In today’s NBA, we are witnesses to some of the top talents to ever play in the league. There is maybe more talent than there ever has been.
The new age is all about switchy wings who can play and/or defend multiple positions. Every team is looking for them, and no team ever feels like they have enough of them.
With that being said, the deepest position group, by far, is point guard. There is an absurd collection of talent at the position. Point guards traditionally have been primarily responsible for setting the table for their teammates, with scoring coming secondary or even tertiary if you included defending.
Now, though, point guards are responsible for creating to score just as much, if not more so, than distributing. When you look across the league, nearly every top team has a top tier point guard.
For the Minnesota Timberwolves to get where they ultimately want to get to, they need to figure out their own point guard situation.
This season, Minnesota has experienced more volatility at the point guard position than any team in the NBA has likely experienced at any position. There have been numerous times where Minnesota was missing two or three point guards for a stretch of games.
Of a possible 57 games, starting point guard Jeff Teague has appeared in 34. Derrick Rose, Minnesota’s 6th man, has appeared in 41. Tyus Jones has played in 43. That adds up to a combined 53 missed games for Minnesota’s top three lead guards.
While those players have been on the floor, the results have been mixed. Jeff Teague has had arguably the worst season of his career, and still has a $19 million player option for next season.
Derrick Rose has found the fountain of youth a bit, but his hot shooting has started to regress. While Rose is making 40% of his threes for the season, he has made just 4.8% (not a typo) of his three-point attempts over his last 8 games. Rose certainly has provided a scoring punch that the second unit has desperately needed, but signs are pointing towards his efficiency coming back down to earth. He’s also been used primarily as an off-guard, sharing the court with a point guard when one has been available.
Tyus Jones is a fan favorite who does some really nice things, but there’s still no denying his shortcomings. He’s a heady player who makes intelligent decisions and defends well given his size, but he isn’t a top-notch creator or scorer. He’s also shooting poorly this season, making 38% of his field goals, as well as just 29.7% of his threes.
All of this is to say that while Minnesota has several NBA-caliber lead guards on the roster, it’s unlikely that the starting point guard of the future is currently on the roster.
Tyus can, and should, be the Wolves’ backup point guard moving forward. That seems to be a fine role for him and hopefully the Wolves will retain him in restricted free agency this summer. He could develop into the starter, but it likely limits the ceiling.
The Wolves can hope that Teague will decline his player option for next year, but that seems entirely unlikely. Unless Teague is so unhappy here that he’s willing to pass up millions of dollars, he’s going to be around next year. They’d probably have to attach a pick to him, but it would be in Minnesota’s best interest to look to trade Teague in the offseason.
As for Rose, he absolutely provides something that the Timberwolves need in bench scoring. The bench for next year looks really bleak at the moment. It would be more beneficial, in my opinion, for Minnesota to re-sign Tyus as the backup point guard and search for a more traditional 2-guard or wing player to run alongside Tyus.
If that doesn’t come to fruition, however, it would not be the end of the world for Derrick Rose to come back on a team-friendly contract to add that scoring punch. If Rose is going to command a decent salary on the open market, then Minnesota should let him walk regardless.
This is going to lead to Minnesota needing a new starting point guard, whether it be for next season or the year after.
This leads to the question, what does Minnesota need from their point guards? Well, when you look at their roster as currently constructed, the biggest glaring weakness for this team is shot creation from the perimeter.
It appears that the main core moving forward will consist of Towns, Saric, Covington, Wiggins, and Okogie. None of those guys will give the Timberwolves reliable shot creation from the perimeter. That’s a necessity for whomever takes over the lead guard spot.
The first option is the one that every Minnesota fan should be rooting for. Minnesota currently has a 7.1% chance to get a top-4 pick. If they perform even just a little bit worse than teams such as Miami and Dallas, that number can get to roughly 14%. If, by some miracle they do end up towards the top of the lottery, the Timberwolves have no choice but to draft Ja Morant.
Clearly, it’s a long shot. If you need an introduction to the Murray State point guard, let’s get familiar.
Morant is an athletic freak. He’s much more than that, though. For the year, he is averaging 23.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 10.2 assists per game. He’s making 50.3% of his field goals, and while he’s only making 32.7% of his threes, his career 80.6% free-throw percentage suggests that his jumper will come with time.
This is obviously a long shot due to the lottery odds, but this is an outcome that we all should be rooting for. That injection of explosion, passing, and creativity would open up so much offensively for the entire team.
One other option in the draft Minnesota could look at is what they’d do at their projected mid-to-late lottery slot. There’s absolutely no chance they’d be able to get Morant from there, but there is another point guard who would be worth looking at, Darius Garland.
Garland is a 6’2” point guard from Vanderbilt who lost his entire Vandy career to a torn meniscus that he suffered in November. He’s since declared for the NBA draft, and is an intriguing prospect who’s been projected to land in Minnesota’s area of the draft.
Garland only played in 5 games before suffering his injury, but he averaged 16.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists during that time. He scored extremely efficiently, making 53.7% of his field goals, 47.8% of his threes, and 75% of his free-throws.
A third point guard option in the draft is North Carolina’s Coby White. White is a big point guard, standing roughly 6’5”. White is a fearless shooter from the outside and is athletic enough to attack the rim as well as get others involved.
With few realistic free agent targets (more on that next), and no real lead guard of the future, these prospects would be worth a look for Minnesota in the late lottery.
If Minnesota does not address the point guard position in the draft, they’ll have to look to free agency. Convincing free agents to come to Minnesota is never an easy task, but they have to at least try. Looking at the free agents for this upcoming offseason, and their aren’t a lot of great options. This is also assuming that Teague does not opt-in to his player option or that the Timberwolves trade him.
If the Wolves are looking to find a creator from the perimeter, they may go after someone like Eric Bledsoe, although I have my doubts about his willingness to come to Minnesota. Another feasible option would be Malcolm Brogdon, although he’s unlikely to leave Milwaukee if I had to guess.
Utah Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio is also a free agent this summer. I wonder if he would have any inter... er... nevermind.
After looking at the free agent crop, the outlook is... disappointing to say the least. It’s possible that the Wolves could bring back Tyus Jones and have him work in tandem with a guy like Darren Collison, but that doesn’t move the needle much compared to this season.
Minnesota’s future at a vital position is in flux, and there are only so many options available for them to fix that. How they go about addressing the point guard position could make, or break, this team for years to come.