Since the Minnesota Timberwolves traded for D'Angelo Russell during the 2019-20 trade window, Karl-Anthony Towns and Russell, the top two picks in the 2015 NBA Draft, have only played five games together. That number will not be increasing anytime soon.
Towns missed six games in the first month of this season with a wrist injury and was recently sidelined for three weeks after testing positive with COVID-19.
Just when the Minnesota Timberwolves appeared to be turning their year around, D'Angelo Russell announced that we would miss the next 4-6 weeks due to a left knee injury that he is getting surgery on.
With all that said, there is still light at the end of the tunnel. Amid the abundance of injuries, the Timberwolves have been able to better develop their younger players. They are the youngest team in the NBA, with an average age of 24, and are constantly experimenting with new rotations and lineups to improve players like Malik Beasley and the 2020 first overall pick, Anthony Edwards.
Grading the Minnesota Timberwolves starters as we approach the halfway mark in the 2020-21 season
Let us take a look at how the Minnesota Timberwolves roster has performed so far this season. For the purposes of this article, we have taken those that are averaging more than five minutes per game and have played at least seven games.
Karl-Anthony Towns: B+
2020-21 Season Record - MPG: 33.1 PPG: 21.8 AST: 3.3 REB: 10.6 FG%: 50.7
In 2016, Karl-Anthony Towns was voted by most NBA GMs as the player they wanted to start an NBA franchise around, beating out LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Towns is yet to reach his potential and is likely not the centerpiece of a championship team. He may first need to become a sidekick to an MVP-caliber player, just like Anthony Davis is to LeBron.
Towns has made only nine appearances for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season, and the team is 3-6 in those games. Although his play has not resulted in wins, he is having a phenomenal shooting season. He is shooting 50.7% from the field, 42.9% from three and 93% from the free-throw line.
D'Angelo Russell: B
2020-21 Season Record - MPG: 29.2 PPG: 19.3 AST: 5.1 REB: 2.6 FG%: 42.6
D'Angelo Russell is a ball-dominant guard who can provide scoring from anywhere on the court. However, the effort he puts in on the offensive side of the floor does not translate on the other end. Russell has a -1.8 defensive box plus/minus score, according to basketball-reference.com.
To be fair to Russell, his lack of defense may be connected to his nagging knee injury.
Anthony Edwards: B+
2020-21 Season Record - MPG: 28.2 PPG: 14.6 AST: 2.4 REB: 3.7 FG%: 38.3
Anthony Edwards has managed to live up to the pressure of being the number one draft pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Since becoming a starter, the 19-year-old is averaging 17.6 points and 4.9 rebounds on 43.8% shooting, via NBA Fantasy:
Edwards's game is currently very one-dimensional. As a guard, he will need to improve his playmaking ability to take the next step in his NBA career.
Malik Beasley: A
2020-21 Season Record - MPG: 32.8 PPG: 20.9 AST: 2.6 REB: 5.0 FG%: 45.5
Malik Beasley is in contention for this year's Most Improved Player Award. He is averaging a career-high in points, rebounds and assists this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Beasley's presence on offense opens up the floor for everyone on the court. When he is in the game, the Minnesota Timberwolves see an 11% increase in their effective field goal rating.
Jarred Vanderbilt: B+
2020-21 Season Record - MPG: 19.1 PPG: 6.0 AST: 1.7 REB: 6.0 FG%: 60.2
Jarred Vanderbilt has been in and out of the starting lineup this season. He does not produce many stats on the offensive end, but he provides a necessary defensive presence for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Vanderbilt's 7'1" wingspan allows him to deflect passes and clog the lane. According to Cleaningtheglass.com, he ranks in the 97th percentile in steal rate for his position.
Grading the Minnesota Timberwolves supporting cast as we approach the halfway mark in the 2020-21 season
Ricky Rubio: B+
2020-21 Season Record - MPG: 25.1 PPG: 7.2 AST: 6.5 REB: 3.4 FG%: 37.0
Ricky Rubio will now become a consistent starter due to D'Angelo Russell's absence. He has seen a drop in scoring this season, but his playmaking and veteran leadership have been essential for his young teammates.
When Rubio is in the game for the Minnesota Timberwolves, they score 2.3 more points per 100 possessions, via Andy Bailey:
Naz Reid: A
2020-21 Season Record - MPG: 21.5 PPG: 12.5 AST: 1.3 REB: 4.9 FG%: 52.4
Naz Reid has shown great development in his second year as a professional. Reid is the reserve for Karl-Anthony Towns and really stepped it up when Towns was battling with COVID-19. During that eleven-game stretch, Reid averaged 14.4 points and 5.9 rebounds.
His impressive performance has left head coach Sam Mitchell figuring out lineups that have both Reid and Towns on the court.
Jaden McDaniels: B+
2020-21 Season Record - MPG: 18.7 PPG: 5.4 AST: 1.0 REB: 3.3 FG%: 39.8
Jaden McDaniels was number 28 in this year's NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. He is an incredibly raw talent that has shown flashes of brilliance on both sides of the floor.
McDaniels is currently shooting 46% on corner threes and ranks second in the league for block rate at 3.3% via cleaningtheglass.com.
The biggest area of improvement for the rookie is his fouling. He ranks the worst among forwards with a foul rate of 6.3%.
Jordan McLaughlin: C+
2020-21 Season Record - MPG: 18.2 PPG: 5.3 AST: 4.6 REB: 2.2 FG%: 39.4
Jordan McLaughlin was recently pulled back from the NBA G League bubble to become the Minnesota Timberwolves' reserve point guard behind Ricky Rubio.
McLaughlin has been a steady piece in the Minnesota Timberwolves' second unit. He has formed great chemistry with Naz Reid. Here is what Reid had to say about the connection they formed on the court:
"We have a tremendous chemistry. I know he's always going to get me the shot or whoever's open."
Josh Okogie: C
2020-21 Season Record - MPG: 20.3 PPG: 5.0 AST: 1.2 REB: 2.6 FG%: 34.5
Josh Okogie has been a disappointment for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season. He was a starter in the first 15 out of 16 games for the Timberwolves but was moved to the second unit due to his lack of production.
Okogie will need to become a better scorer if he wants another chance as a starter in the NBA.
Ed Davis: C
2020-21 Season Record - MPG: 13.9 PPG: 2.3 AST: 1.0 REB: 5.1 FG%: 41.9
Ed Davis earned consistent minutes for the Minnesota Timberwolves early in the season. However, due to his lack of influence on the game, he has been moved to the third option in the frontcourt.
Davis has not even touched the floor in the last five games. Coach Mitchell seems to be moving in a direction where he wants to focus on developing his younger players. Unfortunately for Davis, that does not apply to him.
Remaining Minnesota Timberwolves: N/A
The rest of the players on the Minnesota Timberwolves' roster have played insufficient minutes to warrant a realistic grade.