Minnesota Timberwolves: Best and worst-case scenario for 2019-20

NBA Minnesota Timberwolves Karl-Anthony Towns (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
NBA Minnesota Timberwolves Karl-Anthony Towns (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

As the Minnesota Timberwolves sit in a stage of limbo, we explore the best and worst-case scenario for the 2019-20 NBA season

The Minnesota Timberwolves were doomed from the start of last season. The infamous practice is what I like to call it. The practice session where star player Jimmy Butler called out all his teammates and management – specifically Karl-Anthony Towns.

In my opinion, Butler had good intentions. But the way he handled it was laughable. To summarize this little event, he basically stated that players like Andrew Wiggins and KAT have the talent to be elite-level players but don’t put in the necessary work and effort. What Butler claimed was justifiable due to how his success was gained in the league, he worked on his craft far more than others while possessing significantly less talent.

Ten games later, the 6-foot-8 forward was dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers while his presence remained in the locker room. The Wolves acquired Dario Saric and Robert Covington from Philly. Butler’s confrontation with the Wolves and management left an increasingly growing speculation around the league that KAT is “soft” and Wiggins lacks effort.

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Both proved, somewhat, to be accurate assessments. Ultimately, Towns still finished with an MVP type season. He averaged 24.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and shot 39 percent from 3.

The Timberwolves finished the season with a 36-46 record. Playoffs never seemed to be in reach throughout the entirety of the season. Luckily management compiled a relatively decent offseason. They drafted sophomore guard Jarrett Culver out of Texas Tech while signing Jordan Bell, Noah Vonleh, and Jake Layman.

As this season approaches, there are plenty of signs of hope such as Towns continued ascension to superstar status. But at the same time, much doubt and uncertainty surround the Timberwolves. Specifically pertaining to Andrew Wiggins.

Here are the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Timberwolves during the 2019-20 season.

Worst-case scenario

I’m a guy that prefers the bad before the good news so we will start with the worst-case scenario.

Last season, the Wolves finished 24th in the league with a defensive rating of 112.2. With the exception of Jordan Bell, management failed to grab defensive studs to assist Robert Covington, which will hurt the team in the long run.

The Timberwolves will continuously fail to stop opponents from scoring and will, once again, have to rely heavily on their offense. The offense that is led by guard Jeff Teague – who had his worst season since his second year in the league.

Teague struggled to remain on the court a season ago playing in 42 games and, although, he averaged a career-high in assists (8.2), his shooting efficiency dropped across the board. In the worst-case, his shooting struggles will continue and teams will wisely sag off of him and focus on the other four players. Which would disrupt his play-making abilities and compromise the Wolves successful offense.

With little-to-no additions made to improve their 3-point shooting, the Wolves will struggle with spacing on a nightly basis. A majority of their long-range shooting will rely on the shoulders of Covington and Towns.

Let’s not forget about Wiggins. Probably the most difficult player to analyze in the league. Only at 24 years of age Wiggins has shown his ability to score in this league and his top-notch athleticism. So what’s the problem? In 2016 he had his best season as a pro averaging 23.6 points and four rebounds on 45 percent shooting.

Since then, his points per game have dropped each season and even worse his shooting percentages. Hitting from the field at a 41 percent clip, Wiggins has clearly lost his drive or confidence.

Not sure which one it is.

In the worst-case, Wiggins will never regain his 2016 glory and continue to lack the motivation to become a better NBA player. And the Wolves will regret signing the 24-year-old to a max contract in which they will have to sacrifice up to $30 million a year until 2023.

They will once again fail to reach the playoffs and prove that Jimmy Butler was right.

Best-case scenarios

Notice how Karl-Anthony Towns wasn’t mentioned before?

Because Towns is the only bright spot for this team. Most of their success will depend on his play. This offseason Minnesota added Gersson Rosas as the new Wolves’ President of Basketball Operations. Rosas came over from a Houston team in which Harden had a league-leading usage rate of 40.5 percent.

Slightly mirroring Houston’s formula, I expect KAT’s usage rate to shoot up from 28.9 percent. With this increased volume of usage, KAT is in store for an even greater season. A season in which he should gain MVP consideration.

If his usage is anywhere from 30-33 percent, then I expect a Joel Embid-type season offensively.

When that being said, the players around Towns will receive more open shots. KAT’s dominance down low will allow shooters to get open more freely. If this works out, then I envision a season comparable to the 2009 Orlando Magic that reached the NBA Finals.

A team that let Dwight Howard handle his business in the paint while players like Jameer Nelson, J.J Redick, Rashard Lewis, and Hedo Turkoglu spread the floor and hit their shots when called upon.

The lineup I see as most successful for the Timberwolves would feature Jeff Teague, Jarret Culver, Robert Covington, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns. A versatile starting five that possesses their best shooters at once.

Ryan Saunders could have a lot of fun with that lineup.

Wiggins would thrive in this small-ball lineup. As he would receive one-on-one coverage consistently and be able to run isolation plays. This could be perfect for a player lacking in confidence. With his athleticism and scoring prowess, he’ll be able to score with ease (hopefully) in a crucial year for the Canadian.

This new style of play, if used, could have the Timberwolves in the playoff picture for the majority of the season. The best-case scenario for the Timberwolves this upcoming season would be finishing around 9th to 10th seed, as they aren’t equipped for the playoffs – not quite yet.

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However, Minnesota could have far better play from players like Wiggins, Teague, and Covington.  Along with having Jarrett Culver place on an All-Rookie Team after being featured in the starting lineup. As the season unravels, this team will either show potential or dysfunction, we’ll find out soon enough which direction they’re headed in.