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Who Will Get the Wolves 15th Roster Spot?

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Some speculation about the last roster spot and how Thibs is going to use his bench.

NBA: Preseason-Minnesota Timberwolves at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Wolves lost in Oklahoma City on Sunday, and since it was not televised and, frankly, uninspiring, we never actually recapped it. Meanwhile, the Lynx were playing a gripping game four of the WNBA Finals which they won to force a game five back in Minneapolis on Thursday. But a few words here:

Thankfully Tom Thibodeau rested his starters (and Shabazz Muhammad) against the Thunder, as it was the second night of a back-to-back. Instead, he started four of the presumptive second unit (Nemanja Bjelica, Cole Aldrich, Brandon Rush, and Kris Dunn) along with Rasual Butler. This group struggled against a Thunder team that featured Russell Westbrook, Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, and other established players, ultimately falling 112-94.

It was an opportunity for some of the deeper bench guys to get significant playing time, with Jordan Hill, Toure Murray, Tyus Jones, Adriean Payne, and John Lucas III all getting at least 20 minutes.

Not a lot to say about it. Payne and Lucas put up decent shooting and scoring numbers, Dunn not unexpectedly struggled in a very difficut matchup, and the Thunder shot 50 percent from the field, pulling away in the third quarter.

The question is: Does the game tell us anything about who is likely to get the 15th roster spot? The answer: Probably not, but let’s speculate anyway!

From a roster balance standpoint, Butler has always seemed the most likely of the camp invites to make the final roster, since the Wolves are in need of another body at the wing spot, and indeed he started the game. He played only 20 minutes, however, and managed a team-worst -23 on the night. Interestingly, Lucas spent much of his 30 minutes on the floor with another point guard, either Dunn or Jones, and served as a shooter in this one (and was quite effective, going four for seven from the field and finishing with 11 points.)

Given Dunn’s struggles during preseason and Jones’ youth and limits, it’s not impossible that Thibs decides a veteran point guard is the way to go, especially given his history with Lucas. If he’s willing to play two point guard lineups it mitigates the need for another wing player. Still, it feels like a longshot. Lucas has been a marginal NBA player throughout his career, and was not in the league last season. He’ll turn 34 years old early in the season, and probably isn’t going to help.

It also remains hard to decipher how Thibs is going to use his bench. Before Sunday’s game, Thibs has been quite strict about his rotations, subbing in players very close together and not doing a ton of mixing and matching. Thus we have not seen combinations that include both Rubio and Dunn, for example. We haven’t seen Bjelica get run with Towns and Rubio, a combo many of us would like to see more of. We’ve not seem them go small with Wiggins or Muhammad at the four spot.

Frankly I’m a little disappointed with that. Preseason is when they should be trying things out and experimenting with different combinations. On the other hand, perhaps Thibs feels that they need to get used to playing his way in specific groups before he starts mixing things up. Still, I don’t have a great feeling about the all-bench lineup we’ve seen in many of the games so far. I can imagine that group struggling badly, especially with a rookie point guard at the helm.

The Wolves have their last two preseason games Wednesday and Friday; perhaps we’ll get a different indication of what things might look like once the games start for real.

Meanwhile, in more important news, the Lynx will be going for their second straight title on Thursday night in a winner-take-all game five at Target Center against the Los Angeles Sparks. This has been a terrific series, and game four was incredibly entertaining. The Lynx managed to hang on in a very hostile environment behind a spectacular performance from Maya Moore. It’s been great, and if you aren’t watching, well, that’s up to you, but you are missing out.

TODAY IN HISTORY

1356: Basel, Switzerland destroyed in earthquake.
1386: University of Heidelberg opens.
1685: Louis XIV revokes Edict of Nantes.
1767: Mason-Dixon line, establishing Maryland-Pennsylvania border, agreed upon.
1775: Black Amerian poet Phillis Wheatley freed from slavery.
1776: Battle of Pelham in the Bronx; Too many people waiting for the 1 train.
1867: U.S. takes possession of Alaska after $7M payment to Russia.
1892: First commercial long distance phone line opens between Chicago and NY.
1900: von Bulow becomes Chancellor of Germany.
1952: First Mad Magazine published.

No musical birthday today due to technical difficulties. Have a great Tuesday.