The Minnesota Timberwolves’ new President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly placed a very risky wager before the start of the 2022-23 NBA season. After just arriving at his new team, he sought counsel from everyone to understand what this team needed to do to compete for an NBA Championship in the future.
While we can be confident that a consensus did not align instantly, we do know that the Minnesota Timberwolves did eventually conclude that to compete more aggressively in future NBA Playoffs, the Timberwolves front office had to be more aggressive in working a deal to upgrade the roster. And the consensus ‘need,’ for the Timberwolves roster after the 2022 NBA Playoffs was a bonafide rim protector.
The Timberwolves organization was on board and behind the plan to trade for former Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, at a cost of five players and four draft picks.
What have we learned?
So what do we know about that strategy after a full 82-game 2022-23 NBA season? Very little, unfortunately. Due to an illness of Timberwolves veteran big Karl-Anthony Towns, and a bit of a knee strain to Timberwolves newcomer Rudy Gobert, the Minnesota Timberwolves starting five met for the first time in their very last preseason game.
From that point on, the team had to fend off injuries that claimed several key players at vital segments on the schedule, but none were more disruptive to the team than the 53-game injury to Karl-Anthony Towns. But the dysfunctional fit of point guard D’Angelo Russell, and his disinterest in working with Gobert, came in a close second.
You see, the Timberwolves’ final starting five had just seven games together in the 2022-23 NBA season to compete together. That is simply nowhere near enough time to know, one way or the other, what this roster is capable of.
Back, Jack. Do it again.
While the Minnesota Timberwolves faced plenty of challenges and adversity throughout the 2022-23 NBA season, there were signs that the team ended on a high note. Despite the absence of both Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid, the Timberwolves were scrappy in their series in Round 1 against the Denver Nuggets.
So promising, in fact, that this team could ignore the distractions of NBA rumors and simply opt to retain as many players from the 2022-23 NBA season as possible. In fact, the word from team insiders appears to lean towards running it back in the 2023-24 NBA season.
To be fair, that could prove to be the right decision.
We know that the team to beat right now is the Denver Nuggets. We also know that a full-strength team, such as-is version, of the Minnesota Timberwolves can compete effectively against the Nuggets. So why mess with the team that showed promise but had such an infinitesimally small sample?
The Minnesota Timberwolves could simply regroup and return. Would that, could that, be a wrong decision? Perhaps. But we know that the Minnesota Timberwolves have a track record of acting too quickly in moving on from very competitive NBA players too quickly. We also know that trading players at a discount has never been Connelly’s style.
Yes, there is and will be no shortage of NBA rumors that name the Minnesota Timberwolves as a potential trade partner. But, in the end, I believe the chances of the Timberwolves roster remaining intact are growing all the time.