Timberwolves looking for post-All Star Break spark


Michael Geiger, Opinion Editor

As the NBA moves into the second half of its 2019-2020 season, the Minnesota Timberwolves remain in a state of flux. Through 53 games, Minnesota’s record is a paltry 16-37, the fourth-worst record in the league. The Timberwolves have struggled on the court, both at home (7-20) and on the road (9-17). The team has also posted the worst attendance numbers in the entire league. 

With only 29 games left in the season, the Wolves sit 11.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies, the current 8th seed in the Western Conference. However, the team the Timberwolves are likely more interested in chasing is Atlanta. The Hawks currently hold the third-worst record in the NBA, making them one of the three teams with the best chance (14%) to land the top pick in the NBA Draft.

On February 6th, Minnesota made several dramatic changes to its roster via trades to Golden State, Atlanta, Houston, and Denver. When the dust had settled, and the trade deadline came and went, the Timberwolves had only two players (Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie) left on the roster that played for the team in the 2018-2019 season.

A large-scale roster shakeup seemed necessary for Minnesota, as the team had only won one of its previous 15 games going into the trade deadline.

In their first trade deadline move, Minnesota shipped Robert Covington, Keita Bates-Diop, Shabazz Napier, and Noah Vonleh to a variety of different teams in exchange for Malik Beasley, Juancho Hermangomez, Evan Turner, Jarred Vanderbilt, and the Nets’ 2020 first-round pick (top-14 protected).

The more significant move Minnesota made was sending Andrew Wiggins, a top-3 protected 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 second-round pick to the Warriors in exchange for D’Angelo Russell, Omari Spellman, and Jacob Evans. Wiggins spent the first six years of his career with the Timberwolves, but neither side appeared to be pleased with the relationship, and a split long seemed inevitable.

The addition of Russell, a close friend of Karl-Anthony Towns, provides the Timberwolves with a strong scoring option at the point guard position. While Russell is still fairly young, he now has spent his five years in the league playing for four different teams. 

The Los Angeles Lakers drafted Russell in the 2015 NBA Draft with the second overall pick. After two seasons in L.A., Russell played for two years in Brooklyn before spending two more in Brooklyn playing for the Nets. This past offseason, he signed a 4-year, $117 million deal with the Golden State Warriors, who he only played 33 games with before getting moved to Minnesota. 

The Russell-Towns duo is set to be the foundation of Minnesota’s future, and while both players are talented on the offensive end, the jury is still out on whether either of them can play solid defense.

Early results post-trade deadline have not shown a drastic shift in the Timberwolves’ play. In their first two games with an almost entirely new roster, the team has given up an average of 126.0 points and lost both games.

Even though Minnesota is far out of playoff contention, and there is some incentive to finishing the season with as bad of a record as possible, look for the Timberwolves to continue playing hard through the end of the season. As mentioned before, the team has had trouble drawing interest in the Twin Cities and bringing fans to games, and the only way that will change is if the franchise starts to win more than once or twice a month.