NBA Future Power Rankings: 3. Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns was the 1st pick of his draft, so it’s no surprise that he is among the NBA’s elite. What’s amazing is that it didn’t even take him a full season before he reached an All-Star level. Short of a major injury there is no question that Towns will be among the top-10 players in the league within the next few seasons. Due to having three more seasons on his rookie deal, being slightly younger, and having a relatively clean bill of health, I would say that Towns slightly edges out Anthony Davis for the player that I believe has the highest individual trade value in the NBA. In other words there is not a single player in the NBA that I would trade Towns straight up for. His presence alone nearly guarantees a spot in the top half of these rankings, but the T-Wolves have much more than just Towns. Towns was the 1st overall pick and Rookie of the Year last season, but the Timberwolves also have Andrew Wiggins who was the 1st pick and rookie of the year two seasons ago. Wiggins is already a 20 PPG scorer despite being just 21 years old and not being able to shoot. Wiggins is one of the most athletic prospects to ever come into the NBA and has as high a ceiling as any player in the league. Wiggins isn’t necessarily a poor defender, but with his physical abilities, he should be able to develop into one of the top defenders in the association. Most teams would be happy building around Wiggins as their centerpiece. Minnesota probably has most teams jealous that they are able to build with Wiggins as their 2nd guy to Towns. Alongside Towns and Wiggins in the frontcourt, Minnesota will start Gorgui Dieng. The 26-year-old Dieng is one of the more underrated young big men in the league. He can play both center and power forward and plays both ends of the court well. Dieng won’t be confused with an outside shooter, but he is a good enough mid-range shooter to avoid clogging the lane. The Wolves should make re-signing Dieng a priority when he is a restricted free agent next season. Behind Wiggins, Dieng, and Towns, the Timberwolves will bring back Nemanja Bjelica, Shabazz Muhammad, Adreian Payne, Nikola Pekovic, and Kevin Garnett. Bjelica provides much needed shooting to a team deprived of outside shooters, while the 23-year-old Muhammad is one of the premier bench scorers from the perimeter and has shown flashes of developing into a really good player. Minnesota traded a lottery protected 2018 1st round pick to the Hawks to acquire Payne, who has thus far been a disappointment. Payne was a stud during his 4-year tenure at Michigan St. and appeared to be one of the more pro ready players of his draft class. Two seasons into his career, Payne has failed to make any significant contributions. After being touted as a stretch big that could play the 4 or the 5, Payne has struggled to stay on the floor. He doesn’t seem athletic enough to make an impact defensively, and he has struggled with the longer NBA 3pt line. This will be a big season for Payne to turn his career trajectory around. KG and Pekovic can’t be counted on to provide anything going forward. No disrespect to Garnett and his incredible career, but the tank appears to be empty for the future hall of famer. Pekovic’s slide from one of the better starting centers to a complete non-factor has been a sad and unfortunate development. Over the past 3 seasons Pekovic has missed 139 of the Wolves 246 contests due to injury. Pekovic was averaging 17 points and 9 boards a game as one of the most physically intimidating players in the NBA. Now Pekovic is 30 years old and can’t stay on the court. Pekovic is still owed $23.7 Million over the next two seasons, but Minnesota appears to have no confidence in his recovery given their offseason signings. This free agency Minnesota added Cole Aldrich (3-years $17 Million) as a solid backup for Towns, Jordan Hill (2-years $8 Million) to provide a scoring threat from the post to their bench, and Brandon Rush (1-year $3.5 Million) to add another shooter. In the backcourt, Minnesota’s rotation will consist of Ricky Rubio, Zach Lavine, Tyus Jones, and the 5th pick of this year’s draft Kris Dunn. Rubio is a very good player, but Minnesota should look to deal him. In Dunn, they now have their starting point guard of the future, and Jones looks more than ready to back him up after winning the summer league MVP award. Dunn was a great all-around player at Providence and managed to improve his shooting greatly over his college career. It will be no surprise if Dunn is among the top defensive point guards in the game as soon as his rookie season. Rubio is just 25 years old and he should be an attractive option to any point guard needy teams despite his injury history. Rubio doesn’t fit with the Timberwolves because he and Wiggins are simply to poor of outside shooters to play major minutes with each other. Rubio is under a fair contract for a starting point guard, and has many attractive attributes to his game. He is one of the best rebounders for his position, sees the floor as well as any player in the game, and is an underrated defender with his great size and quick hands. The Wolves should look to acquire an elite outside shooter for Rubio. Along with Wiggins, Lavine can be argued as the top athlete amongst the new crop of NBA talent. Lavine is more than just dunker; he is a promising secondary ball-handler/playmaker, and has quickly turned himself into a proficient outside shooter. Minnesota needs another year or two of development from its younger players as well as an additional shooter or two, but most of the pieces are in place for Minnesota to take over the league.