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Wolves 114, Lakers 99: Wolves Depth Shows in Comfortable Victory

Timberwolves’ depth shows in blowout win over shorthanded Lakers squad

Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The outcome of this game was mostly written ahead of time, with the Wolves near full strength (missing only Karl-Anthony Towns among rotation players) while the Lakers sat Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Patrick Beverley. They sat those guys for good reason, too, as they were oddly scheduled for a back-to-back during the preseason.

The talent disparity was still glaring the entire night, which speaks to the depth that Minnesota has on the roster this season. Through the first three quarters, the Wolves went 11-12 deep solely with players who are legitimate NBA players. That has been the most notable big picture thing I’ve noticed over the first two games, and it was especially true tonight when Minnesota’s reserves came in.

Specifically, it is becoming more clear just how good the Wolves bench unit could be this year, especially if Rudy Gobert anchors it. The French big man made his preseason debut tonight, and was mostly as advertised. He finished with 12 rebounds and 2 blocks in 17 minutes.

A couple of things were immediately noteworthy with Gobert on the floor. For one, he completely erases the rebounding issue the team had last year. The other is that he will drive easy offense whether or not he is the one scoring the ball by way of his mammoth screens. These are not exactly earth shattering developments, but it was fun to see it in action with the Wolves for the first time.

It will likely take some time for the Wolves to figure out how exactly they want to incorporate Gobert’s individual offense into the team, evidenced by a couple awkward lobs/passes by teammates tonight, but the one connection that looks ready from day one is with Jordan McLaughlin. I do not know how Chris Finch will set his rotations, but I cannot imagine there are many bench units built to defend Gobert crashing to the rim with a passer as crafty as J-Mac. He is so nifty with the ball and with his pace, and somehow has figured out how to trick defenses into believing he will ever shoot the layup out of a pick-and-roll, which always gives him an angle for the pass to the roller. McLaughlin was lethal at times against bench units with Naz Reid, he is going to rack up assists in a hurry with Gobert.

There wasn’t much else noteworthy from the starters, but if I had to pick something, I’d point to Anthony Edwards having 6 rebounds in 23 minutes, and Jaden McDaniels finishing with 7 rebounds in 20 minutes. Those guys were, frankly, bad rebounders last season. If they commit to being better on the glass, rebounding could quickly go from a weakness to a strength for the Wolves.

Still, I found the bench to be the most interesting part of the game. The Wolves are just so deep. Taurean Prince, ever the consummate professional, has looked awesome through two games. He finished tonight with just four points on five shots, but he did many of the little things that the Wolves will need from him. Jaylen Nowell continued to score with ease, pouring in 13 points in 15 minutes.

One guy I did take note of was Bryn Forbes, and the way he moved non-stop without the ball. He is not as good as J.J. Redick was in Philadelphia, to be clear, but some of the ways he moved without the ball and came off hand-offs reminded me of the actions Philly would run for Redick. I was skeptical he would see real minutes coming into the season, but I am starting to come around to him being the “break glass in case of emergency” form of instance offense and shooting off the bench.

Nate Knight was also impressive, particularly diving to the rim as a roller, and finished with 11 points in 10 minutes, including a made three-pointer. It’s always a little up-and-down with Knight, but one has to think he has the inside track to a roster spot, unless the team doesn’t like the idea of having so many “bigs” on the final roster. Knight is a real NBA player, and I’d imagine he will find a role eventually, whether it’s in Minnesota or elsewhere.

All the traditional preseason caveats apply, but still, it’s hard not to be encouraged about what we’ve seen from the Wolves thus far. The team looks well-coached and deep, which should make for an exciting season.

The Wolves are back in action on Sunday evening against the Clippers, tipping off at 9:30pm CT on Bally Sports North.