Introducing Your 2022–2023 Minnesota Timberwolves
Predicting the roster moves of your favorite team from year to year can be an entertaining activity. It is part of the experience of being a fan. Looking ahead 2 years to accurately predict what an NBA team will look like can be downright impossible, but that is what makes it even more fun! Who among us Wolves fans would have been able to predict the transformation of the team from the 2018–19 season to this year? As a reminder of how quickly things can change, here is a list of the players who received minutes in the first game of the 18–19 season: Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Karl-Anthony Towns, Derrick Rose, Tyus Jones, Gorgui Dieng, and Anthony Tolliver. Only Towns remains from that rotation, and only Towns and Okogie remain on the team from the entire roster in that opening game. It has taken a whirlwind of transactions and draft picks from that time to get to where we are now, and it will take more maneuvering to improve the team by the time we reach the 2022–2023 season. Let’s have some fun by predicting what each position will look like and the pathways to getting there.
D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jordan McLaughlin, Jaylen Nowell
No huge surprise additions to the guard position, and one noticeable absence (to be explained). While some Wolves fans would like to see Russell included in a trade, it was necessary to keep him around as he continued to build chemistry with the star center, Karl-Anthony Towns. Russell comes into this season motivated as he is in the last year of his max contract, and is eyeing another big payday to stay with the up and coming Timberwolves.
Ant is now the unquestioned starting shooting guard entering his 3rd season, and appears to be headed for a star breakout season. After finishing the 21–22 season by taking a scoring leap (25pts/gm. over his last 20 games) he is ready to take on a larger role in the offense and contribute more on defense and rebounding. Ant is beginning to realize the superstar potential that was promised when he was drafted, and the 22–23 Wolves will be much better because of it.
JMac and Jaylen Nowell are holdovers from past seasons, but for opposite reasons. McLaughlin continues to steadily run the offense in a backup capacity showing the ability to play along side Russell, Edwards, Nowell, and the rest of the rotation players. Of course, he has maintained his “fan favorite” status, and is going into his 2nd straight season as the primary backup point guard. Jaylen Nowell enters his 4th season in the NBA and is now one of the league’s premier bench scoring guards. He is a classic microwave scorer in the mold of players like Jordan Clarkson and Caris Levert. After averaging 12pts/gm. and 18 mins/gm. in the 21–22 season, he should receive a larger role as a trusted option off the bench in the 22–23 season.
Ben Simmons, Jaden McDaniels, Josh Okogie, Robert Covington, Zach Collins
Now things are getting spicy! Ben Simmons is a noticeable and welcome addition to the roster. He heads into his 2nd season on the team after being acquired in the offseason of 2021 in a 3 team deal featuring the Wolves, Wizards, and 76ers. Bradley Beal was sent to the Sixers, Simmons to the Wolves, and Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Tyrese Maxey were sent to the Wizards along with 3 future 1st round picks and 2 pick swaps from the Wolves. Now that Simmons has had time to establish chemistry in the frontcourt with Towns, the duo heads into the 22–23 season as one of the most dynamic two-way big man pairings in the NBA. Simmons will simplify the defensive side of the ball for Towns by cleaning up the mistakes of others, and Towns will space out on offense to offer clean lanes to the rim for Ben. This match made in basketball heaven will truly start to maximize one another on and off the court.
Every Wolves fan’s favorite young Wolf, Jaden McDaniels, returns for his 3rd season in the NBA. He has finally filled out his frame compared to his rookie season, measuring 6’9″ and 215lbs. giving him the ability to defend bigger players while still having the foot speed to slide with perimeter players. Jaden is already developing a reputation as one of the more versatile defenders in the league, and in his 3rd season he is ready to take the same type of leap that defensive stoppers Jonathan Isaac and Mikal Bridges have taken in the past. Offensively he takes more of a tertiary role spotting up in the corners and attacking closeouts, but displays a higher level of playmaking and could be destined for a larger role in the future.
Josh Okogie is still around as the 2nd longest tenured Wolves player. He is beginning the 1st year of his 3yr. $24 million contract extension, and is eager to live up to the money being paid. His 3rd and 4th season in the NBA did not show the continued development that was promised on the offensive side of the ball, so he comes into the 22–23 season as a defensive specialist off the bench. His strength and ability to guard the point of attack is still a valuable commodity in the NBA, but for a team with high expectations he will need to find a niche on offense to earn more minutes.
The return of Robert Covington is the big news from the 2022 Timberwolves offseason. After two relatively forgettable seasons in Portland, “Glovington’s’ contract expired and he hit free agency. He found his market to be fairly depressed for a 31 year old forward, and decided he would have to take a mid-level exception contract that would pay him around $10 million annually. Coming off of a couple down years in Portland make this a bit of an overpay, but big and smart defensive wings who can shoot are still a valuable commodity in the NBA. Among several offers, he found the Wolves to be the most attractive because of the presence of his good friend, Karl-Anthony Towns, and their potential to be a contender. On paper, Covington is the perfect low-volume shooter on offense to play next to Towns, Simmons, Russell, and Edwards. He can also act as a “glue guy” on defense where he does not have to defend the toughest assignment but provides A+ help defense wherever it is needed. If his health and 3pt. shot holds up he will be an excellent fit on the 22–23 Wolves.
The final addition to the forward position is Zach Collins, who began his career in Portland. Collins was acquired in a sign and trade deal with the Blazers in the 2021 offseason for Jarrett Culver and a future 2nd round pick. After a relatively disappointing beginning to his career because of injuries, the Timberwolves took a flyer on a guy who fills a position of need for them and still has tantalizing potential as a power forward/center combo player. With the depth that the Wolves currently have at forward and center, Collins does not fit neatly into the rotation yet, but he is an excellent bench player to have in case of injuries to the big men.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Naz Reid
This center rotation is the envy of the rest of the NBA. Not only do the Wolves have one of the best centers in the league starting for them, but they also have a backup center in Reid who can play nearly the exact same type of system as Towns. They do not need to switch their offensive play calls or worry about who is playing along side each center, as they can essentially provide the same skillset, although Towns performs his craft at an All-NBA level.
Now with a fully loaded roster, Karl-Anthony Towns comes into the 22–23 season with guns blazing and no excuses. With his enormous center rivals Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic getting all of the love and attention for reviving the importance of big men in the NBA, KAT has a chip on his shoulder the size of the state of Minnesota to begin the year. He is ready to show the league that he can carry a good team, and he will have a fierce supporting cast to help him along.
Naz Reid enters the 22–23 season in the final year of one of the most team-friendly contracts in league history. As the most over-qualified backup center in the league, he will make only $1.9 million in this season. He is incredibly motivated to perform well and hit free agency ready to cash in. After the 21–22 season where he continued to show improvement in all areas of his game, he comes into the 22–23 season in the best shape of his life and should be a valuable asset to the Wolves bench unit.
PG: D’Angelo Russell, Jordan McLaughlin
SG: Anthony Edwards, Jaylen Nowell
F: Robert Covington, Josh Okogie
F: Ben Simmons, Jaden McDaniels, Zach Collins
C: Karl-Anthony Towns, Naz Reid
The rest of the roster will be filled out by minimum salaried veterans as well as 2nd round draft picks from the 2022 draft. The trade for Ben Simmons nearly cleared out the Wolves cupboard of draft picks. They had to move their 2022, 2024, and 2026 1st round picks and offer pick swaps in 2023 and 2025, so Washington essentially owns their draft future. One relief was a trade of Ricky Rubio in the 2021 offseason to the Chicago Bulls for a lottery protected 1st round pick in 2025 and salary filler. That leaves the Wolves with mostly 2nd round picks and 1 heavily protected 1st round pick to trade away if they wish to improve the team around the margins. They are now locked into a core of Karl-Anthony Towns, Ben Simmons, D’Angelo Russell, and Anthony Edwards moving forward. With Towns, Simmons, and Russell squarely in the middle of their career primes, the time is now to take this woebegone franchise to heights previously unseen.