The Minnesota Timberwolves end a strange offseason Monday night with their first preseason game of 2021-22 at home against the New Orleans Pelicans.
With the Gersson Rosas situation in the rearview mirror, the organization will be glad to shift the focus to basketball.
Preseason can often seem dull and unimportant due to absences and/or reduced minutes for significant players, but there remain questions from the results of Minnesota’s offseason that the team must answer successfully in order to fulfill its potential.
The Wolves’ level of improvement will be determined, in part, by the following topics that can start to be observed starting Monday.
No. 1: What will the Minnesota Timberwolves starting lineup look like?
D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, and Karl-Anthony Towns are locked into starting roles. One of head coach Chris Finch’s big tasks is surrounding them with a lineup that jump-starts the Wolves from the opening tip-off.
The remaining spots will likely be filled by two of Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels, and Jarred Vanderbilt. The decision could show something about how the Wolves balance offense and defense in their lineups this season.
The offense-weighted lineup would include Beasley and McDaniels. With this option, the Wolves would start four players who averaged at least 19 points per game and four players who shot at least 36 percent from the 3-point line in 2020-21. However, Beasley’s defensive issues and McDaniels’ lack of bulk at the four would likely prevent the improvements Finch is looking for on defense.
The defense-weighted lineup would include McDaniels and Vanderbilt. By playing two big, defensively versatile forwards with their three offensive stars, the Wolves can cover a lot of the court and address rebounding issues with gang effort. The question would be if there is enough offensive creation and shooting throughout this five.
The split-the-difference lineup is Beasley and Vanderbilt. Here, the Wolves complete an electric offensive backcourt of Russell, Beasley, and Edwards while giving Towns a defensive-minded partner at four. Finch would need to be confident this lineup maximizes the overall results instead of diluting their advantages at both ends.
The lineup Finch sends out tonight won’t necessarily indicate a regular starting five for the season, but it could give an indication as to what kind of balance he wants his team to strike to begin games.