As I’m writing this, the Minnesota Timberwolves just lost a five-point game to the Brooklyn Nets.
A solid effort, certainly, but the loss drops Minnesota to 11-36 on the season, digging their hole a little deeper at the bottom of the league standings.
The Wolves stayed put at the trade deadline. While that’s not the exciting strategy fans wanted, it was probably always the most likely scenario. Unless they were willing to part ways with Karl-Anthony Towns, Malik Beasley, Anthony Edwards, or D’Angelo Russell, there’s really nobody else on this roster besides Ricky Rubio and Jaden McDaniels that other teams would have had any interest in. As much as fans wanted to perhaps part ways with someone like Jarrett Culver, the reason you want him gone is also why nobody else in the league wants to take him.
We still don’t have any real idea what the core of Towns, Beasley, Edwards, and Russell looks like together. I think what we can all agree on is that it’s probably not good enough to be a playoff team next season. We’re seeing three of the four on the court right now, and the Wolves are days away from getting embarrassed by a sad-looking Houston Rockets team.
The biggest change for the Wolves next year, assuming they don’t make a blockbuster trade, will come through the draft. Of course, that hinges on Minnesota keeping their top-three pick. If they fall out of the top three in the lottery, they’ll have no picks in the draft. The Oklahoma City Thunder own the Timberwolves’ second-round pick after acquiring it from the Golden State Warriors.
Who do we know won’t be on the Timberwolves next year?
Point guard Jordan McLaughlin will be a restricted free agent. If the Wolves keep both Russell and Rubio next season, it seems pretty unlikely they’d pay anything higher than the minimum to keep McLaughlin and my guess is that he wants to go somewhere with more of an opportunity to play.
Jaylen Nowell has a non-guaranteed contract for $1.78 million next season but, looking at what he’s done this season (10.4 PPG, 45.3 FG%, 35.8 3P%), keeping him on the roster seems like a no-brainer, especially since Culver and Josh Okogie bring you nothing offensively.
Power forward Jarred Vanderbilt will be a restricted free agent. With McDaniels’ emergence, we’ve seen less of Vanderbilt, but he still has some value. That being said, he’s not worth spending significant money on, especially when the team already has $7 million going to Juancho Hernangomez, which looks even worse now than it did at the time.
Even losing three players to free agency (McLaughlin, Vanderbilt, and Davis), the Timberwolves will still be paying $3 million more in cap space in 2021-22 than this season due to slight increases to everyone’s salary. This is pretty common.
The saving grace for this team will be the draft pick. You’re probably sick of hearing about it, but it might be the key to whether Gersson Rosas’ time in Minnesota is a success or a complete failure. Without that pick, the Timberwolves don’t have many proven pieces and don’t have an arsenal of appealing bait for trades.
Edwards is going to be really good. Towns is already really good. But those two aren’t enough, as we’ve seen. The optimistic view is that these guys will get better with time as they play together in Chris Finch’s system.
We better hope so. Otherwise things could get real ugly if the luck of the lottery isn’t on Minnesota’s side in June.
All contract information courtesy of Spotrac.