The Minnesota Timberwolves have been a struggling team for a long time, only making the playoffs once (2017-18) since the 2004-05 season. As the team has been around for 31 seasons, it does not have too many players who represented the franchise through their leadership, electric style of play, or any other factors.
However, Minnesota does currently have a player who is considered one of the top players at their position, and if surrounded by the right people, could bring the Timberwolves to contention.
That player is none other than 24-year-old center Karl-Anthony Towns.
The impact Towns has on his team cannot be overstated. Standing at 6-foot-11 and weighing in at nearly 250 pounds, Towns can attack and get buckets from the post. However, his impact goes beyond the paint as he is a career 39.6 percent three-point shooter. Even though Towns has only been in the league for five years, he has already made the All-Star game twice and has consistently posted double-digit rebounds, most recently grabbing an average of 10.8 boards in 2019-20.
However, Towns is one of the few bright spots on a team that has nothing else really going for it. Most recently, in the 2019-20 season, the team finished 19-45 and 14th in the West. Their arena, the Target Center, finished with a total attendance of only 482,112 fans, which was 29th in the league (also known as second-worst).
One of the main things holding this Timberwolves team back is its defense. While their offense finished with an average of 113.2 points per game, good for ninth in the league, this is contradicted by their defense, which gave up 117.5 points per game, only good enough for 28th in the league (third-worst).
Clearly, Towns needed some help from general manager Scott Layden to make sure that the Timberwolves weren’t just a one-man show. He got help in the form of a trade deadline deal on Feb. 6 in which Minnesota shipped forward Andrew Wiggins and second-round picks in 2021 for Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell, as well as Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman.
This trade benefited the Timberwolves in many ways. For one, Russell fills a gaping hole at point guard for Minnesota as the fifth-year player averaged 23.1 points per game this year. Additionally, the addition of a young point guard means that the Timberwolves have two great young players in both the frontcourt and the backcourt. If that wasn’t enough, Towns considers Russell to be a close friend, which could improve morale for both players in addition to the whole team.
However, this trade does not come without its drawbacks. For Russell, the Timberwolves had to give up a protected first-round pick in 2021 as well as a second-rounder for the same year. This could hinder their ability to surround Towns and Russell with young, developing players. Further, Russell isn’t known for his defense, which was one of the main problems plaguing Minnesota in 2019-20.
For what it’s worth, this will still provide a boost to the Timberwolves’ offense and allow them to potentially overcome their poor defense. This move was made with an eye towards the future, and if other role players such as Josh Okogie, Juan Hernangomez, and Malik Beasley can be a great supporting cast, the Timberwolves could be a contending team in the near future.