Minnesota Timberwolves: What will happen if the Wolves miss the Playoffs?

Minnesota Timberwolves stars Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Timberwolves stars Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
Minnesota Timberwolves, Alex Rodriguez
Minority owner Alex Rodriguez of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

What will happen if the Minnesota Timberwolves miss the playoffs?

The Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t made the playoffs since their first-round exit in2018, which was their only playoff appearance since 2003-04.

Organizational chaos, coaching deficiencies, front office failures, and poor player performance are all reasons the Timberwolves haven’t been competitive.

That being said, this year’s team is a culmination of two years of aggressive offseason moves by former Wolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas. This team feels different: a seemingly competent coach, a talented roster with proven young talent, and a promising 3-1 start which includes a road win against the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks.

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this Wolves team, and with the disfunction and disappointment that has characterized the last three seasons, it’s been a long time coming.

But what happens if this season ends up being a failure? What if the Wolves don’t make the playoffs? Or even the play-in tournament?

There are plenty of factors in play, and it’s difficult to imagine the next step forward if the Wolves underachieve this year. Here are three possibilities to consider if the Timberwolves don’t make the playoffs this season.

1. The Minnesota Timberwolves appoint a new GM

After the bizarre firing of Rosas, assistant general manager Sachin Gupta was appointed to the role. By most accounts, Gupta has been given full reigns to make moves with this roster, particularly in regards to a Ben Simmons trade. Hired shortly before the season, Gupta has been placed in a tough position to pull off significant roster moves.

That said, with new management coming in, a poor performance from this team would give soon-to-be-majority owners Alex Rodriguez and Mark Lore another reason to hire their own guy for the job, not someone hired by Glen Taylor. Gupta hasn’t been hit with an interim tag nor a permanent position, so it’s safe to say that this year’s team performance will have a huge impact on the future of the GM position for the Timberwolves.

2. 2022 Free Agency is a disaster for the Minnesota Timberwolves

The Wolves could have upwards of $37 million in salary coming off the books after this season, with Patrick Beverley, Taurean Prince, Josh Okogie (restricted), and Jake Layman becoming free agents.

The team’s performance this season could reasonably have a significant impact on how that money will be spent. Will good players want to join up with this team for next season?

A big part of this question relies on how free agents perceive the trio of D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, and Karl-Anthony Towns. If this team can make the playoffs, especially with Edwards at the ripe age of 20, the Timberwolves will gain credibility with players around the league, attracting talented players looking for a team to make the playoffs with.

On the contrary, if this trio doesn’t make the playoffs this season, the trio will lose credibility with free agents. The Wolves will attract less talented players and will be forced to overpay to retain a player like Beverley.

Having salary room to work with next year could be a huge opportunity for the Wolves to capitalize on the momentum of a playoff appearance, and missing the playoffs this season would waste that opportunity.

3. The Minnesota Timberwolves trade Karl-Anthony Towns

Whether it happens via a trade request or the will of the front office, a Karl-Anthony Towns trade becomes exponentially more likely if the Wolves miss the playoffs this season.

This is KAT’s seventh season in Minnesota. His career has yielded a single playoff appearance, an appearance which was earned via a win on the last day of the regular season. KAT has been the centerpiece of the franchise since his second season, and this is his best supporting cast yet.\

If this team can’t make the playoffs with Towns as the best player, it will likely be better for both the Wolves and the superstar big man to part ways. The Wolves could get a nice return for one of the most valuable trade pieces in the NBA, and KAT could find a team where he doesn’t have to be the focal point on both sides of the ball.

The Timberwolves have a lot invested in this season. This is the year to prove whether or not this young team has the potential to become championship contenders. A playoff appearance would validate the team’s core, leaving room for the front office to make small tweaks after the season to improve.

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However, missing the playoffs again would put the new ownership group in a position to make significant changes across the board. To put it lightly, there is a lot at stake this season.