Season Preview

2023-24 NBA Season Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves

Published October 21, 2023, 6:00 AMPolo Bustamante

It may be time for Minnesota to hand Anthony Edwards the keys.

The NBA Season is back! Just like your favorite superhero story, the NBA brings fun, entertainment, and a lot of uncanny subplots to unpack. That’s why NBA.com Philippines decided to preview the new season comic-book style. We pick out fantastic characters that will take the stage and new amazing arcs to watch out for. Bang! Pow! Boom! Let’s go!

What’s their superpower?

Without taking a look at the numbers, guess which team held Nikola Jokic to his worst showing of last season’s playoffs?

Yep. It was the Minnesota Timberwolves. Now, granted his “worst” was still a 26-12-9 line on 48.5 percent shooting. But those numbers seem pedestrian to his numbers against the other teams the Denver Nuggets faced in the playoffs.

How did Minny manage to give Jokic so much trouble? Simple. They had two massive human beings to throw at him. Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns took turns shadowing Jokic on defense and made him work to defend all over the court on offense. 

Having two big men like Gobert and Towns may seem like such a backward idea in this day of small ball, but in the short time that they’ve shared the court, they showed a moderate amount of success. That size advantage over the other 29 teams will be put to the test fully next season. If Towns and Gobert can play with the same intensity that they showed against Jokic, then the league will have a huge problem that will need solving. Literally.

What’s their kryptonite?

The Minnesota Timberwolves played 48 clutch games last season, tied for fourth in the league. They won 28 out of those 20 games which isn’t a bad percentage when compared to the rest of the league. But, playing more than half of your games under those circumstances means that you have to have an established closer, a player who can loosen things up when games get too tight.

With Towns out for most of last season, a new hero in Anthony Edwards emerged. He played 45 out of those 48 clutch games. As present as he was, he just couldn’t get the job done. He managed to score only 2.7 points on 42.3 percent shooting in the clutch. As much as Edwards was present in those games, he still hasn’t proven to be the closer the Timberwolves need.

Things only get murkier now that Towns is back. As a former number one pick himself and the leader of this team even before Edwards arrived, the pecking order will need to be realigned in the coming season. That might be a problem for a team like Minny that already conceded several close calls last season.

Who is their biggest hero?

There’s no discounting what Towns has done for the Timberwolves. At their worst, he was their best player, trying to drag the team to respectability.  But for Minnesota to reach new heights, he has to cede control and allow Edwards to lead the team.

Edwards has proven that he can be a franchise player just as much, if not greater, than Towns. He broke out last season to lead the team in scoring (24.6 PPG) with improved efficiency (45.9 FG%, 36.9 3P%). Flanked by a veteran lead guard in Mike Conley and a defensive stud like Gobert, Edwards had the green light to take over games. What was missing for most of last season was a secondary star. That’s something Towns can easily fill.

Edwards already has the superhero nickname. Now he just has to live up to the superhero billing.

Who is their biggest villain?

When the Timberwolves were struggling midway through the season, it was Gobert who took all the flak. That’s because even before the season started, several fans were already up in arms at what the team had to give up to get Gobert. The Stifle Tower has shown to be a valuable defensive anchor in the regular season but has never translated that success into the playoffs.

It also didn’t help that Gobert performed poorly last season with his numbers dropping to 13-11 with 1.4 blocks per game from a 15-15 line with close to three blocks a game in the previous season. If his game continues to drop next season, the Timberwolves will only look worse for emptying their coffers for a big man in decline that they didn’t really need in the first place.

How does their story play out?

The goal is clear for the Timberwolves. They’re hunting for one of the top spots in the West. Just like the Memphis Grizzlies or the Sacramento Kings, they’re a young team primed to make some noise next season. 

Things are looking up for them as Edwards and Towns are coming off a FIBA World Cup high. If those two can figure out who the alpha dog of the team is organically, then Minnesota is a team to watch next season.