Few who follow sports will forget what happened the night of March 11, when Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus, prompting the NBA to postpone its season until late July.
The night before that, the Wolves played their final game of the season in Houston and will play a game that counts for the first time since then on Dec. 23 when the Pistons will visit a fanless Target Center.
On Sunday, the Wolves will open training camp under these abnormal circumstances and try to find chemistry among a group that has undergone several changes in the hectic draft/free agency period of the last month. Here are some story lines to watch through the preseason:
Where will Anthony Edwards fit in?
Will he start or come off the bench? If you assume that Ricky Rubio and D’Angelo Russell are going to start — and the Wolves didn’t just hand a four-year, $60 million deal to Malik Beasley so he can come off the bench — it doesn’t leave much room for Edwards in the starting lineup. Don’t be surprised if Edwards starts the season on the bench, especially since the Wolves haven’t been able to indoctrinate him into their systems over the course of a normal offseason. By the time the ball tips on opening night, Edwards will have been a member of the Wolves for only a little more than a month.
What about the surplus of wings?
Along those lines, the Wolves are well-stocked when it comes to the two and three positions. Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver join Beasley and Edwards in that position group, though the Wolves have said Edwards could guard the four. There might not be enough minutes to go around early to keep everyone happy. Injuries could solve some of those playing-time issues, but Culver’s development in Year 2 will be closely watched. Can he improve his shooting, specifically his 46% clip from the free-throw line?
Who starts at power forward?
The Wolves are a little thin at his position. They just gave a new contract to Juancho Hernangomez for three years and $21 million. Hernangomez might be in the lineup to start the season, but the Wolves also brought in veteran Ed Davis, who can help anchor the defense. Jake Layman might also play at that spot. Or will the Wolves play small ball and go with one of their surplus of wings at that spot?
How will Russell and Rubio mesh?
Both seemed excited at the prospect of playing with the other when they met with the media this week. Russell, especially, said he hopes Rubio will be able to occupy some of the defense’s attention in late-game situations. Rubio can help set up Russell, who is also capable of playing off the ball, and help set the table for Karl-Anthony Towns. They’ll likely see significant time playing together; the Wolves are not shying away from having two ballhandlers on the floor at a time.
What is the defense going to look like?
The offensive potential is there for the Wolves, but just what is the defense going to look like? New faces and the lack of an offseason mean the Wolves may have to start near the beginning of associate head coach David Vanterpool’s system. The Wolves were 20th in defensive efficiency last season. Can Towns and Russell take steps forward in that department so the Wolves will at least be average?