The Minnesota Timberwolves have the talent to reach the second round of the NBA Playoffs, but their collective playoff experience will be tested if they get over the hump and into the conference semifinals.
Mike Conley, Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson have been to the Western Conference Finals, but nobody on the roster outside of those three has played more than one minute in the third round.
It’s certainly not a small amount of experience between the three, but is it enough to aid the inexperienced members of the team? How does it compare to other Western Conference foes like the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets?
Anthony Edwards has shown tremendous ability to ascend in the playoffs. But beyond their first time All-Star, this Minnesota roster has question marks about its ability to thrive in postseason play.
Karl-Anthony Towns had an up-and-down series against the Nuggets, although inconsistency can be traced back to missing 52 games during the regular season. Although, Towns only got better as the series went on. The question begs to be asked: what are we to expect from Towns in the postseason?
Herculean, team-on-his back efforts are likely more suited for Edwards, which isn’t a knock on Towns; it simply means Edwards will more often have those performances. Lethal spacing, solid post scoring and simply being on the floor are enough from the former Kentucky Wildcat.
Are Conley, Anderson and Gobert enough to get that message to KAT? It’s certainly possible.
Naz Reid’s playoff experience is a small sample size, consisting of five games against the Memphis Grizzlies in 2021-22. The LSU product played more than six minutes in only two of those five games.
Reid was a different player back then. He’s now signed to a three-year, $42 million contract and has to be in the rotation, despite a packed front-court group. Reid earned that contract through his 2022-23 play, so his five-game playoff sample size comes with an asterisk.
Pushing aside his 2021-22 playoff experience, we sit with a blank slate. Reid proved to be a quality contributor in an NBA rotation last season, with otherworldly athleticism for his size and high-level decision-making. It’s a massive storyline within this 2023-24 Timberwolves team’s DNA, as Reid’s play this season is integral to the team’s success. Therefore, the same can be said for his postseason play. If he can effectively play the 4 regardless of whether the 5 is Gobert or Towns, then the Wolves have added another high-quality asset to their playoff rotation from last season.
Specifically from a front-court veteran with postseason experience, will Gobert and Anderson be able to guide Reid to postseason success? It’s very possible. Reid seems to be past his years of being mentored, but with playoff NBA basketball being so different from regular season play, he’ll need pointers on what to expect.
Finally, after perhaps burying the lede, we’ve reach the section that focuses on Anthony Edwards. The Nuggets saw firsthand what Edwards can do in the playoffs, and there’s little doubt about his ability to show up on the brightest stages.
Edwards is averaging of 28.1 points on 46.9/38.0/83.6 shooting splits, 5.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists to 2.1 turnovers, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game across 11 career playoff games.
The conversation now turns to how he can best utilize his ability to ascend in postseason play. This likely doesn’t include him (frequently) being the sole offensive contributor and key cog in the scoring department. While he’s capable of keeping the Wolves in a playoff game by himself, that’s not a reasonable or sustainable way to succeed in the playoffs.
It may include him getting others involved, knowing he can’t carry the team by himself (all the time), or letting go of the offensive reins just enough to allow him to exert himself on the defensive side.
A crucial component to this is a veteran having that discussion with him, telling him that the most effective way to succeed is through the whole team contributing. There will be times where he has to take control of the game by himself, but that’s not always the answer. But the good news there is no one better suited to be that veteran angel on his shoulder to help him with that decision than Mike Conley. Edwards surely has the fire in his gut to will the Wolves to victory when called upon, but it’s on him, the coaching staff and the veterans to realize when to play that card.