The offseason came with plenty of hype for the Minnesota Timberwolves as they looked to improve their roster with big name talent. After being linked to Ben Simmons, John Collins and Myles Turner, the fan base was buzzing about what big trade Gersson Rosas could pull off.
But when the smoke cleared, the Timberwolves were left with almost the same roster that finished 23-49 last season.
Although there's still a chance the Wolves could pull off a blockbuster for Simmons, it's appearing more likely that they'll need some of their young players to improve if they want to compete for a playoff spot next season.
While the 2020 draft was headlined by Anthony Edwards, the steal of the class may have been McDaniels. The Timberwolves selected McDaniels with the 27th overall pick that was part of the trade that brought Ricky Rubio to Minnesota.
Although McDaniels possessed phenomenal size and length, he fell in large part to his rawness as a prospect and his maturity during his lone season at Washington.
"All things considered, McDaniels is a very raw prospect who struggled a bit more than most expected him to as a freshman," McDaniels scouting report on NBADraft.net said. "While those intrigued by him will point to his rangy frame and potential skill-set on the perimeter as a face-up forward, his detractors will point to the inconsistency, inefficiency and number of puzzling decisions he made on the court with the ball in his hands as a freshman as cause for concern."
Those concerns didn't translate to the NBA as McDaniels averaged 6.8 points and 3.7 rebounds last season. His game took another leap during the NBA Summer League, averaging 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in Vegas.
McDaniels seemed a bit undersized at power forward but may have to play there after the Timberwolves made no notable moves to address the position. If McDaniels can improve his rebounding and become a reliable rim protector, the Timberwolves could have a key component going forward.
Russell is not the young player that needs to step up but his demise may have been greatly exaggerated. The 24-year-old struggled in his first season in Minnesota but also battled a knee injury that required surgery.
The good news is that Russell will have the chance to improve this season. The dynamic between Russell and Rubio never worked out because both players are better with the ball in their hands. With Rubio's trade to Cleveland, Russell should be the unquestioned starting point guard next season.
That should mean good things in Chris Finch's offense. During his introductory press conference last February, Finch praised Russell's ability to be a closer and his desire to use his "elite playmaking ability."
"He's able to get to wherever he wants to on the floor and get a shot off," Finch said. "That's a huge benefit in tight games down the stretch...He's an outstanding playmaker but I think there's even more in there."
Russell's tenure with the Timberwolves has been disappointing but it's far from over. If Russell can stay healthy for an entire season, he could be the facilitator the Timberwolves need at the point.
This is an obvious one but if the Timberwolves are going anywhere, they need Edwards to continue on his trajectory toward superstardom.
Edwards was everything the Timberwolves envisioned after being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft. Although he was gradually entered into the starting lineup, Edwards became one of the top rookies in the league with 19.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
Those numbers went up as Edwards settled in, posting 21.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists after becoming a starter on Jan. 29. Edwards hit another gear in the final weeks of the season, shooting 49.3 percent from the floor and averaging 24.8 points over Minnesota's last 12 games.
This is your friendly reminder that Edwards just turned 20 on Aug. 5. If Edwards can build off his strong finish, the Timberwolves will be better by default next season.
Why not Karl-Anthony Towns?
Towns is an obvious centerpiece for the Wolves, and so long as he can stay healthy the team knows that it's going to get an offensive-minded double-double machine on a nightly basis.
The bottom line is that KAT is a monster and all indications are that he's going to enter training camp next month in the best shape of his life. That's a bonus, and getting more out of him in terms of being able to suit up and avoid injury is a massive key to the team's potential success.
But Edwards is the obvious choice to become the player who can legitimately dominate from anywhere on the floor, thus making him the most valuable player on the team.