After their blowout 110-92 victory against the Los Angeles
Lakers in front of a national audience on Friday night, the
Minnesota Timberwolves continue to show they are finally taking a
much-needed step forward in their longstanding rebuild. And this
impressive win was without former No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards, who
landed in the NBA's health and safety protocols an hour before
This season, Minnesota has made immense improvements across the
board. With a 14-15 record, the Timberwolves are currently the No.
9 seed in the reloaded Western Conference and on pace to break
their post-Jimmy-Butler playoff drought.
Head coach Chris Finch, who was brought in midway through last
season, has the Wolves completely bought-in on both ends of the
court. With their core trio of Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell
and Edwards specifically, the eye-test and advanced metrics back up
Minnesota was 13-11 when Towns, Russell and Edwards all played
together in 2020-21. However, they were quite simply horrendous on
defense last season, allowing opponents to score 116 points per 100
possessions when they all shared the court. This year, the script
has completely flipped as the three-man lineup combination is
holding their opposition to an excellent 98.9 points per 100
possessions. Put simply, the Timberwolves’ young Big Three went
from playing some of the worst defense in the Association to some
of the best seemingly overnight.
Towns-Russell-Edwards in 2020-21: 120.9 OffRtg, 116.0
DefRtg, +5.3 Net, 13-11 record
Towns-Russell-Edwards in 2021-22: 112.5 OffRtg, 98.9 DefRtg,
+13.6 Net, 13-9 record
It’s an incredible development, and it could allow Minnesota to
push some of their chips into the middle of the table at some point
in the near future.
Incredibly, a key ingredient to the Timberwolves’ rise has been
veteran guard Patrick Beverley. After the Los Angeles Clippers
shipped him off to the Memphis Grizzlies last offseason, Beverley
was quickly rerouted to Minnesota to provide some much-needed
toughness and veteran leadership to the Wolves' locker room.
Also, Minnesota has two young forwards who are beginning to look
the part of potential long-term fits alongside Towns. Since being
selected No. 1 overall back in 2015, Towns has developed into one
of the most skilled big men in the league and, luckily for
Minnesota, Jarred Vanderbilt and Jaden McDaniels provide exactly
what he needs in a frontcourt partner: defensive versatility.
Everything is starting to come together for Minnesota; look no
further than how dominant their starting lineup has been so far
this season. The five-man lineup combination of Beverley, Russell,
Edwards, Vanderbilt and Towns is carrying a +49.6 net rating (!!!),
which is almost 15 points per 100 possessions better than the
Atlanta Hawks’ starting unit (+34.8 NetRtg). It’s incredible to
think that Minnesota’s starters are outscoring their opponents by
nearly 50 points, but that’s exactly what’s happening.
The Timberwolves are cooking with gas, and they are reaching the
point where one more aggressive move could allow them to enter a
very successful stretch in their franchise’s history.
Sure, Minnesota could stick with this current group, rolling
with Vanderbilt and McDaniels. But could you imagine someone like
Ben Simmons, Jerami Grant, Christian Wood or Myles Turner alongside
Towns? It's possible that all four could be available leading up to
the NBA's Feb. 10 trade deadline. (And the Timberwolves have
continually been linked to Simmons since the offseason).
Towns is ready to win right now, and Minnesota's front office
has a golden opportunity to cash in. Even Edwards is showing that
the leap he took midway through his rookie campaign is here to
stay, and his two-way portfolio continues to expand. Meanwhile,
Russell is looking the part of a competent third option who can run
the show and also take over when necessary on the offensive
But anyone who's watched a lot of Wolves games this season can
tell you that this team is maddeningly inconsistent. Minnesota goes
through week-long spurts where they look unstoppable, then the
polar opposite occurs for multiple games at a time. Since
mid-November, they won seven of eight, then lost five in a row and
now they are currently on a three-game win streak.
If the Timberwolves are ever able to find consistency, they are
going to be a very dangerous team. Not only do they have the
offensive firepower to keep up with anyone thanks to Towns, Edwards
and Russell, their tenacious energy on defense has been a pleasant
surprise. The effort that Towns and Edwards are putting in on that
end is apparent when you watch them play, and it seems unlikely
that they'll slow down anytime soon since they're right on the
verge of breaking through to a playoff berth.
Finally, things are beginning to break the Timberwolves’ way.
Their young star power is blossoming. They are led by a head coach
with modern concepts who's keeping the team engaged on both ends.
They have competent role players. And everyone within the
organization has a desire to change the narrative.
The time is now for Minnesota and they look like a team that's
poised to be serious buyers before the trade deadline. If their
front office strikes while the iron is hot and finds a way to
upgrade another key roster spot, this team could be ready to lift
off to an entirely new stratosphere.
Buy up all the Timberwolves stock while you can.