I have a Scottish co-worker who started following the NBA in 2003. Heading into the 2003-04 season, the Lakers and Spurs had monopolized the Larry O’Brien trophy for five consecutive seasons, but the upstart Timberwolves looked poised to challenge their dominance. Led by MVP Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassell, and Latrell “I have a family to feed” Sprewell, the Minnesota Timberwolves posted 58 wins and made a deep playoff run. My co-worker became one of the team’s newest followers, and although the Lakers ousted the Wolves in the Western Conference Finals, his loyalty was sealed (wait for the turn…).
Unfortunately, the 2003-04 season proved to be the pinnacle of his Wolves fandom. Cassell and Sprewell were gone by 2006, leaving KG to fend for himself in the outrageously stacked Western Conference. Then came 2007, when KG went ring chasing with the Celtics. Incredibly, the Wolves have compiled two winning seasons since my co-worker adopted them as his squad. Out of 30 teams, he managed to pick the one with the lowest overall win-loss percentage (.394).
Against that grim backdrop, there’s reason for Wolves fans to take heart! Apart from the flash-in-the-pan success of Jimmy Butler’s tenure, this season’s Timberwolves roster has the highest potential of any squad since the mid-2000s. The projected starting lineup boasts four offensive threats guided by a coach who seems to grasp the importance of using Karl-Anthony Towns as the offensive centerpiece. Even if (when?) it all falls apart due to injuries, just remember that there’s a Wolves fan across the Atlantic who enters each year of this never-ending rebuild with renewed optimism.
- Starters and Fantasy Relevant Depth
|Karl-Anthony Towns||Jaden McDaniels||Anthony Edwards||Malik Beasley||D’Angelo Russell|
|Naz Reid||Jarred Vanderbilt||Josh Okogie||Jaylen Nowell||Patrick Beverley|
|Taurean Prince||Jordan McLaughlin|
- 2020-21 Record: 23-49
- Key Departure: Ricky Rubio
Frontcourt: Karl-Anthony Towns averaged close to five assists per game after Chris Finch took over the head coaching job in February. Heading into Finch’s first full season as head coach, the expectation is that the offense will continue to run through KAT. While Yahoo recently came to its senses and brought him up to five in its pre-draft room rankings, ESPN still has him at seven. I don’t recommend letting him slide any lower than pick six, particularly in category leagues. The health narrative around KAT shifted significantly due to the injuries he sustained over the past two seasons, but none of those should affect him long-term.
Jaden McDaniels is slated to start at PF in his sophomore season. With all of the scoring firepower in the lineup, don’t expect him to do much offensively. However, look for him at the backend of drafts if you’re in need of threes and stocks from the forward position. Naz Reid provided solid points, threes, rebounds, and FG% in the past two seasons when filling in for Towns. If KAT has a third straight season disrupted by long-term absences, don’t hesitate to grab Reid off the waiver wire.
Wings: Anthony Edwards thrived in the final twenty games of last season, finishing as a top 50 player over that span in nine-category formats. It’s worth mentioning that Malik Beasley was absent during that stretch, but the Wolves appear committed to showcasing last year’s number one overall pick in the offense. Edwards’ shooting efficiency was below average from the field and line (42% and 78% respectively on the season), but those numbers improved significantly as his comfort level increased. He is ranked 78 and 63 in Yahoo and ESPN respectively, and I look for him to outperform both of those projections.
Josh Okogie is a steals specialist, but he needs significant minutes to contribute there and will hurt your team in virtually every other category. Taurean Prince is another known commodity who could see backup minutes at the SF or PF position. He should be reserved for deeper leagues, as he provides very little outside of points and threes. Bottom line: it will be the Anthony Edwards show on the wing in Minnesota.
Backcourt: All indications suggest Malik Beasley will start alongside D’Angelo Russell. Assuming KAT, Edwards, and Russell can actually stay on the court together for extended stretches, Beasley’s value is likely to suffer the most out of all the starters. Last year’s top 100 ranking was based primarily on scoring and threes, both of which are likely to decrease when the aforementioned trio is healthy. He is currently ranked in the top 100 on ESPN, which is too high. Yahoo has him at a more reasonable 134. Russell continues to be a durability concern, but he is a good mid-round source of assists and scoring, which are typically the two most scarce categories as drafts progress out of the early rounds. He will smash his current projected Yahoo rank (126) if he can avoid significant injury.
Jaylen Nowell is the player to watch in Minnesota’s second unit. He shined in the summer league, showing the ability to score when given looks. Patrick Beverley provides top 200 production in 20-25 minutes, which is what he’ll likely see off the bench. He is a deep league consideration for those in need of non-scoring counting stats, to include blocks from the guard position. McLaughlin is an assists and steals streamer for deeper leagues.
Bottom Line: From a fantasy hoops perspective, this team is flying under the radar. KAT, Edwards, and Russell should all beat their current ranking projections on Yahoo and ESPN. Beasley and McDaniels belong on 12-team rosters, but are best left for the final rounds of drafts. As for the team’s real-world ambitions, there is speculation that the volume of young talent could propel the Wolves into the play-in tournament. I can at least confirm that Minnesota’s Scottish fan base has high hopes.