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30 Teams in 30 Days

2020-21 NBA Season Preview: Can the Minnesota Timberwolves make a playoff push?

The 2020-21 NBA season is set to tip-off on Dec. 23. To get you ready for the year to come, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.

Today, we take a look at the Minnesota Timberwolves

2019-20 season record

19-45, 14th in Western Conference

Notable additions

Anthony Edwards, No. 1 overall pick in 2020 NBA Draft

Leandro Bolmaro, No. 23 overall pick in 2020 NBA Draft

Jaden McDaniels, No. 28 overall pick in 2020 NBA Draft

Ed Davis, Trade (Utah via New York)

Ricky Rubio, Trade (Phoenix via Oklahoma City)

Tyler Cook, Free agency (Denver)

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Free agency (Toronto)

Ashton Hagans, Free agency (undrafted, two-way contract)

Ade Murkey, Free agency (undrafted, exhibit 10)

Notable departures

James Johnson, Trade (Dallas via Oklahoma City)

Allen Crabbe, Free Agency

Kelan Martin, Free Agency (Indiana)

Jordan McLaughlin, Free Agency

Omari Spellman, Trade (New York)

Jacob Evans III, Trade (New York)

Evan Turner, Retired

MORE: Watch live games on your favorite device with NBA League Pass

Depth chart

Starter 2nd 3rd 4th
PG Ricky Rubio Jarrett Culver Jaylen Nowell Ade Murkey
SG D'Angelo Russell Malik Beasley Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Ashton Hagans
SF Anthony Edwards Josh Okogie Leandro Bolmaro Tyler Cook
PF Juan Hernangomez Jake Layman Jaden McDaniels Jarred Vanderbilt
C Karl-Anthony Towns Ed Davis Naz Reid

3 key storylines

All eyes on Anthony Edwards

After the Timberwolves finished with the third-worst record in the league last season, the lottery beckoned, resulting in them securing the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, which they used to select Anthony Edwards.

At 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Edwards gives the Wolves a long, athletic scorer on the wing who can finish at the rim, play through contact and use his size to bully smaller defenders.

But will he start on opening night?

He'll face stiff competition from Malik Beasley, Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver on the wing, but the 19-year-old has all the tools to blossom into their third star alongside D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns, and provide some much-needed buckets for Minnesota's offence, which ranked 24th in the league last season.

In his lone season at Georgia, Edwards averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals on 40.2 percent shooting from the field and 29.4 percent from the 3-point line. While he's shown he can score with ease, defence will be the key to his rookie season, something he's been working on with the team's defensive coordinator, David Vanterpool.

"I feel like one of the great things is Coach Vanterpool took me under his wing and he realised I could be a really good defensive player," Edwards said. "He taught me areas to cut off, areas where we want [opposing players] to get to, where we don't want them to get to, so I feel like my defence has improved since I got here."

The Russell-Towns duo

Following Russell's trade to the Timberwolves in February, injuries and a shortened season due to the coronavirus pandemic limited the duo to just one game on court together in 2019-20.

The pair combined for 45 points and 12 assists in a loss to the Toronto Raptors, giving fans a glimpse of how damaging their one-two punch will be.

Russell played 12 games following the trade, averaging 21.7 points and 6.6 assists on 34.5 percent shooting from the 3-point line. After a lengthy layoff, the one-time All-Star looks primed to forge a strong offensive partnership with Towns, one of the most versatile big men in the league.

"I've really been watching a lot of Karl film, just seeing ways I can complement his game," Russell told reporters via Zoom. "He's already a killer, I've said multiple times. His mentality is going to change, he's going to bring a different energy to his game. I think that will make it easier for everybody.

"The better he is, the better we'll be."

At 24 and 25 years old, respectively, Russell and Towns have all the makings for the next great duo in the NBA.

Can they sneak into the playoffs?

Over the past 16 seasons, the Timberwolves have made the playoffs just once - led by Jimmy Butler in 2017-18 to a first-round exit at the hands of the Houston Rockets.

Of the eight teams to make the playoffs in the West last season, only the re-building Oklahoma City Thunder are likely to fall out, leaving the Timberwolves in a battle with the likes of the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings, who all have the postseason in their sights.

With the third-youngest roster in the league, they added some veterans in the form of Ed Davis and fan-favourite Ricky Rubio, who returns for his second stint in Minnesota after playing the first six seasons of his career with the franchise.

While Davis' impact will be limited, Rubio's presence provides a steadying hand who can relieve Russell of some of the playmaking duties, with the pair likely to close games together, a dynamic the 24-year-old is relishing.

"I've never played with nobody at his caliber, somebody that brings what he brings to the game at [point guard]. Our whole dynamic as a team, I've never been in this position," Russell said of Rubio.

"We have a big [Towns] that can just control the whole game, and then you have somebody like Rick that is used to controlling the whole game and playing along somebody that can score and still make plays. That's not a foreign position for him, but for me it is because I've never had that dynamic."

5 games to watch

Jan. 15 vs. Memphis Grizzlies

A battle of two of the youngest teams in the league, both looking to make a push into the postseason.

Headlined by Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. against D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns, this Western Conference matchup is overflowing with talent.

Feb. 8 at Dallas Mavericks

Coming up against their division rivals and another dynamic duo in Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, this game will have no shortage of buckets.

Feb. 12 at Charlotte Hornets

The No.1 pick vs. the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft is worth tuning in for alone.

Many thought that LaMelo Ball would end up in Minnesota with the first selection, so he will no doubt be looking to put on a show on his home floor against Anthony Edwards, plus a point guard matchup with D'Angelo Russell.

Feb. 28 vs. Phoenix Suns

D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns have made it no secret they want to play with their close friend Devin Booker, who leads a new-look Suns team alongside Chris Paul.

TBD vs. Brooklyn Nets

Russell facing off against his former team for the first time, the new-look Nets will be appointment viewing.

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