Minnesota Timberwolves basketball is back, baby.
The Wolves take the floor tonight against Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans for their first preseason game. With yet another disappointing season and a tumultuous offseason in the rearview mirror, the young pups will look to build a cultural foundation with which they can build success for this next year. Ownership has ousted Gersson Rosas and his toxic regime, so it is on the coaching staff and the players to try and restore some semblance of good vibes to the Target Center.
The NBA preseason is what you make of it. The wins and losses don’t matter, but spectators watch to track player development, coaching schemes, and many other minor aspects of the game that may otherwise go unnoticed throughout the season. The beginning of head coach Chris Finch’s implementations will begin this preseason, which is the precursor to what should be his first full season as a head coach in the NBA.
There is some magic in the air surrounding the Timberwolves this year. Much of that could be attributed to Anthony Edwards, but there are genuinely some great reasons to be excited about this team. Karl-Anthony Towns appears to have slimmed down and is “in the best shape of his career,” so that will be something to watch for throughout the season. A healthy and engaged KAT will do wonders for both him and the fans that are desperate to see his stats turn into wins.
As for the preseason itself, there is something that viewers can watch for which will either confirm or dissuade a great deal of offseason hype. The acquisition of Patrick Beverley has brought in lofty expectations. He’s expected to be a leader and mentor for this team. His in-your-face style should be a welcome change of pace for a Timberwolves team that has consistently lacked tenacity and grit. Beverley is ultimately the team’s replacement for Ricky Rubio, and their leadership styles could not be more different.
We will see Beverley’s immediate leadership impact with how vocal he is on the floor. This is not to say that Rubio was not a vocal player while he was in Minnesota, but Beverley’s tenacity and energy are sorely needed for a team that has consistently lacked those areas. The clip below is extremely telling about the impact Beverley should have:
Can you imagine a
Timberwolves team Karl-Anthony Towns that doesn’t cry for fouls?
Rubio was a crucial mentor to Edwards but will not bark at you the way Beverley does. The Timberwolves haven’t had a player willing to get in someone’s face since Jimmy Butler. Although that saga didn’t end well, Beverley will not shake the foundations of the organization to prop himself up as Butler did. Beverley’s personality will be a welcome addition to the team as they look to add a considerable amount of grit to what many call a make-or-break year.
Of course, the ripple effects of Beverley’s presence should also be on full display in Minnesota’s preseason games. If Beverley has the impact that many are assuming, he should expect to see Ant’s off-ball defense improve as Beverley clamors for him to stay engaged.
If Finch is to be believed, Ant’s improvement on that end of the floor will not come solely from intrinsic motivation. The acquisition of one of the league’s best on-ball defenders should bring a specific energy that rubs off on not only Edwards but a vast majority of the squad. Outside of Jaden McDaniels, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Josh Okogie, the rest of the Timberwolves roster has much to learn about defensive engagement. Beverley is the perfect defensive teacher for this team.
The effects will not be immediate, but viewers should be able to see the seeds of defensive engagement culture planted during the preseason. It is a tall task to see blatant examples of this during otherwise meaningless preseason games, but expect the team to be talking and moving around more than they have in years past. While it has been expressed elsewhere, the Timberwolves will be a good team if this defense can approach mediocrity. This ascension to mediocrity will start with Patrick Beverley.