If the Minnesota Timberwolves partake in an offseason activity with or without the other seven non-restart teams, what would be the best option?
The Minnesota Timberwolves are one of only eight teams not included in the NBA's pending restart in Orlando at the end of July.
We've already covered the reasons why the Wolves being left out of the league's 22-team field is a good thing, and there's absolutely that case to be made. Of course, there are plenty of reasons why it's detrimental to the franchise to not be involved, too.
At the forefront of the disappointment is the lost time for the players to take the court together. Think about it: even for the teams that won't ultimately make the playoffs, they'll get something like 10 days to two weeks of "training camp", plus eight games and shootarounds and practices in between those games.
That's roughly a month of extra time together as a team, with core players suiting up along young guys and pending free agents, for those teams to evaluate what they have. The Wolves have only seen Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley take the court together once. Russell and Beasley have only played together 12 times.
That puts the Wolves at a severe disadvantage, and while Russell and Towns are locked up for years to come, Beasley and fellow newcomer Juancho Hernangomez will both hit restricted free agency, and Timberwolves brass has limited information to go off of.
There are many potential solutions being bandied about for what could come of the eight teams that have been left out. Of the ideas that are out there, which would be most beneficial to the Wolves?
Minnesota Timberwolves: Which potential offseason activity is best?
Mandatory individual team workouts
The simplest solution would be to allow the eight teams to get their rosters together for a mandatory week to two-week workout. Think the NFL's offseason training activities, or OTAs. This was first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
It would allow the full roster to get together, run through the playbook, scrimmage, and spend time bonding off the court.
The only real drawback is that with nothing to play for, there's some question as to how beneficial it would be balanced with it being just another opportunity for injury. Of course, the NFL does it, and it would have to be better than nothing, right? You'd have to believe that Gersson Rosas and Co. would jump at the chance to simply get their whole roster together.
Regional minicamps and joint practices
Also reported by Wojnarowski, this could include a week's worth of individual workouts as noted above and then feature a week or so during which teams could get together for join practices and/or actual scrimmages.
Whether or not the scrimmages would be formally organized (would they be televised?) or simply part of a join minicamp remains to be seen, but it would be a chance for the players to see some non-friendly competition in a low-pressure atmosphere.
There's probably a hint more of injury risk here, and if there isn't a televised aspect, it's hard to see what the point of working with another team is at this stage. It isn't like a month-long NFL training camp during which players get tired of blocking and tackling the same guys, we're talking about a week or two of running full court.
A televised mini-tournament
This wasn't put forward by Woj but was mentioned as a possibility by Kyle Ratke at Timberwolves.com.
Think of it as something similar to Las Vegas Summer League, where there could be two groups of four teams that play a round-robin, and then a semifinal and final round to crown a non-22-team-season-restart-playoff-tournament-champion. Or something like that.
Ratke also mentions the lack of an incentive, and while this would be the most appealing in terms of generating some television revenue and an overall spike in interest for these teams, we're also talking about the league's worst eight teams. How high is the ceiling for viewership, and would the league even want this happening around the time of the actual 22-team restart?
This seems like something of a non-starter for most of the eight teams, as the upside is relatively modest for the players and coaches. As fun as it would be for fans, there would be a lot of collective breath-holding and nail-biting if Towns, Russell and Beasley were taking the court for a meaningless summer tourney.
Starting training camp early
The final idea, also mentioned by Woj, is that the eight uninvited teams could all report to training camp a week to 10 days early this fall/winter.
While it would be an advantage, it doesn't solve the issue of having something like nine months off without seeing one another. When it comes to training camp, don't teams already kind of get sick of running practices every day for a week-and-a-half? Would an extra week be beneficial or detrimental after such a long layoff?
The prediction here is that there ultimately will be a combination of mandatory team workouts and an early training camp start with the possibility of a televised scrimmage or two sprinkled in.
It's not hard to see why each of the eight teams would push for a mandatory offseason program to at least see their rosters face-to-face and run through some on-court drills and inter-squad scrimmages. But the risk-reward of some of the other options is not balanced enough to make them worthwhile.
There could be a couple of teams that want to get together for a scrimmage that perhaps could be televised locally, but it's unlikely that all eight teams and the league would be on board with a completely televised and mandatory tournament.
The early training camp arrival is nice but not enough as a standalone, so maybe we'll see a 10-day mini-camp in August or September combined with an extra four or five days of training camp in November.
It certainly will be interesting to see what the league and the teams come up with in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.