The 2021 Minnesota Timberwolves: A Living Worst-Case Scenario

Remember the lead-up to the 2020 NBA draft, when people were openly questioning whether Anthony Edwards had the makeup mentally to be a contributor to a pro team and whether he cared enough about the game to be any good?

Or remember the many, many times stat nerds with media mouthpieces pointed out that Ricky Rubio is one of the worst-shooting point guards of the past 40 years?

Or maybe the chorus of voices who looked at his time with Andrew Wiggins as his best teammate as a sign that the career of Karl-Anthony Towns was going nowhere fast?

Or the people who looked at the early career of Josh Okogie and concluded that whatever his potential merits defensively, he simply can’t shoot for beans?

Well, all of those problems and more have manifested in a festival of suckage that has the Minnesota Timberwolves 7-29 and looking like the worst team to infect the NBA with their rot since at least the “Process”-era Philadelphia 76ers or the Los Angeles Lakers during Kobe Bryant‘s farewell tour.

Towns saw his family devastated by the coronavirus before himself missing 13 games with a case of COVID-19 of his own.

Edwards is shooting just 37.1 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from long range, is putting up negative Win Shares, and if he doesn’t shape up and figure out how to play professional basketball real quick, looks to have a floor that’s more like a basement, joining the likes of Anthony Bennett, Michael Olowokandi, and LaRue Martin on the all-time list of worst first-overall picks ever.

Okogie is shooting even worse; his True Shooting of .451 is below even Edwards’ .466, as the 22-year-old is posting 35.1 percent shooting overall and a cover-your-eyes 21.8 percent (12-of-55) from 3-point land.

Rubio is doing Rubio things, shooting 39.0 percent overall and 32.9 percent from three.

The team as a whole is 29th in Offensive Rating, 25th on defense, and has the worst Net Rating (minus-8.9) in the entire league. Their 7-29 record prorates to 16-66 over 82 games, which would indeed be worse than Kobe’s final year (the Lakers went 17-65) and the worst record by a team other than the Sixers since…well, the Minnesota Timberwolves, who went 16-66 in 2014-15 and got the right to draft Towns as a result.

In fact, Minnesota has finished with a winning percentage under .200 three times in franchise history—if they go 14-58 or worse over 72 games this season, this will be their fourth. That’s three more times than they’ve made it out of the first round of the playoffs, and speaking of the playoffs, that’s something they’ve made only once since Kevin Garnett left, and they had to win a game on the last day of the season in 2018 to get there.

Since 2010, the Timberwolves have been the worst team in the Northwest Division 10 out of 12 seasons including the current one.

Back when people still were allowed to go to basketball games before the plague started, the Timberwolves ranked at or near the bottom in attendance at Target Center, Minnesotans having better things to do than find parking in a frozen winter hellscape to watch a garbage basketball team play.

Normally, this causes the chirping media set, especially in the Pacific Northwest, to snarkily call for the team to move to Seattle, but speaking as a resident of the Emerald City, we don’t want ’em. The Sonics got run out of town because they couldn’t draw flies after the Gary Payton/Shawn Kemp era ended and the team was hot garbage in the early- to mid-aughts.

Sending us the Wolves isn’t going to excite anyone when we could all just watch hockey instead.

The Wolves can’t shoot. They can’t play defense. With Towns sidelined with the coronavirus, the team has dropped to 29th in defensive rebound percentage.

Edwards has minus-0.8 VORP, worse than Andrew Wiggins’ worst season in Minnesota (minus-0.6 in 2019, when his trash play wore on the nerves of Jimmy Butler enough that Butler forced his way to Philadelphia and then to Miami, thence to make the Finals.)

Okogie’s at minus-0.5 VORP, on pace to surpass the worst season of one of the worst players of all-time relative to his salary.

The sole saving grace of this Wolves squad is that Rubio and Ed Davis are the only players on the team older than 26—Jake Layman is the third-oldest player on the team.

But what good is youth if none of those kids can play?

13 different players have started games for Minnesota this year. Two of them—Edwards and Jarrett Culver—have negative Win Shares.

Two more—Okogie and Jaden McDaniels—have .005 and .008 WS/48 respectively.

Jared Vanderbilt leads this team in Win Shares with 1.7. Towns is the leader in WS/48 but has only posted .142, weak for a big man and a far cry from his .204 last year and .194 for his career.

Weird things are going to happen as the NBA navigates its way through a full season before wide vaccine availability and a return to some kind of normalcy in the world makes the league an apples-to-apples comparison with its own history (hopefully) next year.

But even by the standards of weird seasons—lockout seasons, pandemic seasons, seasons by teams with guys who’d be out of the league except they’re on farewell-tour contracts, teams that were hot garbage on purpose because tanking hadn’t been curtailed yet—the Timberwolves are historically awful.

Well, except by their own standards, because it seems like the one thing Minnesota has done best in their 30 years in the league has been to occupy the cellar with the tenacity of a fighter defending a trench in World War I.

Gods help this forsaken franchise, because fans have suffered long enough.