NBA 2023-2024 Preview: A Turning Point for the Minnesota Timberwolves?

Minnesota Timberwolves NBA Preview 2023 2024

For a month, our editorial team is examining all 30 teams of the NBA. Today, we’re turning our spotlight on the Minnesota Timberwolves!

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A Somewhat Disappointing 2022-2023 Season

When Rudy Gobert joined the Timberwolves in the 2022 offseason, high hopes were attached to the franchise. However, the on-court performance didn’t live up to the lofty expectations. The anticipated pairing of Gobert with Karl-Anthony Towns was short-lived, with Towns playing just 29 games. In his absence, Anthony Edwards seized the reins, becoming the linchpin for the Wolves. With an average of 25 points, six rebounds, four assists, respectable shooting percentages, and improved defense, Edwards emerged as the new franchise player for the Timberwolves.

Under coach Chris Finch, the Timberwolves finished the season with a 42-40 record, clinching the 8th spot in the Western Conference, aligning with our predictions. However, their playoff run was brief: a loss to the Lakers in the Play-In Tournament was followed by a win over the Thunder, only to face the Nuggets, a matchup that favored the eventual NBA champions.

Offseason Moves

Departures

  • Taurean Prince (to Lakers)
  • Jaylen Nowell (free agent)
  • Nathan Knight (to Knicks)
  • Austin Rivers (free agent)

Extensions

  • Anthony Edwards
  • Naz Reid
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker
  • Matt Ryan (two-way contract)
  • Luka Garza (two-way contract)

New Additions

  • Troy Brown Jr (from Lakers)
  • Daishen Nix (from Rockets)
  • Shake Milton (from Sixers)
  • Leonard Miller (33rd pick in the 2023 Draft)
  • Jaylen Clark (53rd pick in the 2023 Draft, two-way contract)

Minnesota Timberwolves Starting Lineup

Mike Conley – Anthony Edwards – Jaden McDaniels – Karl-Anthony Towns – Rudy Gobert.

Bench Rotation

Point Guards

Jordan McLaughlin, Daishen Nix.

Shooting Guards

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Shake Milton, Jaylen Clark (two-way).

Small Forwards

Troy Brown Jr, Wendell Moore Jr, Josh Minott, Matt Ryan (two-way).

Power Forwards

Kyle Anderson, Leonard Miller.

Center

Naz Reid, Luka Garza (two-way).

This Timberwolves lineup showcases a mix of experienced veterans like Mike Conley and young talents such as Anthony Edwards. The bench also provides a variety of options for different game situations.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Weaknesses

The Gobert/Towns Uncertainty: There remains skepticism around the Gobert/Towns pairing, especially if Towns cannot play a larger number of games. Gobert too has not been without his own concerns and needs to recapture his All-Star form from not too long ago.

Bench Depth: There are questions about the depth and quality of the bench, particularly after losing Jaylen Nowell, Taurean Prince, and Austin Rivers, who were the 6th, 8th, and 9th players in the rotation based on minutes played. Troy Brown Jr, Shake Milton, and rookie Leonard Miller have big shoes to fill, both in terms of quantity and quality, if they hope to push for the Playoffs this year.

Strengths

Consistency under Chris Finch: Having almost the same roster for the second consecutive year under Chris Finch is no small advantage in today’s NBA. It aids in building team chemistry and establishing a collective gameplay.

Complementary Starting Five: The starting lineup appears well-rounded with an experienced point guard, a dynamic shooting guard, a 3&D wing, an offensive power forward, and a defensive center.

Strategic Extensions: While Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s extension might seem like a minor move, Naz Reid’s contract extension is a significant win. Reid, as a stretch five, plays a pivotal role in the modern NBA and can be instrumental in the Timberwolves’ success.

Player to Watch: Rudy Gobert

The 2022-2023 season may very well have been Rudy Gobert’s most disappointing since 2015-2016. His lowest scoring average (13.4) since that year, the least blocks (1.4), his second-lowest in rebounding (11.6), and shooting efficiency (66%) all signaled a downturn for Gobzilla in a season that was supposed to be a fresh start following his stagnant years with Utah. On paper, his pairing with Karl-Anthony Towns seemed promising, but with Towns missing 53 games, the duo has yet to realize their potential.

An intriguing stat that emerges shows that Gobert performed better in games without Towns. His shooting percentages were higher (67.7% without Towns compared to 62.8% with him) and his +/- was better as well (-73 with Towns, +66 without him). For Coach Chris Finch, there’s a pressing need to figure out how to optimize the play of his two big men when they share the floor.

At age 30, and with a hefty contract that will pay him $41 million, followed by $44 million the next year, and $46.6 million in 2025-2026, Gobert cannot afford another lackluster season. He’ll need to evolve and find ways to regain his All-Star form from 2019 to 2022. Perhaps introducing a three-point shot to his arsenal could be a way forward? He made his first career three-pointer while playing for the French national team, so why not attempt more with the Timberwolves to stretch the floor?

End of Season Prediction: 11th in the West

It appears the editorial team isn’t sold on the Minnesota Timberwolves this season. With other Western Conference teams bolstering their rosters and showing progress, the Timberwolves might find it hard to outperform their previous season. This might lead to a significant rethink in the summer of 2024, especially if the Towns/Gobert pairing disappoints once more. All in all, this is shaping up to be a pivotal season for the Timberwolves, who stand at a crucial crossroads regarding their future trajectory.

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