Now that we have seen a small glimpse of what the Minnesota Timberwolves could be looking like this upcoming season through five preseason games, let’s discuss what different lineups head coach Chris Finch could throw out on the court.
The Starting Lineup
In games against the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers, I think it is clear to say, this is the deepest team the Wolves have had in many years. With that being said, let’s begin with the starters.
To say the least, this lineup is already set with D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns and the newly-acquired Rudy Gobert. This lineup here will cause problems for the rest of the league.
We saw a sneak peak of what a D-Lo/Rudy pick-and-roll (PnR) would look like, and although there were a couple forced lobs, Russell has mastered the fake lob pass to layup move. With Towns being inserted into the lineup instead of Reid as well, this will force the defense to either commit to him wherever he could be spotting up, or Gobert in the middle; that should create plenty of open space in which D-Lo can make simple reads.
Edwards is ready for a big season as well. The screens from Gobert are lethal, as we’ve seen; they allow the third-year star-in-the-making to get downhill more often while also creating extra space for a jump shot if Edwards so chooses. I expect Ant-Man to be a 25-point scorer this season, with all the opportunities that could be out there.
In what could be a year of third-year leaps for the Timberwolves wings, I see McDaniels elevating his game, too. Throughout the preseason Big Mac proved he is looking to be more aggressive offensively, either driving to the rim or finding his own shot. Not only is it his offensive ability that will elevate this starting unit, but his stout perimeter defense will be a vital ceiling-raiser for the Wolves, too.
With KAT now moving to the 4, I think we will see him playing a lot more on the perimeter, taking more 3s and jumpers inside the arc. Finch has also mentioned that the team’s hope is to one of Towns or the 3-time Defensive Player of the Year on the court for all 48 minutes, so when Gobert does rest, we will see more of Towns the center that we have seen for the last couple seasons. This includes the perimeter, but also having some post-up opportunities against bench players, as well.
The Bench Unit
The opening night reserve crew may already be set.
The play we have seen from Jordan McLaughlin during the preseason and even dating back to the playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies has solidified him as the Timberwolves’ backup point guard. When he was on the court against the Los Angeles Lakers he was also able to contribute six assists and four points in only 15 minutes of action. His confidence stood out to me the most. McLaughlin attacked the rim and took smart perimeter shots; although he didn’t knock a couple down, this allowed the defense to see him as a threat, which opens up the floor for players like Jaylen Nowell to attack in the half-court.
Nowell projects to be and should be this team’s sixth man of the year. He scored 13 points in 15 minutes against the Purple and Gold on October 6, and added a pair of 14-point games, too. Nowell brings scoring ability to this lineup and once he cleans some of his defensive flaws, this unit will be difficult to stop.
Joining Nowell and J-Mac are Kyle Anderson, Taurean Prince, and Naz Reid. Reid is the option as of now, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if the coaching staff gives the edge to Nathan Knight somewhere throughout the season if Reid slips up. Personally, I have been really impressed with what Knight has shown, producing 11 points and 3 rebounds in 10 minutes against the Lakers in Vegas and 14 points, along with 7 rebounds in 16 minutes, against the Heat.
Anderson and Prince also bring much needed energy on the defensive end, to an already energized unit as well. Anderson’s ability to finish and get his own offensively, and also playmaking is a great add to this group as well.
This is where it gets hard because Coach Finch could play at least 11-12 every night. My projection is the unit with J-Mac, Jaylen, Anderson, Prince, and Reid, but as I mentioned, it could change with Knight and even Bryn Forbes throughout the season. Forbes has also had a tremendous preseason as he brings shooting and also has shown his ability to finish as well. What was most impressive to me, was how easy he gets a shot of, after he comes off a screen.
With all the players I have mentioned, the Wolves are a deep team this year, because Minnesota still have players like Austin Rivers, Eric Paschall, Wendell Moore, Josh Minott and Luka Garza on the team’s bench (and G-League squad), as well.
What are your projections on what these starting and bench units could look like this season?