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Wolves enter offseason with big questions that need answers

The Timberwolves have an extended offseason, but what will they do with it?
Karl-Anthony Towns

The NBA approved a return to play plan on Thursday as the league's board of governors agreed to a 22-team finale to the 2019-20 season that will be played in a "bubble" atmosphere at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.

Unfortunately, the Timberwolves were not invited, inducing a layoff that will leave them with plenty of time on their hands.

With a rumored Christmas Day start to the 2020-21 season, Wolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas will have ample time to evaluate the roster and plan his next move.

Which pending free agents will stay in Minnesota?

The Timberwolves' roster purge back in February signaled two things. First, it was an admission that not many people they had on the roster could run the system that Rosas wanted to implement in Minnesota. 

It also brought a pair of important free agents that will now have to be signed under a small sample size.

One of the pending free agents is Malik Beasley. While he just played in 14 games with the Wolves, he provided a major impact, averaging 20.7 points and shooting 47.2 percent from the floor, including 42.6 percent from three-point range.

A short-term explosion in a contract year basically summons every demon from Minnesota sports past (Hey, Trenton Hassel!), but Beasley seemed to fit seamlessly in the backcourt alongside D'Angelo Russell. That should make him a top priority.

The other free agent is Juan Hernangomez, who didn't have the explosion that Beasley had but still had a nice stint in Minnesota as he averaged 12.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

The good news for the Wolves is that both are restricted free agents and any offer can be matched. If the salary fits to help the Wolves make another move, there's a good chance both are on the team next season.

Do the Wolves have another big move up their sleeve?

The Timberwolves shocked everyone by pulling off a deal to land Russell in February, but the question is if the Wolves would like to turn their dynamic duo into a "Big 3."

The dream for most fans would be to somehow wrestle Devin Booker away from the Phoenix Suns to realize Russell's preseason prophecy, but the compensation needed would strip the team down to the studs outside of KAT and Russell.

With the emergence (and expected return) of Beasley, the Wolves might be better suited to look for a frontcourt partner for Towns, such as Orlando's Aaron Gordon.

Zone Coverage's Dane Moore made the case for Gordon as a versatile piece with defensive ability to place next to Towns, but a lot will depend on what the Wolves would have to give up to land a player to turn them from 19-win bottom feeder to a legitimate playoff contender.

Where will the Wolves finish in the NBA Lottery?

The good news for the Wolves is that the league decided to freeze the league's records as of the March shutdown, which means they'll be in great shape.

With the third-worst record in the league, Minnesota would be one of three teams along with Golden State and Cleveland with a 14 percent chance to land the top pick in the draft. On the flip side, the Wolves also have a 26 percent chance to finish sixth, per Hoops Rumors' draft chart.

The No. 1 pick is always a good thing to have, but for the Wolves it could mean trade bait rather than a player to use for the future. With this year's draft being a weaker class, having the top overall pick as a trade chip would be a plus, but would also still leave the Wolves with hurdles to clear.

One of those would be the Stepien Rule, which doesn't allow teams to trade first-round selections in back-to-back seasons. With the Timberwolves already dealing their 2021 first-round pick to acquire Russell from Golden State last year, they would need to work around that, but the rule only takes place for future drafts.

In simpler terms, the Wolves could make their selection and have an agreement in place and wait to announce the deal at the conclusion of the draft. This is how every NBA draft trade works, so it wouldn't be a major obstacle to work around it.

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