Most fictional dramas on television begin their seasons in September and end sometime in April or May.
The Timberwolves are a nonfictional drama that will air on television and run roughly over the same time frame, with media day happening Monday before the first official practice comes Tuesday.
Despite reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2004, the Wolves had an offseason filled with tension. That figures to spill over into at least the preseason, given Jimmy Butler’s trade request and the Wolves’ determination to oblige him.
Here are looming questions as camp opens.
1 How can the Wolves remake themselves on the fly?
Not all parts of this list of five are created equally. This is, in effect, a question as big as the rest of the others combined.
Butler’s trade request and impending departure changes their outlook, while Karl-Anthony Towns’ five-year contract extension reaffirms the Wolves’ shift to once again build around Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
How will that shift look on the court — and what could it mean for coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau, who might be coaching for his job?
2. Which Andrew Wiggins will show up?
Wiggins is entering the first year of the maximum contract he signed before last season began, but Butler’s arrival seemed to stunt Wiggins’ development. After averaging 23.6 points per game in 2016-17, Wiggins averaged 17.7 last season and saw decreases in his field-goal and three-point shooting percentages while shooting a career low from the free-throw line (64.3 percent).
But one of Wiggins’ best stretches on offense came when Butler missed 17 games because of a knee injury late in the season. Is Wiggins ready to assume a bigger role?
3. What will the second unit look like?
Thibodeau might have had to lean on the starters for so many minutes last year because his second unit didn’t play much defense. The bench’s 111.1 defensive rating per 100 possessions was the worst in the league.
Thibodeau is hoping first-round pick Josh Okogie and veteran signee Luol Deng might add some defensive prowess to the bench, while Anthony Tolliver might help space the floor and provide some needed three-point shooting. What does the presence of Derrick Rose mean for the minutes of Tyus Jones? Both point guards like to have the ball in their hands to be creative.
4. Will Thibodeau change his style?
This seems unlikely. Thibodeau has gotten to where he is by being who he is — a demanding coach who isn’t afraid to say what he thinks during a game. But is his style wearing on some of the Wolves’ younger players, especially Wiggins and Towns?
He’s yet to turn the Wolves into an elite defensive team, and that would become even more challenging without Butler.
5. Could the Wolves be better than last year — and still miss the playoffs?
It’s possible, considering the Wolves had 47 wins last season and needed the final game of the regular season to get in the playoffs. The Western Conference is loaded this season, with the Lakers getting LeBron James and no team except for the Spurs (Kawhi Leonard) losing any major pieces.
How many wins will it take to get to the playoffs in the West? In 2013-14, the No. 8 seed Mavericks were 49-33 and made it in by a game over the Suns. Perhaps that’s where the West is headed.