The Minnesota Timberwolves played their first game in over nine months on Saturday night as they opened their three-game preseason schedule against the Memphis Grizzlies.
While the Wolves lost the game 108-106, the score isn't important at this stage. Instead, the Wolves are still trying to figure out who they are on the court and what they could look like when the regular season tips off on Dec. 23 against the Detroit Pistons.
Jake Layman makes his case to start at power forward
Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders cautioned that any lineup decisions made in the preseason are not final, but with a new team at his disposal, the initial starting lineup was going to draw headlines.
Against the Grizzlies, Saunders rolled out Jake Layman as the starting four alongside Karl-Anthony Towns. For this game, that decision looked like it paid off with Layman collecting 10 points a pair of rebounds and leading all players with a +11 rating on the night.
The last stat may be what helps Layman stay in the starting lineup as Juancho Hernangomez and Ed Davis both finished with a -16 rating. Although he spent most of the 2019-20 season injured, Layman could be an important piece moving forward and at least fill a fluid spot in the frontcourt.
Ricky Rubio adds a spark off the bench
With Josh Okogie at the three and D'Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley in the backcourt, Ricky Rubio was the odd man out, subbing in within the first four minutes of the game.
While Rubio could be a sixth man for the Timberwolves, he could also be a chess piece depending on what Ryan Saunders wants to do with his lineup thanks to the spark he gives the Wolves offense.
Rubio put up nine points, five rebounds and two assists in 12 minutes and seemed at home playing in an up-tempo style, which could entice Saunders to use smaller lineups with Rubio and Russell in the same lineup.
Anthony Edwards isn't afraid to throw it up
One of the most intriguing pieces of the Timberwolves will be Edwards, who was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. While Edwards had plenty of questions heading into this season, it's clear that he has no problem being aggressive on the court.
Edwards played a team-high 26 minutes on Saturday and went right to work trying to get buckets. The overall line wasn't great as Edwards went 2-for-9 from the floor and committed five fouls on the defensive end. For a player that just turned 19 on Aug. 5, this is to be expected.
For now, you can see some of the reasons why the Timberwolves chose him over LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman. He's an explosive athlete and one that will eventually refine his shot selection when he realizes he has more talent around him now than what he had at Georgia.
Much like the rest of the team, Edwards will get better the more he's on the court with his teammates. Once that happens, the Wolves will be able to reap the benefits.
The Timberwolves need time to develop
Time is one of the things the Timberwolves don't have coming into this season. With NBA superstars in small markets resembling a ticking time bomb, the Wolves need to find a way to go from one of the worst teams in the NBA to playoff contenders this season or risk losing Towns.
The bad news is, time is exactly what this team needs to get there.
The Timberwolves weren't invited to the NBA bubble this past summer, meaning they sat around for nine months before playing a game. Even before that the Wolves shuffled their entire roster around and featured a core that had only played 14 games together before the league's COVID-forced shutdown. Going deeper, Towns and Russell had played in just one of those games.
Long story short, the Wolves need time to figure out how to play with each other on the court. This will be a tall task for Saunders, but one that should come together with the more games they play. If they can figure it out, there seems to be enough talent to at least contend for a playoff spot.