Minnesota Timberwolves: Short offseason may be blessing in disguise

D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves talks to Ryan Saunders. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves talks to Ryan Saunders. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves benefit greatly from the NBA’s decision to begin the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22.

The Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t played an NBA game since a 117-111 loss to the Houston Rockets on March 11. More than eight months later, the team finally has an idea of when it will take the court once again.

Earlier this week, the NBA announced that the 2020-21 season will officially begin on Dec. 22.

That date is certainly much earlier than most would have thought, with many people assuming the  season would start sometime between mid-January and March 2021.

The pre-Christmas Day restart date means a lot of things are happening in an extremely short amount of time to fit the whole offseason into the span of just over two months. In case you missed it, the 2019-20 season ended only a month ago when the Lakers beat the Heat in Game Six of the NBA Finals on Oct. 11.

The Wolves have the top pick in the NBA Draft, and it’s less than a week away on Nov. 18. Two days later free agency begins, with contract signings starting on Nov. 22. Then, the season begins a month later.

This truncated offseason is great news for Timberwolves fans everywhere. A fast restart will be a huge advantage for the Wolves over most of the other teams in the NBA.

Unlike the 22 teams in the bubble, the Wolves have had eight months of rest. They’ve had essentially the time of two offseason to rest, train, and get healthy.

Karl-Anthony Towns was nagged by injuries last season, as was D’Angelo Russell. Both will have had nine months to recover and will enter next season as healthy as possible in the NBA.

The teams in the bubble will only have somewhere between two and four months between seasons. That’s a huge advantage for the Timberwolves, along with the other seven teams not invited to the bubble.

Many members of the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers have made it seem like they will not be there when the season begins in December. LeBron James shared a facepalm emoji on Instagram when it was suggested he would only have 71 days between seasons. LeBron’s Laker teammate Danny Green also went on The Ringer NBA Show podcast and suggested that if the season started in December most guys, including LeBron, wouldn’t be there for the first month of the season.

If this is the sentiment shared by many of the leagues best teams and top players, the first few weeks of the season could get much easier for the Timberwolves to rack up some early wins.

If many of the impact players who made it to the playoffs in the bubble including LeBron, Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, and dozens of others sit out for a month or more, the Wolves could suddenly shoot up the standings in the Western Conference.

The proposed 72-game schedule for this season also plays well into the Timberwolves’ hands. The rested Wolves will be better equipped to play on back-to-back nights and long road trips. Some of the big stars will likely use this season to have more scheduled rest (AKA load management) throughout the season giving the Wolves a chance to play some of the top teams without their biggest stars.

The one thing working against the Wolves this offseason is the extremely short time their draft picks will have to practice with the team before the season starts.

There are only 34 days between the NBA Draft and the beginning of the 2020-21 season. There will also be no summer league play to give the draft picks time to play together during the offseason. Only a short training camp will allow the number one pick to gel with his new teammates.

That’s not great news, especially given the thought around this year’s crop of draft picks that none are very NBA ready and will need time to grow into their roles with a new team.

It will be a trial by fire for whomever the Wolves decide to pick in the draft, playing themselves into NBA shape during the first few months of the season.

Luckily for these NBA newbies, if some of the big stars sit out, their growing pains during the first few weeks of the season will be against lesser talented players and weaker teams, which will be beneficial to these young players.

The Wolves are by no means ready to compete in the Western Conference, but with some rest, luck, and load management from other teams, Minnesota could sneak its way into a winning record for the first half of the season.

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That early success could be enough to get themselves in contention for a playoff spot, all thanks to the NBA’s decision to start the next season on Dec. 22.