With the shocking news revealing the Minnesota Timberwolves fired Ryan Saunders and hired Chris Finch in a matter of 10 minutes after yet another loss, we highlight five reasons why the new Timberwolves coach may be able to quickly turn around what is the worst team in the NBA.
The Karl-Anthony Towns & D’Angelo Russell duo
The whole idea of acquiring D’Angelo Russell for the Wolves was to pair him with his basketball bud in Karl-Anthony Towns, but as Dane Moore pointed out, Kevin Garnett has played 4.5 times as many minutes in his career with KAT than D-Lo has. This dates back to Towns’ rookie season in 2015 when KG reunited with the team he carried for over a decade to average 14.6 minutes in 38 games.
Not only has the D-Lo and KAT pairing failed to come to true fruition, but Anthony Edwards has only played a total of 21 minutes with the star tandem.
In fact, the most ideal Timberwolves starting five has yet to even see the floor. Their top four players, taking out the PF, have barely played together. In a minuscule sample size of 2.4 minutes averaged over two games, they were a +6.5, with Josh Okogie being the fifth member on the floor.
This is what their starting five should be once Russell is healthy again:
- PG – D’Angelo Russell
- SG – Malik Beasley
- SF – Anthony Edwards
- PF – Jaden McDaniels
- C – Karl-Anthony Towns
But until Russell can get back on the court, Ricky Rubio and Jordan McLaughlin will continue operating point. That’s fine, but the lineup above features what could be three to four borderline All-Star players in the near future.
In other words, the Timberwolves are going nowhere this season. While whatever time they can get together to finally begin building on-court chemistry is vitally important, at this point their top priority should be focused on becoming a force to be reckoned with during the 2021-2022 season.
Timberwolves roster offers bright future
D-Lo and KAT have proven themselves in the league and even though they have yet to show it together in the Twin Cities, we know what they can offer. Beasley was averaging career-highs in points, assists, and rebounds before his 12-game suspension. If he were on a competitive team, Beasley likely would have been in the All-Star conversation.
Anthony Edwards has been on a tear lately, recently scoring a new career-high 28 points against the Lakers, and hitting a 3-pointer over LeBron James in the process.
Ant has an uncanny ability to get to the rim and his attitude has already proven infectious.
Just 19 years old, the sky is the limit for Edwards in the NBA, some have even compared him to future Hall-of-Fame basketball player Dwyane Wade. Wade himself stated “I definitely think he can be a better player than I was. He has all the tools.” While this is likely just a former baller being nice and sharing some admiration for a fellow top athlete, it shows the respect the No. 1 overall pick has already earned around the league.
Jaden McDaniels coming on strong in rookie campaign
Even the 28th pick in the draft, Jaden McDaniels, has been an incredible find so late in the draft. Some call him Gumby, some probably call him Jaden, but most importantly, new Wolves coach Chris Finch should be calling him a starter.
When he was drafted, the 20-year old McDaniels wasn’t expected to contribute much as a rookie, given that the Timberwolves already had Juan Hernangomez, Jake Layman, and Jarred Vanderbilt all ahead of him on the depth chart.
Once McDaniels hit the floor, it was a different story. Coaches and fans witnessed his non-stop energy (sorry Okogie), 3-point ability, and perhaps his best attribute, being able to hop on his pogo stick to block shots out of the gym.
So far, the advanced stats have backed up the eye test as well, with Gumby leading all rookies in several categories as of February 15th. On the 16th, McDaniels blocked LBJ. If the Timberwolves ultimately lose their first-round pick to the Warriors later this year in the draft, at least they will have two starters from their 2020 rookie class among a team of blooming athletes.
The more favorable alternative is that the Wolves land a top-three pick, adding to the young core that already exists. The 2021 NBA Draft is being touted as one of the best classes in the past few years. If McDaniels truly blossoms into a starting-caliber player and the team keeps their draft pick, the bigger issue in the future for the Timberwolves may be deciding which of the above starting five would be better-suited coming off the bench.
Wolves president Gersson Rosas is a deal-maker
Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas has done an incredible job of scooping up players at a bargain. From McDaniels, Beasley, Vanderbilt, Jaylen Nowell, Naz Reid to Jordan McLaughlin, Rosas clearly has a knack for identifying talent that is being overlooked or underutilized.
However, it’s impossible not to ignore the few mistakes that have been made along the way. So far, trading up for Jarrett Culver seems like a bad move. Culver had shown more flashes of development before he got injured, but not to the level expected from the No. 6 pick.
We can’t quite grade the Wiggins-Russell deal yet, but so far the Warriors are coming out far, far ahead. It’s way too early to judge either of those trades, but for the most part, Rosas has drastically overhauled the roster in a unique way while forming a very exciting bunch.
While there have undoubtedly been a lot of signs of individual growth, it has not been reflected at all in the standings. This was expected to be a season where they had a slim possibility to make the playoffs, with 10 teams in each conference having a chance to play postseason basketball, instead of previously having just eight. Or if not the playoffs, at least an opportunity to see how the D-Lo-KAT pairing worked, giving Rosas a better idea of where the team stands.
If Karl-Anthony Towns remains loyal, Wolves will not toil
What the current Wolves should be after for the rest of their 2021 season are “competitive losses”. A spirited effort where the team has some moments to learn from and correct but ultimately comes up short. It always sucks to lose, but as it stands, they are going nowhere this season.
It appears that the Wolves’ biggest fears of KAT begging for a ticket out of Minnesota has no current merit. His focus is on something greater than basketball and who can blame him? His most recent comments offer Timberwolves fans a lot of hope, telling fans exactly what they want to hear from their favorite team’s franchise cornerstone.
As long as the Wolves remain in good graces with their superstar, it shouldn’t turn into a KG situation where fans witness their franchise icon forced to a different team to win his first ring.
In Minnesota, the core they have built appeals to Towns. He’s known to be close to Rosas, Rubio, D-Lo, and now Ant. With one more year of patience and a little more lotto luck, the overall outlook of the Minnesota Timberwolves could be drastically different, in a winning kind of way.