Timberwolves depth chart breakdown: How pieces fit, contingency plans, primary concerns

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ offseason discourse has been dominated by the controversy concerning the Rudy Gobert commerce, a polarizing deal that may make for probably the most compelling watches within the league this season.

Misplaced in the entire examinations of how two facilities will play collectively is among the deeper groups that may take the ground at Goal Heart in a while. They gave up 5 gamers within the commerce with Utah, however the brand new president of basketball operations Tim Connelly made strikes earlier than and after his massive swing to attempt to replenish the reserves. He added Kyle Anderson, Bryn Forbes and Austin Rivers in free company. He additionally signed Eric Paschall to a two-way deal and introduced in some intriguing competitors for coaching camp in former school participant of the yr Luka Garza and C.J. Elleby, who began 28 video games for Portland final season.

As presently constructed, the largest considerations will seemingly be a scarcity of knockdown shooters and valuable few lead ballhandlers. That can require a number of gamers on the roster to increase their video games from what now we have seen so far.

With coaching camp per week away, it’s time to take a look at the Timberwolves depth chart and see how all these items will match collectively.

Level guards

Gamers: D’Angelo Russell, Jordan McLaughlin

The thin: That is by far the thinnest place on the Timberwolves roster. Russell and McLaughlin are the one true level guards on the staff, which is why it wouldn’t be a shock to see Connelly herald yet another physique on the place for coaching camp and the preseason.

The starter: Russell is coming into a vital season and could be the largest X-factor for the whole staff. He has one yr left on his contract. A giant season, very like the common season he had in 2021-22, would put him in line for one more large payday from the Wolves or one other staff. If he struggles, as he did within the playoffs towards Memphis, he could discover a more durable time getting a fifth staff to belief him with long-term cash. Phrase across the staff is that Russell has been absolutely engaged and upbeat all summer time lengthy. He’s inspired by the addition of Gobert to assist him within the pick-and-roll sport and has been impressively zen in the best way he has considered his contract state of affairs. Russell is one in every of many Wolves already on the town understanding forward of camp opening, which is an effective signal that he’s getting into this season motivated and centered.

In some ways, he could have essentially the most tough job on the staff. He has to steadiness getting the numerous hungry mouths ate up offense whereas additionally selecting and selecting the best time to search for his shot. He’s coming off his greatest passing season as a professional, when he averaged a profession excessive in assists and was a magician working the give-and-go with McLaughlin, specifically. Having a real roll man in Gobert ought to be a profit, however the Wolves additionally want Russell to remain wholesome. He has missed not less than 17 video games in 5 of his seven seasons.

Bench: McLaughlin is undersized, however he endeared himself to educate Chris Finch final season along with his means to select up the tempo when he was on the ground and get his teammates open pictures. He’s a fighter, a never-back-down kind who may give his defenders a false sense of safety along with his slight body solely to blow by them within the half courtroom. Finch loves the competitiveness and the power to run the offense, which is why he went to McLaughlin late in Recreation 6 towards Memphis over Russell. In addition to he did play for large stretches final season, he’s nonetheless extensively considered as a strong backup and never a starter on an excellent staff. Nothing flawed with that. He additionally has proven the power to play with Russell in the identical backcourt, giving Finch some flexibility towards smaller opponents.

Contingencies: Connelly didn’t give arduous pursuit to every other true level guards out there earlier this summer time to bolster the depth on the place. One massive purpose for that: Anthony Edwards. The Wolves need the ball in his palms lots, and there shall be loads of occasions this season when he’s pressured into the lead playmaker function, which they hope will assist him develop past his strengths as a scorer. Edwards has stated he doesn’t favor bringing the ball up the courtroom, however with so few choices on the roster, Finch can inform him they want him to do it. Edwards sometimes responds effectively to that form of motivation. Kyle Anderson additionally will be relied upon in a pinch to deal with the ball, as may Jaylen Nowell and Austin Rivers.

Major concern: If Russell or McLaughlin has to overlook chunks of time because of harm, will any of the contingency plans maintain up over prolonged video games and minutes?

Taking pictures guards

Gamers: Anthony Edwards, Jaylen Nowell, Bryn Forbes, Austin Rivers, Wendell Moore Jr., A.J. Lawson

The starter: It might be tough to recall a participant getting into his third season in Minnesota with greater expectations than these foisted upon Edwards. The 2020 No. 1 total choose took main strides final season as a defender and shooter and has been placing the work on this summer time to proceed his upward trajectory. He shall be counted upon to offer Gobert extra help from a fringe protection standpoint and will be capable to feast on offense when he runs pick-and-roll with such a terrific display screen setter. His 3-point share jumped final season to 35.7 % after he shot 33 % as a rookie, and after transport out Malik Beasley and Patrick Beverley, the Wolves would like to see that share rise to about 37 this season. If he can put all of that collectively on the courtroom, along with making amends for offensive remarks off it, an All-Star season may very well be had.

Bench: Jaylen Nowell, the ground is yours. With Beasley and Beverley gone, the chance for minutes for Nowell has elevated dramatically. So far he has turned down contract extension affords from the Wolves as a result of he believes he’s able to the form of season that may deliver a lot larger cash, both in Minnesota or elsewhere. Finch has stated this summer time the staff needs to offer Nowell an even bigger function after he averaged simply 15.7 minutes in 62 video games final season. Nowell’s creativity and bucket-getting potential give him an edge over anybody else within the bench group. One other quiet purpose for optimism? Nowell shot 39.4 % from past the arc final season on 2.6 makes an attempt per sport. If he can shoot near that on greater quantity, Beasley’s absence won’t be felt as a lot. If he can not, that’s the reason Connelly introduced in Forbes, a profession 41 % shooter from lengthy vary. And if Nowell struggles on protection, as Finch has stated restricted his enjoying time prior to now, the coach can go to Rivers for a extra skilled, powerful perimeter presence. It’s all pointed towards Finch having choices relying on the sport’s circumstances.

Deep bench: Moore, the staff’s first-round draft choose in June, and Lawson, who signed a two-way contract this summer time, each may see a whole lot of time in Iowa because the Wolves look to develop them for the long run. The Wolves used Moore in an fascinating hybrid guard function on the Las Vegas Summer time League. He averaged 4.4 assists with Duke final season and has the dimensions (6 foot 5) to be a defensive presence ultimately. Lawson is one other fascinating flier. He’s 6-6, versatile and impressed whereas enjoying for Dallas at summer time league.

Major concern: Every of the bench guys have clear strengths. Will the Wolves be capable to work round their weaknesses (Nowell’s protection, Forbes’ dimension, Rivers’ inconsistency) with lineup building?

Swiss Military knives

Gamers: Kyle Anderson, Taurean Prince

The thin: Earlier than we get to small ahead and energy ahead, it’s necessary to place Anderson and Prince in their very own class. Each can play the three or the 4 relying on lineups, each have a quieter model of veteran management that shall be important on a staff with so many eyes on it and each deliver a defensive presence that may play in first or second items with out Finch dropping any sleep.

Anderson: He got here aboard earlier than the Gobert commerce formally went down, however the signing could also be even larger after Connelly landed the large fish from Utah. The Wolves will play loads of two-big lineups with Gobert and Cities, however you additionally will see loads of configurations with both simply Gobert or simply Cities on the 5. Anderson will not be thought of a taking pictures menace from the surface as a result of he hit solely 33 % of his 3s final season. If he can knock down nook 3s on catch-and-shoots and proceed to transform on the rim with the success he usually does, that shall be sufficient. It additionally means he could also be extra prone to pair with Cities when the bigs break up up. Cities can present the spacing within the frontcourt along with his taking pictures and mitigate Anderson’s lack of it. Anderson can also slide as much as the three in massive lineups, deal with the ball in transition and cross it within the half courtroom to maintain issues transferring.


New addition Kyle Anderson ought to be capable to fill a number of completely different roles all through Minnesota’s lineup. (Joe Rondone / USA As we speak)

Prince: After a tough taking pictures begin final season, Prince got here on from behind the arc over the past couple of months. He shot 40.4 % from deep on 3.6 makes an attempt per sport after Jan. 1, a pattern dimension giant sufficient to consider he generally is a dependable think about that space. Meaning Prince may see extra enjoying time with Gobert in single-center lineups, utilizing that taking pictures to open up the ground. Prince has the defensive versatility to protect twos, threes and fours as effectively, permitting Finch to combine him in with all completely different sorts of matchups.

Small forwards

Gamers: Jaden McDaniels, Anderson/Prince, P.J. Dozier, Josh Minott, CJ Elleby

The starter: As nice because the expectations are for Edwards, his fellow member of the 2020 class has a lot on his shoulders as effectively. McDaniels shall be thrust right into a full-time beginning place at small ahead after the staff toyed with him as a small-ball 4 earlier in his profession. That is the most effective spot for him, deploying him because the assault canine on protection towards an opponent’s greatest scorer. However he additionally shall be anticipated to boost his offensive sport, significantly from a taking pictures standpoint. He shot simply 31.7 % from 3-point vary final season and has labored arduous this summer time to have a extra constant arc on his jumper. He needs to be a two-way participant and profit from a whole lot of the open appears to be like that may come his manner whereas opponents deal with Cities, Edwards and Russell and attempt to preserve Gobert off the glass. The Wolves moved heaven and earth to maintain him out of the Gobert commerce. Now it’s time for McDaniels to point out everybody why.

The bench: See above. It seems like Anderson’s passing and deal with will make him the first backup three, however Finch has the choice to vary that up if he must do it. Dozier could be very intriguing. He was signed final week to compete for a roster spot after enjoying the final three seasons for Connelly in Denver and is coming off a torn ACL that he suffered final November. One other one with nice dimension at 6-6. He may very well be a combo guard or a small-ball three. If he’s wholesome and wins a roster spot in coaching camp, his expertise would definitely place him above Minott and Elleby on the depth chart. Minott had a tantalizing stint in summer time league, however he’s so younger that he’ll seemingly spend a whole lot of time in Iowa engaged on his sport. Given time, he may very well be a participant. Elleby was a pleasant flier given his expertise beginning in Portland final season, however these Blazers groups virtually had no different selection.

Major concern: McDaniels must keep out of foul hassle this season. He struggled with all of it of final season, and the Wolves want him an excessive amount of to see his minutes restricted by fouls.

Energy forwards

Gamers: Karl-Anthony Cities, Anderson/Prince, Eric Paschall, Luka Garza

The starter: I’ve to confess, writing “energy ahead Karl-Anthony Cities” feels bizarre after seven seasons at heart. It is going to be one of many league’s most fascinating experiments. If it really works, it may change how the whole league appears to be like at roster building. However right here’s the factor: The Wolves have form of already carried out it earlier than. Cities has spoken about his expertise enjoying subsequent to Willie Cauley-Stein at Kentucky, however he additionally performed subsequent to Gorgui Dieng and Taj Gibson in Minnesota. And regardless of the general public handle announcer saying, “beginning at heart, No. 32, Karl-Anthony Cities,” he functioned because the 4 in so a lot of these lineups. Gibson and Dieng usually guarded the middle. Cities’ taking pictures allowed each to arrange store on the block or the elbow. We’ll in all probability see the identical factor with Gobert. This feels each new and acquainted on the identical time. One speedy distinction: Cities’ 4.9 3s per sport final season have been his lowest quantity since 2018-19. Count on that to leap again up a lot nearer to the 7.9 he tried in 2019-20.

The bench: Anderson and Prince each can slot in right here, relying on the opponent and the middle they’re enjoying alongside. Prince can shoot it with Gobert, and Anderson and function within the midrange and get to the rim and floater with Cities. McDaniels can slide down there in small-ball groupings as effectively.

Deep bench: Paschall is extra of a bowling ball, although he did shoot 37 % from 3 in restricted time with the Jazz final season. To get a participant in his fourth season with 158 profession video games on his résumé on a two-way deal looks as if an excellent use of assets. As for Garza, why not see what he can do? He looks as if the basic tweener: not sufficiently big to be a 5, not fast sufficient to be a 4. However Garza has labored arduous to remake his physique, Kevin Love-style, and is coming in hoping to point out he’s able to enjoying energy ahead within the NBA. He’s so expert that it’s value a shot.

Major concern: How is KAT going to deal with defending energy forwards? He has carried out it earlier than, however the Wolves discovered a strategy to interact him defensively final season in ways in which had not been carried out earlier than. Now he shall be adjusting to accommodate Gobert, and there may very well be rising pains there.

Facilities

Gamers: Rudy Gobert, Naz Reid, Nathan Knight

The starter: For years, Gobert and Cities have usually discovered themselves at odds, competing for that third-team heart spot on the All-NBA poll. Now they’re collectively, and Gobert has arrived with the expectations that it will assist him get previous the second spherical of the playoffs for the primary time in his profession. The Wolves misplaced to the Grizzlies within the playoffs final season as a result of they couldn’t seize a defensive rebound and couldn’t preserve Ja Morant out of the paint within the fourth. In comes the most effective shot blocker and rebounder within the league, and one who has a chip on his shoulder for all of the doubters on the market who low cost his affect due to his limitations as a scorer. The Wolves will miss Beverley’s fiery management, however the Wolves consider Gobert, at 30 years outdated, will maintain teammates accountable and again it up on the courtroom.

The bench: Phrase across the player-led, casual exercises the Wolves have been conducting at Mayo Clinic Sq. over the previous couple of weeks is that Reid appears to be like terrific. He spent a whole lot of time in Minneapolis this summer time engaged on his sport, looking for a strategy to wedge himself into the rotation. It’s simply arduous to see a lot room for him with the addition of Gobert, and the expectation that Finch will play massive stretches of video games with one in every of Cities and Gobert on the ground after the preliminary burst of the beginning 5. Reid is a talented participant who has grown his sport and reshaped his physique over the past three years. He may be a sufferer of circumstance.

Deep bench: Knight additionally has earned massive respect throughout the staff for his work ethic and angle. However he finds himself in a battle for a roster spot in coaching camp. He performs larger than he’s, research the analytics to search out the most effective pictures to be efficient and has a swagger about him though he hasn’t performed a lot in video games. As of proper now, he may simply be harm insurance coverage. But when he must get thrust into time due to an harm, the teaching employees has confidence he shall be prepared.

Major concern: For all of the discuss Gobert not being a scorer, our Jazz beat author Tony Jones informed me that he worries Gobert received’t get sufficient touches in a lineup with Cities, Edwards and Russell. He isn’t a participant who shall be completely happy taking just some pictures and setting a bunch of screens. How Finch retains all of the mouths fed shall be a fragile steadiness.

(High photograph of Karl-Anthony Cities: Brad Rempel / USA As we speak)

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