Do you recall the enthusiasm over the Minnesota Timberwolves a year ago? That incessant search for help to give All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns help at defending in the paint? And then the complete shock when the team opted not to sign a rim-protecting center, instead opting to trade for the best rim-protecting center in the NBA, All-Star center Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz?
It all combined to send enthusiasm through the roof, right?
But when the season arrived, we all realized the 2022-23 NBA season, or rather when the preseason ended, was going to be a tough season. The Timberwolves starting 5 players only competed for the first time together in the final preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets. The Timberwolves expected the team to work out all of the bugs early in the season.
But early in the season would be about all they would get. You see, after 21 games, Karl-Anthony Towns would fall to injury. By the time he returned, the Minnesota Timberwolves had already moved on from his close friend, PG D’Angelo Russell. Towns would have eight-game remaining in the regular season before the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament and the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
In postseason competition, the Timberwolves roster would be forced to compete without starting small forward Jaden McDaniels and backup center Naz Reid. From the heights of enthusiasm and optimism to the basement of skepticism and disappointment.
From unfulfilled potential to realized production
Okay, now reverse the order of those feelings, and you’ve laid out the path of optimism for many Minnesota Timberwolves fans over the course of the 2023-24 NBA season.
When the Minnesota Timberwolves arrived at the 2023 NBA Trade deadline, trading away PG D’Angelo Russell was as much about fixing the team for the 2023-24 NBA season as it was about salvaging the 2022-23 NBA season. In return for a defensive-deficient point guard who had no interest in involving Rudy Gobert in the team’s offense, the Timberwolves were able to get veteran PG Mike Conley Jr., a defensive point guard who knew how to involve Rudy Gober already.
The team also added a still-developing 3-and-D shooting guard who had a solid perimeter shot. in the offseason, the Timberwolves’ front office continued the pursuit of perimeter defense and shooting, as well as bolstering the team’s potential for improving rebounding.
But the team did not relent even when the 2023 NBA Draft arrived. In PF Leonard Miller, the team added point guard ball handling skills, rebounding, perimeter shooting, and perimeter defense all rolled up into one rookie sensation.
But in SG Jaylen Clark, though injured, the Timberwolves have very likely added the best defender from the 2023 rookie class. The challenge with Clark’s development is simply to find the patience to allow him to heal and return to the team when he is ready to suit up.
While there may be reserved optimism from Timberwolves fans right now, by the time rookie shooting guard Jaylen Clark suits up and is ready to play, the smoldering feel-good feeling will ignite with the euphoria of a Timberwolves team ready to make a mark in the 2024 NBA Playoffs.
This is more than a healthy Timberwolves roster. The Minnesota Timberwolves look like a top NBA team this year. But let that be our little secret for now, okay?