrew Wiggins||Jake Layman||Tyrone Wallace|
|PF||Robert Covington||Noah Vonleh||Keita Bates-Diop|
|C||Karl-Anthony Towns||Gorgui Dieng||Jordan Bell|
3 key storylines
The start of a new era off the court
While the rest of the league - especially in the Western Conference - got better with big-time roster changes this offseason, the Timberwolves made huge changes in their management structure.
The franchise announced Gersson Rosas, a former Houston Rockets executive, as the President of Basketball Operations in May. His first decision, a couple of weeks later, was confirming that Ryan Saunders, the interim head coach of the Timberwolves during the 2018-19 season, would remain as the team's head coach after signing him to a multiyear deal.
A few days later, Rosas hired Gianluca Pascucci, then a Brooklyn Nets executive, for the position of Assistant General Manager. In July, the front office makeover continued as the franchise added Sachin Gupta, an assistant GM with the Detroit Pistons in 2018-19, as their Executive Vice-President of Basketball Operations.
So, as the franchise begins its fourth season led by their young duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, it's quite clearly the start of a new era from a management's perspective.
The start of a new era on the court
According to the team's official roster, 16 of Minnesota's 20 players are below the age of 26. That's a positive sign, especially since those 16 players include the franchise's two cornerstones: Towns and Wiggins.
Other than their traditional point guards - Teague, Napier, Jordan McLaughlin and Lindell Wigginton - all their players stand at 6-foot-4 or taller, a move in the right direction given the current state of positionless basketball in the league.
In the 2019 NBA Draft, the franchise drafted Jarrett Culver and Jaylen Nowell. While Culver is projected to be a 3-and-D player, Nowell is expected to be a versatile wing - both vital additions to get the most out of Towns and Wiggins moving forward.
Can Wiggins get back on track?
It's still early in his career, but Karl-Anthony Towns is well on his way to delivering on his promise when the team drafted him No. 1 overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. In four seasons, he has received two All-Star selections (2018, 2019) and an All-NBA Third Team selection in 2018.
On the other hand, Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick at the 2014 Draft, doesn't have nearly as much to show after his Rookie of the Year award in 2015. The acquisition of Jimmy Butler likely impacted his numbers over the last two seasons, but it's still not a great sign that he's coming off of a season in which he posted the lowest player efficiency rating (PER) of his career.
It's difficult to completely fault Wiggins for what has happened, though. Not only was there some overlap between him and Butler, he has played under four head coaches in his NBA career.
With Saunders now locked-in as the head coach of the future, is this the season Wiggins turns it around?
In the super-competitive Western Conference, an All-Star selection might be out of reach. But if Wiggins can evolve into a legitimate franchise cornerstone, it could be the start of something special in Minnesota.
5 games to watch
Oct. 27 vs. Miami Heat
It's the team's home opener at the Target Center and also the return of Jimmy Butler, this time in a Miami Heat uniform. In the first game after his trade to Philadelphia last season, Butler played only 28 minutes as the Timberwolves suffered a 42-point loss.
What will happen this time?
Dec. 13 vs. LA Clippers
The young Timberwolves will get their first crack at the new-look Clippers, led by the superstar duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, in mid-December.
Dec. 18 vs. New Orleans Pelicans
The Timberwolves' first look at No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson will be when they host the Pelicans in mid-December in the first of three meetings between the two teams this season.
Feb. 24 at Dallas Mavericks
If the Timberwolves do have a positive start and are still in the race for the final couple of playoff spots in the West, there's a good chance they will be in that race with the Dallas Mavericks. So this road game, part of a four-game road trip, against the Mavericks' superstar duo of Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic could be a competitive contest with high stakes.
March 30 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
It's primetime for any franchise when LeBron James is part of the visiting team, mind alone when he is on the Lakers suiting up alongside another superstar forward in Anthony Davis.
And this season, this contest in March will be the only time the Lakers visit Minnesota - unless the two teams meet in the playoffs.
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