Minnesota Timberwolves: Why being left out of the NBA’s return is a good thing

Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves are reportedly not one of the teams that will return to play later this summer in the continuation of the 2019-20 season. Here’s why that’s a good thing.

The NBA’s “return-to-play” plan is likely to be finalized on Thursday and there will be nary a mention of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

While the league reportedly considered proposals that would have included as few as 16 teams and as many as all 30 teams, the 22-team proposal gained the most traction. It should be the perfect balance of allowing all teams the ability to get back into game shape as well as allowing teams on the fringes of playoff contention who were counting on a big final month of the season to get them there before the hiatus occurred.

The 22-team field will include a whopping 13 teams from the Western Conference, leaving out only the Wolves and the Golden State Warriors. The Eastern Conference will only field nine teams, with the Washington Wizards squeaking in as the only team not in the current playoff bracket to get a shot a making some noise.

There are some fun elements to the return to play, including the possibility for a mini-play-in tournament for the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds in each conference if less than four games separate the two teams.

But the Minnesota Timberwolves will not be anywhere near the exciting proceedings taking place in Orlando.

Are there silver linings to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ absence?

Absolutely. Consider the following, both from a team and individual player perspective.

Towns’ wrist

The Timberwolves’ best player, Karl-Anthony Towns, was in the middle of what was to be an extended absence due to a fracture in his wrist. He was likely to be out through March, so it’s possible he wouldn’t have suited up for the balance of the season.

While a fractured wrist is an injury that is either healed or it’s not — not the same as a soft tissue issue or sprained ankle — Wolves fans no doubt remember how many times Kevin Love reinjured his hand.

Upcoming free agents

From the Wolves’ perspective, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to see Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Malik Beasley play together. The trio has only shared the floor one time, in an entertaining loss to the Toronto Raptors.

But from the perspective of prospective free agents Russell and Juan Hernangomez, why risk injury? Beasley already dominated in 14 games in a Timberwolves uniform, and it’s unlikely that another six to eight games of play would raise his value much more. Yet any sort of injury could impact his value as a restricted free agent.

It’s a case where the risk far outweighs the reward, and it isn’t close.

Accusations of tanking

This has long been forgotten, but way back in late February, the Wolves were fined by the NBA for resting Russell in a game that was “nationally-televised” on NBA TV.

You can bet that the Wolves would be incentivized to find reasons to not play Russell, Towns, or even the likes of Beasley or Hernangomez if they were tasked with playing a handful of ultimately meaningless games after a long hiatus. There’s no question that the league was concerned about this possibility, too, which surely played into the decision to avoid having all 30 teams play.

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Of course, there are absolutely cons related to the Wolves’ absence from Orlando this July and August, too. More on that later…