With Anthony Edwards making his first all-star appearance a week ago, it is becoming clear that Edwards is already the face of the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise at just 21 years old.
The Timberwolves traded popular guard D’Angelo Russell just before the trade deadline, and star big man Karl Anthony-Towns has not appeared in a game since November due to a lingering calf injury. The team is still in position for a playoff spot with a 31-30 record, but questions linger and time is running out for the players to build the chemistry required for postseason success.
In exchange for Russell, the Timberwolves picked up veteran point guard Mike Conley Jr. The 35-year-old veteran is a true floor general, but replacing the scoring Russell provided will be a challenge. Towns is expected to return in the coming weeks, and he will not have much time to get back up to speed with the playoffs fast approaching.
The lack of production from center Rudy Gobert is also concerning, especially considering all the draft capital the team parted with in order to land Gobert. Jaden McDaniels has opened eyes with the season he is having, quickly becoming the most versatile defender on the roster.
On paper the Timberwolves roster looks very competitive, but the games are not played on paper. When you watch them play, the team continuously has stretches where the players don’t appear to be playing with any cohesion. The talent is there, but the lack of consistency has plagued the team all season.
With only 21 games remaining, there seems to be more questions than answers at this point. Edwards has been one of the few players that has been a constant in the rotation, appearing in all 61 games so far this season. Despite his young age, he has been asked to shoulder the scoring load with Towns not being on the floor. It is a lot to ask of a player so young, but Edwards will need to improve as a closer if the Timberwolves want to make any noise in the Western Conference playoffs.
With Conley Jr. new to the lineup, and the impending return of Towns, it will be fascinating to see how all the moving parts fit together as the season winds down. Head coach Chris Finch will be tasked with making it all work, or he could potentially be looking for a new job himself if things don’t turn around. The new ownership group of Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez are progressively gaining more control of the franchise, and they want to win sooner than later.
First-year general manager Tim Connelly is also under scrutiny, mainly due to making the Gobert trade, which to this point has not worked out well for the team. The Timberwolves have been able to hang around .500 and are currently the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. The playoffs are in their sights if the team can find ways to win games down the stretch. With the Western Conference having 13 teams with legitimate opportunities to land one of the 10 playoffs spots, the Timberwolves will have to figure things out quickly or they could miss the postseason all together. On the flip side, the team is only three games behind Sacramento, which currently holds the No. 3 seed in the west. The Timberwolves have a great opportunity to make a run, but it’s hard to get overly excited with so many questions still needing to be answered.
With so many moving parts taking place all at once, is 21 games enough time for the team to find its identity?
Mike Harley is a sports writer for the County News Review.
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