A polite way to describe this Timberwolves season, overall, is that it's been a lot of trial and error.
They've used 14 different players in their starting lineup, and the five-player combination that's been on the floor the most at the same time — the current starting five of Anthony Edwards, Josh Okogie, Jaden McDaniels, Ricky Rubio and Karl-Anthony Towns — has only spent 165 minutes of court time together.
All of that on-the-job chemistry creation, done for two different head coaches, has added up to a 20-45 record — an improvement on the 7-29 mark at the All-Star break but still among the NBA's worst.
By way of contrast: Utah's most-used five-player combination has spent almost 600 minutes on the floor together. And when those five poor souls aren't tasked with trying to beat the mighty Wolves (0-3 this season, somehow), they are pretty good (46-18 overall).
So for as much as these final weeks of the season have been about establishing some continuity between Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Edwards, they are also about figuring out who among those supporting players should be part of the mix next year and beyond.
Chris Hine and I talked about the players that might fuel future success on Tuesday's Daily Delivery podcast.
If you don't see the podcast player, click here to listen.
But let's take a more in-depth look at the 14 players who have started at least one game — plus Jaylen Nowell, who has logged 714 minutes but has not made a start — and put them into categories as we try to figure out how next year's roster might look.
I didn't plan it this way, but I came up with five categories that had three players each. Fun!
Karl-Anthony Towns: He's still the franchise. Give him some good players around him, playing in a system in which he can flourish, and look at the recent results.
Anthony Edwards: Averaging 23 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.6 steals since the All-Star break and has taken over games in dominant stretches. He's not even 20 yet.
D'Angelo Russell: His insistence on taking mid-range shots is maddening, and when his shot isn't falling he can be a liability. But there's not denying that he's a clever passer, a big-time scorer and a good running mate with Towns.
SUPPORTING PLAYERS WITH A DEFINITE ROLE
Jaden McDaniels: The "other" rookie looks like he could carve out a really nice career as a versatile defensive stopper and capable long-distance shooter. If he becomes even more than that, we might look back on the Wolves' 2020 draft someday with a certain reverence.
Josh Okogie: We know what he does well — on-ball defense on the perimeter and hustle. If we stop insisting that he becomes more than that, Okogie has a role. Oh, and let's not overlook this: While he's just a 27% career shooter from three-point range, he's 40% on threes from the left corner in his career. If those specific threes, plus tips and fast break layups are the only shots he ever shoots, I'm all for it.
Naz Reid: The undrafted second-year backup big man has serious offensive skill, to the point that he's averaging 21 points per 36 minutes. If he and Towns can play together — something Chris Finch has tried in recent weeks — he could see even more time.
CONTRIBUTORS BUT TRADE CANDIDATES
Ricky Rubio: He's the type of player who is better with good talent around him. Rubio looked miserable for the first two-thirds of the season, but he's at least provided value down the stretch. Whether that has merely given him more trade value as an expiring contract next season remains to be seen, particularly if the Wolves keep their 2021 draft pick and select a point guard.
Malik Beasley: Best pure three-point stroke from the wing on this team in a long time, but a suspect defender even though he hustles. Can the Wolves win with Beasley and Russell on the perimeter, or does their lack of defense and the emergence of Edwards make Beasley a candidate for an offseason trade?
Juancho Hernangomez: His value to the team has gone up considerably as he's found better chemistry with the second unit — and knocked down shots — in recent weeks. His contract is only guaranteed for one more season after this; I like him as a bench contributor, but he could also be a trade piece.
STILL UNDER CONSIDERATION
Jarred Vanderbilt: An impending restricted free agent whose minutes have been all over the map — from starting to not playing to now getting minutes off the bench. He can impact a game with his length, defense and rebounding, but does he do enough to stay next season — especially if another team inks him to even a modest offer sheet?
Jaylen Nowell: Had some big games off the bench when given the opportunity, but had cooled off (19.6% from three in his last 13 games before being knocked from the rotation with a bruised tibia). Still not sure if he has a meaningful role beyond depth on a good team.
Jordan McLaughlin: A capable third point guard, but is he more than that?
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
Jake Layman: A solid glue guy when things are going well, but he lacks a dominant skill.
Ed Davis: I really thought his toughness and veteran leadership would be critical points for this year's Wolves — so much so that I wrote that Davis could be the Wolves' most important new player this season. Whether he got caught up in a youth movement, didn't do enough with his early playing time, or both ... it's hard to envision Davis, a free agent, coming back next year.
Jarrett Culver: He's been shut down with an injury for the season, a disappointing but merciful end to his second season. The No. 6 overall pick in 2019 has yet to find consistent traction, and it's hard to see it happening in Minnesota.