We grade the Minnesota Timberwolves at the All-Star Break

This is not the report card we were hoping to see

Lindsey Peterson
February 14, 2020 - 4:16 pm
TImberwolves, Towns, Russell, Okogie, Hernangomez

© Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports


As we hit the midway point of the NBA season and the All-Star Break, this is a good time to examine what's happened and break down the current players.  And with the flurry of activity before the trade deadline, this is not a simple task in 2020.  

Here's our thoughts on what we've seen from each player as we prepare for what is hopefully a better second half.  

Also, this is a bit of an introduction to the new parts the Timberwolves got in trades.  With 2-3 games under their belts we have a better idea of how they fit. 

As an overall team grade, we're going with a C-.  Record-wise, it's probably more like a D or worse.  But we're going to give some extra credit for some bold trades, especially moving on from the disappointing Andrew Wiggins, and having to deal with more injuries than you'd like.  Coming into the year, we expected the Wolves to at least hang around the playoff race, and it started that way over the first month of the season.  Since December however, it's been a lot of L's and nowhere near enough W's.  

Now, let's break down the individuals, starting at the top with KAT. 

Karl-Anthony Towns (C-)
First, he's a unique, generational offensive talent.  He's averaging 26.5 points a game with almost 11 rebounds.  He's shooting a career-high 41% from 3-point range and over 50% overall.  He's ultra-efficient on the offensive end. 

His defense is not so good.  In fact, the Timberwolves defensive rating spikes when he's not on the floor.  That is not a good stat when this is your superstar.  

To take the next step and really lead this team to playoff contention, Towns has to improve defensively.  He's never going to be Tim Duncan, but he can't be a liability either.  Right now he's a liability and it's the number one reason he's not playing in the All-Star game.

Towns has been hurt more this season too.  A knee injury caused him to miss time, and now there's a wrist injury that we can only hope gets better after the break.  

KAT is an A on offense, and probably an F (if we're being harsh) on defense.  That's a C grade.  The team is also 16-37 and when you're the team's tentpole, it rests on your shoulders so we've added the minus.  

D'Angelo Russell (Incomplete)
DLO is getting an I because he's only played two games with the Wolves.  That said, the trade moving Wiggins to Golden State (and look out, because so far he's thrived with the Warriors) is still a good one.  That trade is a B+ because Russell fits better with Towns.  

RELATED: Timberwolves trade Andrew Wiggins to Golden State for Towns' buddy D'Angelo Russell. 

Russell scored 26 points on Wednesday vs. Charlotte with 11 assists.  The team lost again, blowing a big second half lead and that's a problem that has to get fixed.  He also put up 22 points in Toronto Monday in another loss.  

Once Russell gets more settled and gets more time with Towns, it feels like there is hope.  But for now, two games in and two losses, he gets an Incomplete.  

Josh Okogie (B-)
Okogie is  off the the NBA Rising Stars Challenge for the All-Star festivities, the second time he's played in that game.  In his second season, Okogie continues to be the best Timberwolves players on the defensive end.  He brings a lot of energy and consistently takes on the best perimiter defender.  

He's only scoring 8.6 a game though, and shooting a miserable 25% from 3-point.  The Wolves could really use his shooting to improve.  

B- for now, and if he can score more consistently Okogie could be a key piece.  We're not there yet.  

Jarrett Culver B-
Culver isn't setting the world on fire.  He's a rookie still trying to figure things out, and in fact has struggled mightily at times  His shooting as been pretty erratic at just 38%.  He's a tick better than Okogie from outside at 27%, but is scoring better at 9 points a game, mainly off the bench.  He's been a pretty decent defender, which was a strength coming out of Texas Tech.

Benefit of the doubt for a rookie who has shown flashes, he gets a B+.  He has to get stronger.  

Malik Beasley (A-)
So far, Beasley looks like the real deal.  

He came from Denver in the trade that sent Robert Covington to Houston (a four-team deal).  And he's been the best Timberwolves player since arriving.  He's played in three games, and has put up 28, 15, and 23 points.  He's hitting 37% from three, which is actually down from his career average of 38%.  That's only behind Towns on the team, by the way.  

This is exactly the type of player that can thrive playing off Towns' and Russell's pick-and-roll game once they're in the lineup together.  Look for the Wolves to try and keep Beasley past this year as well.  His rookie contract is up after this season.  It'll cost a bunch, but he looks worth it now.  

Juan Hernangómez (B)
He didn't get to show much in Denver, but has been solid since coming to the Wolves.  

There's something here.  He's got outside range.  Hit 2 of 4 3-point shots against Toronto.  Was only 1-7 against Charlotte Wednesday.  Bad shooting nights will happen, but he has that game, isn't afraid to pull the trigger, and he pulled down 12 rebounds so he contributes in other ways.

Hernangómez looks like a solid double-double threat each night with the shots he'll get thanks to Towns presence.  If he can be a consistent outside shooter, he's a keeper.  Juan gets a B.  

James Johnson (B+)
Coming in a trade with Miami for Gorgui Dieng, Johnson brings another shooter (38% from 3-point) plus a solid defender to the team, something they desperately need.  

Against Charlotte, Johnson had five points, five rebounds, five assists, three blocked shots and three steals.  That is exactly what this team needs.  Energy, defense and all-around solid play.  

This was an overlooked player in the flurry of trades.  Johnson brings veteran presence on a team chock-full of young players.  He has been on teams that won.  He's also under contract for next season.  B+ for a guy that stabilizes a team looking to find itself.  

Allen Crabbe (C)
Haven't seen much from Crabbe yet.  He only played 11 minutes against Charlotte with no points and two rebounds.  Had 8 points, hit two three-pointers in 16 minutes in Toronto.  

Crabbe is sort of buried in a mess of wing players.  Culver, Okogie, Beasley, and Johnson have all played more, and so far played better.  

There's still promise here if he can find a role.  TBD, so for now he gets a C.  

Jordan McLaughlin (B)
Out of nowhere thanks to the Jeff Teague trade, Jordan McLaughlin has gotten a chance and has had some success.  He'll be the backup to Russell the rest of the year (there's literally no other PG option), but when he got a start against the Clippers Saturday, McLaughlin had 24 points and 11 assists in 37 minutes.  

Even against the Hornets and Raptors as a backup, he had efficient moments leading the team and looks to be a contributor for now.  B grade, with a lot more to see before we know if he is a long term option.  

Naz Reid (B-)
Reid is another very young player getting his first NBA minutes.  Nothing is going to stand out.  There's no flashiness here.  But he's shown the ability to rebound and be a physical presence with his big frame, and has actually shown the ability to score some.

There's some promise there.  B- so far. 

 Jarred Vanderbilt (Incomplete) 
Another young project that came in the Covington trade.  He's played so little (5 minutes total) for the Timberwolves, we don't have a clue yet what to expect out of him.  

We may get some opportunities to see more of Vanderbilt down the stretch, but he's an Incomplete for now.

Jake Layman (Incomplete)
Would love to give Jake a decent grade, but he's played in 14 games after suffering a toe injury early in the season.  Rumor has it, he'll be back after the All-Star Break.

Before he was hurt, he was hitting 35% from 3-point, 46% overall, and scoring a very respectable 10.5 points off the bench.  Get healthy, and we're talking about a solid contributor.  For now, he hasn't played enough.

Kelan Martin (C)
Another rookie (sensing a trend here?) that hasn't played much.  It's a C for now, just because there is talent there but without playing time, no clue how it works with this team.  He should probably be playing in Iowa with the G-League team.  

The Rest (Incomplete)
There's a potpourri section here for the Timberwolves that we can rifle through.

Jaylen Nowell was the Wolves' second round draft pick in 2019.  Has barely seen the floor but was a prolific scorer in college.  Needs time in the G-League to develop in a crowded field of wing players.    

Then there's Jacob Evans, Evan Turner and Omari Spellman, who all came over in trades.  Turner won't play.  He'll eventually be a salary cut.  The other two have yet to play so time will tell.  No grades for now.   

Ryan Saunders (D+)
This is a tough one.  The record isn't good.  It stinks, really.  But, injuries, a ton of trades/new players, hasn't made Saunders' job easy.  This is a full rebuild with only two players left on the roster since May.  Yikes.

But.  This is the NBA and you have to figure out ways to win.  There was a semi-promising start then the wheels came off.  Saunders will get time to prove he can coach this bunch, and there is still a lot of roster work he and Gersson Rosas need to do.  It's been hard, but it's a D+ for now.  With a lot of new pieces, there is hope that by the end of the season, we can bring that grade up.  

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