clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What Will We Learn About the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Front-Court in Preseason?

In a year with higher expectations than maybe ever before, the Wolves’ five preseason games will be our first taste of what we’re in store for in 2022-23.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

All eyes will be on All-NBA center Rudy Gobert when he first suits up for live action in a Minnesota Timberwolves uniform. However, there will be plenty more to watch for when Gobert and the Wolves travel to Florida to take on the Miami Heat next Tuesday, Oct. 4.

Spain v France: Final - FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images

With Karl-Anthony Towns and Gobert potentially holding down the 5 spot for 48 minutes per game this season, it shakes up the rotation of front-court players Minnesota has used in seasons past.

Naz Reid and Nathan Knight seem to affected most by this, as both of them look at a scenario in which they’ll have to fight for regular minutes. Because Anderson will spend some time at the 4 — and Towns and Gobert sharing the floor — there aren’t many more front-court minutes to go around. Both Reid and Knight’s contracts are only partially-guaranteed, which means there’s a possibility only one of them remains on the team when the season starts.

Phoenix Suns v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

I’m curious to see where Reid plays, as it probably won’t be center — if so, not extensively — meaning he sees minutes at power forward.

Could that be better suited for the 6-foot-9 Reid, who struggled to keep up physically with other centers at points of last season?

Perhaps. He’s shown flashes of exciting scoring ability, which could be utilized more in lineups where he isn’t tasked with playing center. Also, without Malik Beasley, there’s a scoring-off-bench hole to fill in the rotation.

Could it be fun to see him play in a role that allows him to get creative on offense and not be asked to do as much on defense (if playing next to Gobert)?

Maybe. He’s not without his deficiencies, don’t misunderstand, but the LSU standout could be a fun injection of offense next to a lock-down center like Gobert. Reid’s proved to be inconsistent throughout his three season in the NBA, but as an end-of-the-rotation guy — one that’s scheduled to make just under $2 million — he has the ability to act as an offensive spark.

The same idea goes for Knight, as taking away the burden of holding down the middle on defense might simplify things for him. The floor spacing Reid and Knight theoretically can provide (Reid more so than Knight) could be important in stints they share the floor with Gobert. Of course, if it turns out either of them can’t space the floor effectively, they won’t play very many minutes next to Gobert.

Throughout the season, it’s unlikely we see a ton of Reid/Gobert or Knight/Gobert minutes, and it ultimately may not be super successful, but it will be interesting to see them play the 4 instead of the 5 (kind of similar to what we’re watching for from KAT, but to a lesser degree).

To reiterate, if someone like Eric Paschall, CJ Elleby, Dozier or AJ Lawson has a great camp, it’s possible one of Reid and Knight are waived. Considering Reid’s tenure in Minnesota — as well as minutes played — he’d likely be the one to stay, meaning the Wolves are more likely to move on from Knight (again, if someone stands out in camp).

Oklahoma City Thunder v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

As mentioned, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year will be under the spotlight as he begins his time in Minneapolis. Although it’s just preseason, we’ll get a glimpse of what the two-big lineup will look like and how it may operate.

How does KAT operate as the 4, and what does that look like on defense? How is Towns being used on offense, assuming Rudy’s doing plenty of the screening (for the ball handler)? These are are two things I’ll be looking for when both of them are on the floor.

The defensive side of the ball is a little bit more complex, as there’s surely enough talent between Towns and Finch to figure out how to maximize offensive potential.

Will we see D’Angelo Russell’s game expand a bit on offense once again?

He put his passing on full display last season, and the addition of Gobert will certainly allow him to have some fun on offense.

During those actions where Gobert’s setting screens, it’ll be interesting to see Russell operate with a dominant screen setter and rim runner once again. We’ve heard the comparisons to his time with Jarrett Allen in Brooklyn.

Letting those two operate in the pick-and-roll surrounded by shooters would be tough to defend, assuming all of the shooters are, indeed, shooting well. Prince, Forbes and Reid/ Jaden McDaniels/Edwards playing alongside Russell and Gobert would give them nearly all the space they could ask for, putting Russell’s passing skills on display.

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves - Game Six Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Without question, there will be hiccups on defense. No matter how much KAT prepares, there will likely be unforeseen hurdles to overcome once that clock starts running. Whether that’s switching, spending more time moving around the court or whatever else, there will be small things that arise for Towns when playing power forward. It’s a big change, but it’ll help to have a Hall of Fame-level defender in Gobert to work through it with.

Ultimately, preseason minutes aren’t something to lose our minds over, good or bad. But it will be really exciting to see this team play again.

Watching McDaniels try and take a third-year leap, Prince potentially absorbing Patrick Beverley’s role as “locker room guy,” Finch’s creativity with two centers, are all cherries on top to watching Gobert play basketball for the home team at Target Center this year.