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Is the Wolves’ “Depth” Useful?

Last night’s game exposed a glaring hole on the wing

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

A reader posed a question similar to a subject we discussed in the comment section last night, so I wanted to take a look for myself. What I’m interested in looking at here is how Tom Thibodeau (in both of his roles) and Scott Layden have decided to use the last few bench spots.

I completely understand that there were three regular rotation players missing. With two point guards out (Rose, Teague), I can kind of sympathize with Jerryd Bayless. He doesn’t look like he should be playing in the NBA any longer, but as a fourth point guard I can’t get too upset with his play.

What really bothered me about was the way the wing players were utilized in Robert Covington’s absence. This shifted Josh Okogie into the starting lineup. Keita Bates-Diop, James Nunnally, and Luol Deng were all dressed for last night’s game. They combined for zero minutes before garbage time.

What are we doing here, Thibs? If you’re short on your regular rotation wing players, maybe, just maybe, play the other wings you have on the roster?

If you’re going to keep Keita Bates-Diop up with the big league squad, wasn’t last night the perfect time to give him a few minutes and see what happens? I’m not exactly expecting him to be a world beater out there, but if he isn’t going to play in a game like last night’s, then what’s the point of having him up with the NBA team? I just don’t get it. If he isn’t even going to get a few minutes in a game like that, then he just needs to stay down with the G-League team. I’d be completely fine with that just so that he could actually, you know, play basketball, learn from his mistakes, and improve.

Much of the same can be said for James Nunnally, but his situation is more mind-blowing to me. If Nunnally is going to be on the roster as a full-time NBA player, he needs to be able to play in an emergency-type situation like last night.

I have nothing against Nunnally, and I think I’d actually like to see him out there more often just to space the floor a bit. However, if Thibs doesn’t have enough confidence to even just give him one short stint in either half before the game was ultimately decided, then what is the purpose of having him on the roster?

Now, while Loul Deng didn’t play last night either, I can kind of get behind his value to the roster simply as a vet on a minimum deal who has been there, done that and can help the younger guys like Okogie and Wiggins. With the size of the rosters in the NBA nowadays I can see the value in having one guy like that on the team.

What there is certainly no value in, however, is having numerous players on your bench that you feel you cannot play even in a game where you’re without several regulars in the rotation. Whether that blame goes to the Thibs/Layden front office or to Thibs the coach is up for debate, but either way it makes no sense.

There is no way to argue that wearing Andrew Wiggins out with 43 minutes at one wing spot while giving half of the other wing minutes to Anthony Tolliver is a solid backup plan. I love Tolliver, but he hasn’t been a wing player in the NBA since, ever, really.

It’s important to note here that I realize that the guys on the end of the bench of any NBA team,are not exactly the kind of guys you want to see playing for your team. It is important, however, that when multiple guys are out, there are reserves at least semi-capable of giving your starters a breather without completely tanking the game.

A few current free agents that come to mind for this are guys like DeAndre Liggins, Tony Allen or Sean Kilpatrick. Again, not exactly superstars, but guys who would be able to potentially keep the Wolves somewhat afloat in a situation like last night. At the very least, give the current guys a shot instead of forcing someone like Tolliver to play out of position.

Every roster spot should have a purpose. I’m not here to say who exactly the blame goes to between the front office and the coach (although they’re both kind of the same person), but I am definitely saying that there’s a better way to manage the end of the bench than the Timberwolves are doing right now.