Minnesota Timberwolves: Steps to Contention

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The Minnesota Timberwolves now have the number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. In addition, they traded for D’Angelo Russell this past season. Timberwolves fans did not catch a real glimpse at what a Russell-Karl-Anthony Towns duo looks like, but it’s definitely promising. Their return to the playoffs might be sooner than some think.

How the Minnesota Timberwolves Become Contenders

Step 1: Draft Anthony Edwards

In a relatively weaker draft than years prior, it would come as no shock if the Timberwolves look into shopping their pick. With that being said, they’re not likely to jump into becoming a championship contender in one year, so they should choose to continue building for the near future.

Anthony Edwards is the right selection here. He’s a combo guard but will play the two with Russell at the one. Edwards is an elite athlete and can create offense on his own. That’s going to be key next to Russell. He needs to improve his shooting, but his ability to get to the rim for a guard is second to none in this draft. He’s also a strong defender and solid rebounder. A lot of Edwards’ criticism is directed at his motor. With young stars hungry for playoff basketball in Minnesota, expect Edwards to overcome this issue rather quickly.

It’s hard to see real superstar potential with Edwards. That goes for most players in this draft, however. If he can peak at a Victor Oladipo level, which is a solid comparison for him, then he will be worth the pick. Minnesota now runs through the Russell-Towns duo, and must now look for pieces to complement that.

Edwards also makes Malik Beasley expandable, allowing the Timberwolves to have more flexibility during free agency.

Step Two: Sign a True Starting Power Forward

Towns is a spectacular offensive talent. He’s one of the best big men in the entire league. His complementary options in the Timberwolves’ frontcourt, however, are lacking big time.

A power forward rotation consisting of Juan HernangomezJames Johnson, and Jake Layman isn’t going to cut it. Although being solid depth options, none of those players start for a team with real playoff aspirations.

The free-agent class of 2020 is somewhat underwhelming. There are options for the Timberwolves to pursue, however. Marcus Morris and Montrezl Harrell could be top targets but seem unlikely. There’s no harm done in offering contracts, though.

Serge Ibaka is a great option and might be convinced if Minnesota decides to overpay. The same goes for Christian Wood.

The most realistic options for the Timberwolves are Paul MillsapHarry Giles, and JaMychal Green. Millsap would be smart on a one or two-year inflated deal. He isn’t playing at an All-Star level anymore, but can still start and mentor the younger players. Giles hasn’t had enough time to break-out and shine, and the Timberwolves can provide that. Lastly, Green has shown strong play with the Los Angeles Clippers in limited time. He won’t become a star but can make a difference for this squad.

Step Three: Realize the Minnesota Timberwolves Need Defense

The Timberwolves finished in the latter half of defensive ratings once again this season. It won’t matter how many points Russell and Towns will put up if the team can’t defend.

Since their offense isn’t likely to struggle, the Timberwolves can shift a lot of their off-season focus to defensive-minded “cheaper” free-agents. A few names to look for include Kris DunnDe’Anthony MeltonMaurice HarklessTorrey Craig, and Aron Baynes.

All of these players can be signed on a budget, and will certainly improve the defensive end for Minnesota. A roster including Russell, Towns, Edwards, a legitimate starting power forward, a couple of defensive signings, and other pieces like Jarrett CulverJosh Okogie, and Naz Reid will provide for a vastly improved season compared to the last. In a tough Western Conference, they’re unlikely to make the playoffs as soon as next season, but the building blocks would be in place.

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