If there is one franchise in need of a positive unfurling to the 2021-22 season, it's the Minnesota Timberwolves, who followed another lost campaign with a shocking dose of offseason tumult.
After missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season and posting a losing record for the 15th time in 16 years, the Timberwolves fired their lead basketball executive, Gersson Rosas, just prior to the start of training camp. Perhaps excluding only the Sacramento Kings, the Timberwolves have become the NBA's picture of dysfunction and discord, and coach Chris Finch will enter his first full season on the bench trying to steer a long wayward ship on course.
The opportunity for a fast start is on the table for the Timberwolves, who will host the Houston Rockets in their season opener on Wednesday at Target Center. Including Houston, the Timberwolves will play seven of their first eight games at home, a soft landing to be sure.
"We haven't really parsed it out that way," Finch said when asked if the string of home games will prove beneficial. "We're just focused on getting off to a great start. We did earlier talk about the advantages of being at home but we haven't discussed it in a while. I think we'll look at that as it unfolds."
Minnesota has its core in place with center Karl-Anthony Towns and guards D'Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards, the top overall pick from the 2020 draft. The potential for significant growth might come defensively, where the Timberwolves ranked 28th in rating but, with the offseason additions of Patrick Beverley and Taurean Prince to Jaden McDaniels, Josh Okogie and Jarred Vanderbilt, have some pieces capable of elevating Minnesota up those rankings.
"I think it almost gives us an entire defensive lineup to go to," Finch said. "It could be useful in certain situations or even as a second unit. We have matchup luxuries if we want to. We have multiple guys that can guard different guys."
The Rockets initiated a full rebuild following the early-season trade of James Harden and are now taking their first steps with an exciting, albeit overwhelmingly youthful, roster. Houston is especially young in the backcourt and at wing, with second overall pick Jalen Green joining Kevin Porter Jr. as the guards of the immediate future. Green is 19 years old; Porter is 21.
Mix in second-year forward K.J. Martin (20) and rookie guard Josh Christopher (19) and the Rockets are certain to make as many dazzling plays as disruptive ones. How the Rockets coaching staff manages the mistakes on both ends of the court will define the outlook of their season.
"I see everything as correctable," Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. "We will watch the film and hopefully help as far as our spacing and our reads. But the more you see situations the better you get at them.
"We'll watch these and make sure that it's not anything structurally that we're not doing correctly, but also the individual film will be part of the process we're going through as far as helping each guy -- and it's not just the young guys, it's everybody -- play better."
--Field Level Media