After a terrible seven-game losing streak had Minnesota Timberwolves fans giving up on another lost season, the tides may be changing at Mayo Clinic Square. While things have been bad for a couple of weeks (more like decades), there was a time not that long ago, when this same team was 2-0 and getting people excited.
So, that’s where the winds of change need to begin.
KAT and Okogie Return
Karl-Anthony Towns returned from his 6-8 week injury in only two weeks. And while he didn’t deliver a win in his return, the Wolves did win the next night without him, as he rested for cautionary purposes.
There are a lot of unknowns that surround the Minnesota Timberwolves but we know one thing for sure. They’re much better when KAT is available. Minnesota is 2-1 with him in the lineup AND 3-1 when he’s been deemed healthy enough to play.
Let’s not let Karl’s return overshadow that of one Josh Okogie, who’s become the anchor of this team’s defense. Okogie sat out the night Towns returned and the Wolves lost in overtime to the Spurs, 125-122. KAT sat the next night and Okogie made his return. The Wolves won 96-88 against that same Spurs team (without DeRozan).
Okogie and Towns returning should and provide much needed sparks on both offense and defensive effort. That’s before we get into the upcoming schedule.
Josh Okogie’s team defense stood out to me vs. the Spurs last night.— Timberwolves Talk (@threesley) January 12, 2021
First, JO seamlessly switches with Ricky Rubio onto Patty Mills. Then, he makes a calculated risk to help out of the corner, leading to the highlight block.
I missed watching Josh play, and I’m glad he’s back. pic.twitter.com/yaT37jTBBC
The biggest difference in Karl-Anthony Towns’ defense this season is that he has slow down enough to see things happen before they happen.
Proactive vs reactive pic.twitter.com/aaaBkT4GYi— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) January 10, 2021
Timberwolves next five opponents:
- 1/13: Memphis Grizzlies (4-6)
- 1/15: Memphis Grizzlies (4-6)
- 1/18: @ Atlanta Hawks (5-5)
- 1/20: Orlando Magic (6-5)
- 1/22: Atlanta Hawks (5-5)
The Minnesota Timberwolves are 3-7 so a slate of games vs .500 opponents far from guarantees anything. Still, with Towns and Okogie returning to the lineup and ZERO back-to-back games during the 5-game window, the Wolves might be catching a scheduling break at the perfect time.
The Grizzlies, on the other hand, are without star point guard Ja Morant and Orlando doesn’t have Markelle Fultz. Atlanta has shown promise but the Wolves need to win one of those two games, if anyone is going to start seeing them as a possible expanded playoff team.
Win at least 3 of 5
If the Wolves don’t win at least three of these next five games then they’d might as well wave the white flag on the season. They aren’t playing the Lakers, Clippers or a variety of upper class teams in the East.
It’s time for D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Ryan Saunders to show this won’t be a wasted season. Prove to the fans that the process in Minnesota is working and we don’t have to cheer for another top three pick when lottery time rolls around.
If the season does start to turn around during this five game stretch, the Wolves could make some hay afterward. January ends with double-headers vs Golden State and Cleveland. February starts with a double-header vs OKC. Pinched in-between you have teams like New Orleans, Philly and Dallas.
But if these next five games don’t display a better Wolves team, then it might be time to surgically repair Towns’ wrist and enter tank mode. Rosas and Co. cannot afford to finish between 4-10 in the draft lottery or their pick goes to Golden State (from Andrew Wiggins trade).
So it’s time to start winning right now… or it’s time to pivot toward keeping our top-3 pick in what looks like a ridiculously-good draft class.
As would many Wolves fans and some league folks. But some league folks would rather, and I know in a couple cases, much rather have Wiggins + a very high draft pick. 2021 Draft is solid. If Wolves give up a pick in the 4-10 range, it's going to hurt.— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) January 12, 2021
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan