With only 23 games remaining in the regular season, the Minnesota Timberwolves are still aiming for a playoff spot. But what other storylines should fans keep an eye on?
After making the playoffs for the first time in 14 years last season, the Minnesota Timberwolves have back-slid into a 28-31 record. Last year, the Wolves were 35-24 through their first 59 contests.
There’s absolutely still a chance for the Wolves to sneak into the playoffs, although sitting four games out of the No. 8 seed with 23 games to play isn’t ideal by any stretch of the imagination.
Setting aside the playoff push for a moment, let’s consider what else Timberwolves fans should be keeping an eye out for over the final six-plus weeks of the season. With an interim head coach, several pending free agents, a pair of rookies receiving meaningful playing time, and a 23-year-old, two-time All-Star looking to make his mark on the league, there is plenty to watch.
Let’s count down the top five storylines to look out for during the remainder of the season.
5. Play of pending free agents
The following players will all be free agents this summer: Taj Gibson, Anthony Tolliver, Luol Deng, Derrick Rose, Tyus Jones (restricted), and Jerryd Bayless. Jeff Teague has a player option, although it would be a mild shock to see him opt out of $19 million.
It’s probably safe to assume that Tolliver, who expected a larger role than he’s received, and Bayless, who is the fourth point guard on the roster, will both move on. If either comes back, it would surely be on a modest one-year deal, so let’s not spend too much time worrying about them.
Gibson is the most significant free agent, as he had started in his first 136 appearances in a Timberwolves uniform before being moved to the bench in favor of Dario Saric two games prior to the All-Star break. He’s started the last two games in place of the injured Karl-Anthony Towns, but it’s expected that he’ll move back to the bench on Monday night.
Gibson is a consummate professional and will produce regardless of his role, but it’s worth watching to see how his production might be effected in moving to the bench. He’ll no doubt have plenty of suitors on the open market, and may even be pursued by some teams as a starter. Saric is the starting power forward of 2020 and beyond for the Wolves, so if Taj returns to Minnesota it will be as a backup.
Rose is a wildcard. It seems likely that another team will offer Rose something more than the veteran’s minimum next year, and it’s unclear whether or not the Wolves will try and pony up to keep Rose. He’s still battling persistent injuries and has struggled mightily with his jumper since the calendar turned to 2019, so the Wolves would be wise to not overpay.
Jones is another interesting case, as we’ll find out if the Wolves (or anyone else, for that matter) value him as a future starter or as one of the better backup point guards in the league. Restricted free agency can get messy, and it’ll be fascinating to see how it plays out.