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Minnesota Timberwolves: 5 big questions for 2021-22 NBA season

Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA Season

The Minnesota Timberwolves are heading into the 2021-22 NBA season with a lot of optimism that they can finally take that next step and contend for a playoff spot at the very least. Their positive outlook stems from a revitalized training camp and a more promising look during preaseason.

The Timberwolves definitely have the personnel to make some noise next year. They are led by a superstar-caliber big man in Karl-Anthony Towns, a former All-Star in D’Angelo Russell, and a rising stud in 2020 no. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards. Adding Patrick Beverley in the offseason was huge as he reportedly helped inject energy and a defense-first mindset to this young group during camp.

After a weird offseason that saw the firing of general manager Gersson Rosas just before training camp, there is still good reason for Minny to be optimistic entering this campaign. But several things need to go right if the Timberwolves want any shot of making the playoffs, especially in the loaded Western Conference. With that said, here are five big questions for the Minnesota Timberwolves this 2021-22 NBA season.

5 Minnesota Timberwolves questions for the 2021-22 NBA season

5. Can Jaden McDaniels make a jump this season?

Jaden McDaniels had a pleasantly surprising rookie campaign that saw him eventually land the starting forward job by season’s end. McDaniels showed flashes of what he can do, but just not consistently, which should be a pass for a rookie like him. Nonetheless, he showed in bunches an ability to knock down the three at a decent enough rate and an ability to create and shoot off the dribble as well. A stringy 6-foot-9, 185-pounds, McDaniels also thrived as a perimeter and switchable defender.

The Timberwolves may have found a gem with this 21 year old. It may still take a while for McDaniels to truly reach his potential. But can he contribute in a major way for a Timberwolves team that has high aspirations this season? If McDaniels is able to elevate his game further in Year 2, the Minnesota Timberwolves should be a team to look out for.

4. Can Anthony Edwards take a leap, especially on defense?

Minnesota’s 2020 first overall pick Anthony Edwards had a stellar debut campaign that saw him finish as the runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting. Edwards struggled to begin his NBA career, but eventually picked things up after the All-Star break and gave Timberwolves fans something to be excited about as he heads into Year 2. Through the second half of the season, Edwards’ numbers jumped to 23.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists on 45.4 shooting after putting up subpar numbers in his first 36 games.

There’s no questioning Edwards’ abilities offensively. But the Minnesota Timberwolves would want the 6-foot-4, 225-pound guard to get better on the defensive end of the floor. Edwards is certainly capable of being a legitimate two-way star in the NBA as he could take advantage of his body and athleticism to become a menace on the defensive side.

Edwards, however, is still ways away from even being considered an average NBA defender. There have been question marks on his effort on that end of the floor. If he’s ever going to tap into becoming a premier two-way star, which should be in reach, he should fully commit himself to improving his awareness and energy on defense. Will he show signs of improvement this season?

3. Will D’Angelo Russell be able to return to his All-Star form?

After a breakout 2018-19 campaign with the Brooklyn Nets, D’Angelo Russell has struggled to regain the All-Star form he had three seasons ago. Russell has failed to duplicate the success from his lone All-Star season since going to Golden State and Minnesota. His struggles could be mainly attributed to his health as the 2015 no. 2 overall pick has appeared in just 87 of a possible 138 games over the last two season due to various injuries.

Through camp and preseason, Russell looked like he’s got that pep in his step back and is ready to bounce back from two injury-riddled campaigns. The former Ohio State definitely doesn’t lack confidence, so you just know he won’t be afraid to step up as one of the leaders of this team. There’s no doubting DLo’s talent and ability to be the main lead facilitator of an offense. Right now, it’s all about staying healthy.

2. Can Karl-Anthony Towns stay healthy?

Karl-Anthony Towns was an ironman through his first four NBA seasons. The 2015 1st overall pick played all 82 games from his rookie year to his third year and missed just five games in his fourth season. The past two years, however, have been plagued with injury and health issues for the former Kentucky center.

There’s no doubt when healthy that KAT is one of the premier offensive big men in the NBA. While there are still concerns on his defense, he more than makes up for it with his ability to dominate on the other side of the floor. Minnesota’s success this upcoming campaign is highly dependent on their star center’s availability. If he is able to stay healthy this year, the Minnesota Timberwolves will undoubtedly have a better chance of staying competitive.

1. Will the Minnesota Timberwolves defensive mindset in training camp show in the regular season?

Minnesota reportedly put a lot of emphasis on improving their defense and playing with a lot more intensity and energy on that end of the floor during training camp. Patrick Beverley’s arrival certainly helped them in that regard, especially after they had one of the worst defenses in the NBA this past season.

The Timberwolves finished third worst in defensive rating across the league, per NBA.com, and gave up 117.7 points per contest, which was the second worst in the NBA. Those atrocious defensive numbers simply won’t cut it in the Western Conference. If all the talk about defense that came out during camp is for real, Minnesota should be much better than they were last season.