Minnesota Timberwolves: Why the 2021 season will be better than 2020

The year 2021 will undoubtedly be better for the Minnesota Timberwolves than 2020 has so far.

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TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 10: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves is introduced prior to a game. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

More often than not, being a Minnesota Timberwolves fan is difficult.

The Wolves have made the playoffs nine times in their 31-year existence, with eight of those in the Kevin Garnett era and only two playoff series wins, both coming in 2004.

The trend continued into the 2019-20 season as they finished 14th in the Western Conference. The team showed flashes, especially post-trade deadline, but there just weren't enough pieces coming together to result in a successful campaign.

Now that the season is officially over for the Wolves, it is time to turn the page to the 2020-21 season. The exact details for the season are not set in stone due to the coronavirus, but the tentative schedule looks to start the 2021 season in early December.

This gives the Wolves, and most notably, Karl-Anthony Towns, time to heal up and bring all they have for this upcoming season.

While the past has not been kind to Wolves fanatics the future looks to be as bright as it has ever been. Between franchise cornerstone Towns being teamed with former All-Star D'Angelo Russell, having a full season with the new roster (assuming all restricted free agents re-sign), along with having players that fit head coach Ryan Saunders' schemes, the Wolves look as though they have the opportunity to make noise in the 2020-21 season.

With that said, let's take a look at how the 2020-21 season will be better for the Minnesota Timberwolves than 2019-20.

Minnesota Timberwolves: How the 2021 season will be better than 2020

No extended hiatus due to a global pandemic

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D'Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves.v(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Fingers crossed, but it looks as though the 2020-21 season will start in early-to-mid December.

Whether or not there will be fans at these games still remains to be seen. However, being able to watch a full season of NBA basketball and having the Wolves back in action after nine months off will make the 2020-21 season better no matter how the season turns out.

The 2019-20 season is slated to restart the end of July with the 22 teams still in the race to make the playoffs. While the Timberwolves are not part of those 22 teams, there are still dates Minnesota fans can look forward to before December.

Per NBA.com, the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery is set to be rescheduled for Aug. 25. The Wolves are tied with the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers for the best odds to land the No. 1 pick at 14 percent and guaranteed to draft in the top seven.

The 2020 Draft is to be held on Oct. 15. Minnesota sits with three picks in the top 33, with their own lottery pick and Brooklyn's first-round pick that is currently No.16.

Training camp and free agency will also take place between Oct. 12, the last scheduled game of The Finals, and Dec. 1.

Overall, not having Wolves basketball for nine months due to the global pandemic brings a lot of negatives. There are positives to point out, however, including allowing Karl-Anthony Towns to come back fully healthy from his wrist injury next season. It also gives the young guys on the team extra time to work on their games and improve moving forward.

While it is not ideal to sit out for three-quarters of a year, 2021 will bring better Wolves basketball.

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Minnesota Timberwolves: Why the 2021 season will be better than 2020

Improved 3-point shooting

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Malik Beasley #5 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

One thing we know for sure about the Gersson Rosas and Ryan Saunders pairing is that we will see a lot of 3-pointers shots being put up by Wolves players. Saunders has made it a point to give virtually all Timberwolves players the confidence to fire from deep.

This is highlighted by the fact Minnesota shot the third-most threes of any team this season at 39.7 per game. That's up from 28.7 attempts during the 2018-19 season, which was only No. 26 in the league.

While Timberwolves players have the green light to shoot from deep they were not efficient this season, to say the least. In fact, they only ranked No. 28 overall in 3-point percentage at 33.6.

It is a given that the Wolves will keep firing away from 3-point range during the 2020-21 season, but it looks as though their 3-point efficiency is bound to go up with the new players added to the roster at the 2020 trade deadline.

Since becoming Timberwolves, Malik Beasley shot 42.6 percent from three, Juancho Hernangomez hit at a 42 percent clip, James Johnson shot 37 percent, and D'Angelo Russell was at 34.5 percent.

If Minnesota can retain Beasley and Hernangomez and Johnson picks up his player option, the Timberwolves can be lethal shooting the ball. Don't forget, they have KAT on the roster as well, the best shooting big man in the NBA.

There is also free agency and the potential to trade for better shooting this offseason as well. No matter what happens between now and the start of the season, however, the Wolves are bound to be a more efficient 3-point shooting team.

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Minnesota Timberwolves: Why the 2021 season will be better than 2020

An improved Ryan Saunders

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Head coach Ryan Saunders of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

At just 33 years old Ryan Saunders is the youngest coach in the NBA.

While there have been some highs during the 2019-20 season, including starting the season 10-8 and dismantling the Los Angeles Clippers in the first game after the trade deadline, there were more lows than highs during Saunders' first full season as head coach.

The Timberwolves finished the season with a 19-45 record that included two separate double-digit losing streaks this season which included a 13-game losing skid from Jan. 11 to Feb. 5.

Along with the long losing streaks, there were plenty of incredibly tough losses for Saunders and the Wolves.

On Jan. 27, the Wolves gave up a 27-point lead in a loss to the Sacramento Kings after being up by 17 with 2:49 left in the fourth quarter. There was also the bizarre ending to the Dec. 7 Oklahoma City Thunder game where an untucked Jordan Bell jersey led to a technical foul call with 1.1 seconds left that ultimately led the Wolves to lose in overtime.

While all the blame should not be put on Saunders' shoulders for these losses, he had opportunities to lead Minnesota to success, while also being seemingly unable to motivate Wolves players during the extended losing streaks.

Now that we have the negatives out of the way, let's look at where the Minnesota head coach has succeeded and why we will see an improved Saunders next season.

First off, Saunders has had great mentors over his 10-plus year in the NBA, which includes his father, the late Flip Saunders. He is great at building relationships with his players, and that in turn helps build trust between coach and player and makes players want to play for Saunders.

As far as actual in-game situations go, Saunders has already become to be known as one of the better ATO (after timeout) play-callers in the NBA. He is able to come up with creative sets, leading to easy baskets.

Now that Saunders has players that fit his coaching style, he is set to lead the Wolves to success moving forward. He also does not have to worry too much about his job status, as Wolves owner Glen Taylor has stated, "[Saunders] is going to get better as time goes on and we just have to give him that time."

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A full season with the upgraded roster

Minnesota Timberwolves: Why the 2021 season will be better than 2020

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James Johnson #16 and Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

It feels like ages ago since the February trade deadline, but then again the Wolves have only played 14 games since then. Only one of those games saw KAT and D-Lo in uniform together.

Of course, this only brings more excitement to see how exactly the new roster fits together.

Again, the Minnesota Timberwolves have an almost brand-new roster that fits Ryan Saunders' coaching style. Towns and Josh Okogie are the only two players on the roster that were on the team dating back to the beginning of the 2019 offseason.

The Wolves as a team are going to shoot threes and push the pace, ranking third in the league in both categories. The new, key additions to the Wolves roster are only going to help keep Minnesota at the top of the league in these categories.

D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, and James Johnson are all volume 3-point shooters, all attempting at least 3.3 3-point shots per game. This gives plenty of room for Towns to operate down low and gives plenty of lanes for drives and cutting.

Along with the new additions to the roster, the Timberwolves also feature one of the youngest teams in the league. Outside of Johnson, Towns and Russell have the most experience after finishing their fifth season. If players such as Jarrett Culver, Josh Okogie, and Jordan McLaughlin can build off their respective post-deadline performances, the Timberwolves suddenly have depth.

There is also the opportunity to have a full offseason together including the possibility of an extra "training camp" of sorts during the end of the 2019-20 season. This can only help build chemistry for a team that has only been together for four months.

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Getting back into the playoff picture

Minnesota Timberwolves: Why the 2021 season will be better than 2020

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Karl-Anthony Towns #32 celebrates with Jarrett Culver #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It seems as though the Timberwolves will find themselves in the playoff picture come next season. Whether or not they will be able to make the full leap into the playoffs remains to be seen, but getting into the picture is an improvement from finishing down at No. 14 in the West this season.

Looking at the playoff picture for the 2019-20 season, the two teams from the Western Conference that took the biggest leap from lottery-bound into the playoffs are the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies.

Both the Mavs and Grizzlies finished the 2018-19 season with a winning percentage of .402. Currently, Dallas has improved their winning percentage to .597 and sit as the No. 7 seed in the West while Memphis is No. 8 with a .492 winning percentage.

Minnesota has a bigger hill to climb as they finished this season at .297, but similar to both Dallas and Memphis, they added a star in D'Angelo Russell to their roster. The Mavs essentially added Kristaps Porzingis this season as he came back from injury while the Grizzlies drafted Ja Morant.

Adding Russell also gives the Wolves a second All-Star on the team alongside Karl-Anthony Towns. The NBA has basically shifted to All-Star duos instead of "Big Threes." Looking at the 16 teams currently in playoff spots, 11 have two players who were named All-Stars this season or in the recent past.

The Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, and Golden State Warriors are the only non-playoff teams with two former All-Stars on their roster. Out of these six teams, only the Wolves and Warriors have had their stars play in the All-Star game within the last two seasons.

While it may be hard to believe considering the Wolves have one player in KAT who has suited up for a playoff game in a Timberwolves jersey, Minnesota has a good amount of players with playoff experience.

In total, the Wolves have eight players on the roster who have been part of a playoff series. This will go a long way next season when they are apart of the playoff race as they will have a roster filled with players who know what it takes to get to the playoffs.

Next: Timberwolves Mock Draft 1.0

Here's to a successful offseason and a better Timberwolves season in 2020-21.