From: Las Vegas
"Minnesota probably doesn’t have enough help around Karl-Anthony Towns to make the playoffs in a loaded West, and any injury to him would almost immediately torpedo its chances. That said, the Timberwolves have embarked on an encouraging recovery from the Jimmy Butler-TimberBulls crack-up by pulling together some sweet value deals over the summer. By trading up to the 6th pick in the draft, getting Shabazz Napier and Tyrone Wallace for free, and adding Noah Vonleh, Jordan Bell and Jake Layman on low-cost deals, Minnesota quickly spruced up a tattered bench unit.
Alas, the sins of the past still haunt the future. With $47M in 2020-21 cap committed to Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, and Jeff Teague the starting point guard by default after the offseason pursuit of D’Angelo Russell fell short, Minnesota has work to do both on it cap and its roster to build a true playoff team around the gifts of Towns.
Towns is in the first of a five-year extension with no options, so the Wolves still have some time before he starts getting itchy. Under new management post-Thibs, they’re also looking at time horizons beyond Thursday. Minnesota signed mostly one-year deals and declined to match an offer sheet to Tyus Jones, so its books stay clear in 2020-21. Merely stretching Dieng next summer would get the Wolves to about $20M range in cap room, while other moves (Can I interest you in a Canadian small forward?) could grant them max space. They still face a difficult pathway to putting another star around Towns, but you can at least see the road from there.
The young wing combination of Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie is the other key element of Minnesota’s future. Culver needs to improve his shooting but also had very few off-the-catch opportunities in a Texas Tech system centered on his creation skills. His size, defense and smoothness on the ball hint at a valuable player down the line despite lacking eye-popping athleticism. Okogie made some wow plays as a 20-year-old rookie – including a clean spike of a James Harden step-back – but needs to improve his shooting and refine his erratic halfcourt decision-making to be a long-term solution at the 2.
In the meantime, try to hunt down some Wolves games and appreciate Towns’ brilliance. Hidden from the masses in the far north, he has a combination of shooting ability and offensive rebounding that makes him arguably one of the 10 best players in the league. On his own, he may be good enough to keep Minnesota in the playoff race until April.
Prediction: 38-44, 4th in Northwest division, 11th in Western Conference.