This tweet from Timberwolves' beat reporter Darren Wolfson got me thinking about how playing time will be distributed during the upcoming season.
#Twolves FO had another personnel meeting today. Bottom-line: the current 15 isn't the 15 they envision in a few months. Wing, PG = targets.— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) July 20, 2016
It has been a constant perplexing question during this off-season as we try to figure out how our new front office is approaching roster-building. Before the off-season begun, we would have likely agreed that several key needs of the current team were a backup point guard, front court depth, and outside shooting. All of these needs have been potentially met with the additions of Kris Dunn, Brandon Rush, Cole Aldrich, and Jordan Hill, but yet it still feels as if something is lacking.
The team's continued interest in point guards, who will likely be an established veteran, to fill in on a roster that already has three point guards is rational as backup point guard has long been a position of need and it is unlikely that Kris Dunn nor Tyus Jones will be able to fulfill those duties adequately. However, the longer someone looks at our current roster it becomes more and more confusing on how pieces fit together.
As it stands, the team will likely be rolling out with a starting lineup of Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns, and Gorgui Dieng. If Kevin Garnett does return, he will almost certainly be the nominal starter when he plays with Dieng quickly taking his place off the bench.
Things get a lot messier after that, especially if the team is planning on still making several personnel moves, which one would imagine would involve moving on from at least Adreian Payne and possibly Shabazz Muhammad. If another point guard is brought in, where is Kris Dunn, or Tyus Jones for that matter, going to play?Tyus would likely benefit from another year as the third point guard on the team, but if the Timberwolves are ready to place Tyus fourth on the depth chart, then his days are possibly numbered in Minnesota. Outside of the point guard issues, there are also a few key takeaways that are looking more and more likely.
1. We may be seeing a significant amount of Kris Dunn at shooting guard/combo guard
Dunn played a second guard role during his time in the summer league next to Tyus Jones and he has the size to be able to play up a position, especially among second units. If another backup point guard is brought in, that could be the ideal situation for him to begin his NBA career as Dunn's issues will likely be with running an offense and avoiding mistakes rather than the physical aspects of the game. Moving Dunn to secondary guard alleviates some of these issues, as well as the responsibility of acting as the initial point of defense and decision maker. However, running Dunn, Tyus, and potentially Shabazz out together would likely harken back to the fun units of last year where LaVine, Kevin Martin, and Shabazz took turns making terrible decisions while Gorgui frustratingly tried to play defense by himself against the other team.
2. Towns is going to play primarily power forward next year
With the Wolves bringing on two more centers in Aldrich and Hill, Towns is likely the only player on the team (excluding a Bjelica renaissance) who has a chance of guarding opposing power forwards. This will be extremely interesting to watch throughout the year, as the Timberwolves lack of skilled wing defense puts the team in a tricky position when the more dominant "stretch-4s" matchup against Towns. The idea of "stretch-4s" has really been exaggerated with players like Kevin Durant and Paul George moving up a position. The stretch-4 is now really a small forward who is playing up.
Towns can run around with the likes of Ryan Anderson, but having him chase a player like Durant around is not the best use of his skills. He just will not have the speed or endurance for that match-up and it is absurd to expect him to do so. Will the Timberwolves be able to counter with their own "line-up of death"? Last year, we saw the team experiment with playing Muhammad at the power forward position against those smaller lineups, but that did not work out well to say the least. Ideally, Wiggins should be able to play up a position, but there is only so much that we can expect from him to improve on defensively and it does not seem likely that he will be up to that task quite yet.
3. LaVine has "earned" his starting spot
Over the last two years, much has been written on how LaVine has been unqualified to receive the high amount of minutes he has been given. When the coaches has talked about players not feeling "pushed" by the threat of being benched, we all have assumed this was in reference to LaVine. Once again, the Timberwolves will enter the year without a serious threat to LaVine's playing time, as Brandon Rush is not a realistic candidate to take on the starting role. While LaVine had a significant hot streak to close out last year, which coincided with his move the starting lineup and the Timberwolves offensive dominance, it will be interesting to see if he can fulfill his starting role for a full year. Whether or not he is up to the task, we will be finding out as no one else can truly fill in.
- If Towns misses a week or two we are screwed.
- We will be playing what really is a two-center lineup for probably 80% of our available playing time
- At some point this season, we are going to see a Tyus, Dunn, Shabazz, Bjelica, Hill lineup and boy will it be something
- Assuming everything has gone the same during this off-season and the roster remains the same on opening day, but this was with the previous regime of Sam Mitchell and Milt Newton, how nervous would we be? I think very.
I leave you all with this amazing video of Towns interviewing Dunn, Buddy Hield, and Brandon Ingram as part of the "rook-to-rook" series from the NBA.