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How Can the Timberwolves Improve Their Rebounding Rate This Season?

The Wolves have been one of the leagues worst rebounding teams over the last two seasons. Can they fix what is arguably the weakest part of their game considering the roster they have?

Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Clippers

It’s July 1st, 2022. I am in the middle of a training class learning about software and their uses for the company I am about to work for. The crappy headset they supply doesn’t have noise canceling so I can’t run the fan in the living room to help cool me down. My iPhone 11 buzzes. It’s a Twitter notification; what meme did my friends send me now? It’s Woj, saying that what happened now? The Minnesota Timberwolves made a trade!? For Rudy Gobert?

It makes some sense. The Wolves simply couldn’t rebound in their at-the-level defensive scheme, and they were bringing in an elite rebounder in The Stifle Tower. More defensive possessions were going to be finished, meaning less points for opposing teams and more scoring chances for the Wolves. It was going to bolster the defense and provide rim protection.

Minnesota finished the 2021-2022 season 26th in rebounding percentage at 48.7%. That means out of all the total rebounds available in games, they were getting less than half, so the teams they were playing were grabbing over half of the rebounds available in a game. The best rebounders on that 2021-2022 team were Karl-Anthony Towns and Jarred Vanderbilt, coming in at 9.8 and 8.4 rebounds, respectively. Gobert himself was grabbing 14.7 for the Utah Jazz that season. In that 2022 playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies that went 6 games the Wolves got cleaned off the glass. The Grizzlies had a defensive rebounding rate of 82.9% and an offensive rebounding rate of 27.5%, while the Wolves had 72.5% and 17.1% respectively.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Five Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

After the Wolves added Gobert, and Towns went down with an injury that caused him to miss 52 games last season, the Wolves got even worse at rebounding, coming in at a 48.3% rebounding rate, which ranked them 27th in the league last season.

To put it simply, the Wolves have not been good at rebounding the ball over the last two years, and for the size the roster has, it’s unacceptable.

When looking at the size of the players, you have Towns at 7-foot and Gobert at 7-foot-1, Naz Reid and Kyle Anderson at 6-foot-9, and Anthony Edwards at 6-foot-4. Everyone else on the court is at minimum 6-foot-4 outside of Mike Conley and Jordan McLaughlin. The Timberwolves have the size to bang down low, but why can’t they rebound at a higher rate? If you’re going to play two All-Star centers on the court at once, they need to rebound the damn ball.

Jaden McDaniels averaged a whopping 3.9 rebounds in 30 minutes per game last season. Slim is the primary point of attack defender for this team, so it makes sense as to why his rebounding doesn’t translate as much. Due to the role he plays on the defensive end he is naturally going to be on the perimeter more and it’s going to lead to a lack of rebounding opportunities down low, but Jaden has shown potential when he can get into a position to fight for boards.

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These are two examples of him just ripping boards away. Again, I know he’s primarily going to be the point of attack defender, but Jaden can do this more often and he should because it only benefits this team in the long run for him to find ways to rebound the ball more.

With Nickeil Alexander-Walker also emerging as a point of attack defender, I firmly believe Jaden is going to find himself in more opportunities as a help defender due to his size and truly elite shot blocking ability. NAW is going to take more assignments at the primary point of attack simply because it will save Jaden from picking up fouls early on in games being the primary defender and saving some energy for defending other teams stars late in games, and this should allow him to attack the glass more on the defensive end.

The same ideology can be applied to Reid, a big-bodied player who can get in the mix in the paint with the other bigs. It wasn’t done on a consistent basis considering he averaged 4.9 per game (9.6 per 36 minutes), but he can do it. He came down with 18 boards against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 135-128 loss on December 12th in 2022. It’s there, we just need to see him make the effort to crash more.

If Towns and Gobert are both able to remain healthy, guys like McDaniels and Reid won’t see a massive uptick in total rebounds or individual rebounding rates since those opportunities will go to those guys more often, but if they can grab one-two more rebounds a night when those guys are off, or when they’re sharing the floor, it will help improve the rebounding tremendously which translates to more wins.

With his handle, Reid can take the ball coast to coast. He has the ability to play make. A Reid rebound can lead to open shots for others, or him attacking the rim himself and detonating on someone

Those are going to be the two primary guys I am looking to rebound the ball at a higher rate because they need to based upon the roster construction. Getting more involved on the glass is both something that they each have the ability to do on any given night, and a necessity for the Wolves to win more games this season.

The Timberwolves cannot deploy a roster as big as they are with Towns, Gobert, McDaniels, Reid, Anderson, Edwards and company and be a poor rebounding team once again. If the Wolves can rebound the ball at a higher rate, along with the guard rotation getting bigger and better compared to what it was last year, they’ll position themselves nicely in a loaded Western Conference.