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Defensive Rebounding Remains a Glaring Problem For Timberwolves

Someone had to bring up a negative from the first preseason game...

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Minnesota Timberwolves Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Karl-Anthony Towns and Jaden McDaniels are two of the most talented individual players on the Minnesota Timberwolves. Despite that, whenever McDaniels is the main big man next to Towns, things never seem to go the way the Wolves would want, especially when it comes to defensive rebounding. Minnesota has tried McDaniels at the power forward position next to Towns many times, including in the first preseason game, but it just won’t click the way we all had hoped.

McDaniels is thought of as one of the best defenders on the Wolves individually, but that kind of falls apart when he’s next to Towns. When McDaniels is on the floor, Towns has a defensive rating of 116.8 compared to a 110.5 rating when McDaniels is off the floor. As mentioned above, the primary issue seems to always be defensive rebounding when these two play together.

That was evident once again in the preseason opener as McDaniels once again was unable to successfully bring in defensive rebounds. Here’s Chris Finch talking about that on the most recent Dane Moore NBA Podcast:

Finch didn’t deny that McDaniels struggled bringing in rebounds and basically just said they’re seeing what works and what doesn’t. Finch has also mentioned that rebounding will get you on the floor (and inability to do so will likely lead to extended time on the bench). Obviously McDaniels is still going to play a lot, but him being the primary power forward next to Towns seems extremely unlikely.

Here’s the two of them struggling to bring in rebounds during the preseason opener:

McDaniels just isn’t a great defensive rebounder and that’s one of the main reasons the Wolves don’t want him playing power forward. Finch mentioned at the end of last season that the plan was for him to play much more minutes at the small forward position.

With that said, the ideal power forward next to Towns is probably Jarred Vanderbilt if the goal is to maximize defensive rebounding. The problem then is what happens when both players have to sub out. If the goal is to just maximize rebounding when Towns is on the floor then Vanderbilt has to be the guy.

Using the statistics website Dunks and Threes, we can see who the best rebounders on the Wolves were in terms of percentile rankings. Here are those rankings from last season.

  • Karl-Anthony Towns: 26% defensive rebound% (96th percentile)
  • Jarred Vanderbilt: 24% defensive rebound% (91st percentile)
  • Naz Reid: 20% defensive rebound% (80th percentile)
  • Taurean Prince: 15% defensive rebound% (53rd percentile)
  • Jaden McDaniels: 13% defensive rebound% (43rd percentile)

Towns and Vanderbilt didn’t play a ton of minutes together or get chances at contested rebounds, but here’s a small sample of what they look like rebounding together.

It’ll be interesting to see the starting lineup Chris Finch rolls out there for the second preseason game on Friday in Denver. The first game had Okogie and McDaniels paired up with Towns and afterward Finch emphasized the importance of rebounding. I hope we see something along the lines of Russell, Edwards, McDaniels, Vanderbilt, and Towns.

That starting lineup would certainly increase the defensive rebounding but what happens when the second unit enters? Hopefully one of Towns or Vanderbilt can stay on the floor for most of the game with them also getting a lot of time together.

It’s going to be hard to manage because of the extreme lack of legitimate power forwards (this seems to be a recurring issue) but in Chris Finch we trust.