The Minnesota Timberwolves endured a pulsating victory in last year’s NBA play-in tournament before succumbing to the Memphis Grizzlies in six games of the first round. Despite the loss, there were pleasing performances that indicated a bright future in Minnesota, such as the emergence of Anthony Edwards as a cornerstone. However, there were glaring weaknesses as well, such as the rim protection of Karl Anthony-Towns, so the Timberwolves’ front office executed a massive trade to partner Towns with Rudy Gobert.
Unfortunately, the 2022-23 season has been a disaster so far for Minnesota. Towns has been out for a while with an injury, while Gobert has been a shell of himself. The Timberwolves dropped to 16-21 with a truly embarrassing loss to the lowly Detroit Pistons on New Year’s Eve, a defeat that just so happened to be their sixth straight. There was a players-only meeting after the loss to address the rampant problems on the roster.
It’s abundantly clear Minnesota must make some big changes to salvage this season. Here’s what the Timberwolves must do, including a big coaching decision and a trade.
Fire Chris Finch
The Timberwolves hired Chris Finch away from the Toronto Raptors in early 2021 after firing Ryan Saunders. While Finch got Minnesota through the play-in tournament and into the playoffs last season, there were some questionable choices when the Grizzlies were coming back in both Game 4 and Game 5.
Given how this season has started and the lack of effort at times, the Timberwolves must think long and hard about their head coach. You could argue this loss to the Pistons should be the last straw for Finch, even with Towns still sidelined. There are terrific candidates out there who might be able to get more out of the star players on this roster. In reality, it’s time to make a change.
Trade D’Angelo Russell
It was never ideal to pair D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards because they are two ball-dominant guards who have trouble thriving when they do not have the ball in their hands. It has been very evident that Russell stands around in the corner on many possessions when Edwards is initiating the offense, so it’s a better fit if they add a bigger wing who can catch and shoot and play tremendous defense as well.
The problem with trading Russell to any team is he is on an expiring deal, which diminishes his value. While he has bounced back from an awful start to the season, there are clear flaws in his game and the fit just isn’t great. The Timberwolves don’t want to lose him for nothing, but they probably don’t want to pay him big bucks either. The dilemma is very tough now with Minnesota, but it seems paramount that moving Russell is an utmost priority.
Fix rotations to maximize the strengths of stars
The change that is the most realistic to do internally is to experiment and find ways to tinker with the rotations and maximize the strengths of their players. With KAT still out because of a calf injury, it is disappointing to still see Rudy Gobert still struggle to find his touch both on offense and defense. There are too many times when he cannot take advantage of obvious mismatches down low against smaller defenders, and his defense hasn’t been on point either.
There have been improvements with Edwards throwing him a couple of lobs in some instances, but that’s not enough for someone being paid an average of $41 million annually. Finch, or a new coach if he’s indeed fired, may look back at the drawing board and figure out how Gobert was delivering easy buckets with the Jazz. For the Russell and Edwards pairing, if there’s no trade, the coach can try to make Russell come off the bench and play a similar role as Russell Westbrook with the Los Angeles Lakers.