Training camp is almost here! Rejoice as we are less than a month away from the Minnesota Timberwolves’ regular season opener on the road against the Toronto Raptors on October 25 and only eight days away from the team’s first preseason game in Abu Dhabi against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, October 5 at 11 AM CT.
Looking back on this summer, it was relatively quiet in the Minnesota front office. Especially when compared to last year — an offseason in which the team brought in their new President of Basketball Operations, Tim Connelly, and made a franchise-altering trade to acquire Rudy Gobert just a few weeks later — the team has laid low as they are gearing up for a resurgent, and hopefully healthy, season. After a first-round exit in the NBA Playoffs, the Wolves primarily lacked one component all season long, and it wasn’t something a trade or signing could have fixed. Minnesota couldn’t rely on the health of their star players.
That being said, the front office was still able to sure up their bench depth this summer with some under-the-radar acquisitions. As it stands right now, after the team signed three players to Exhibit-10 deals, filled up all three of their two-way spots, and added Tyrese Martin on a non-guaranteed one-year deal, here is a look at the complete roster and cap sheet as a whole entering training camp, provided by our Jack Borman: (click the image to zoom in):
(Editor’s note: keep in mind that Tyrese Martin is a non-guaranteed deal and can be waived prior to the start of the season without any financial impact. I am treating it as a full-time roster signing considering reports did not include “Exhibit 10” in them, like they did for the three names you see listed in that spot.)
I see it of value to split the entire roster up by lineups, ranging from the starters to the third-string unit, and break down the depth of each potential rotation.
Mike Conley / Anthony Edwards / Jaden McDaniels / Karl-Anthony Towns / Rudy Gobert
There is zero debate here. This should and will be the Timberwolves’ preferred starting five. Last year, this lineup was only able to play in seven total games together. Yes, you heard that right, seven. Of course, it was injuries that hampered this group’s availability. Karl-Anthony Towns missed 52 games due to a calf strain, and Jaden McDaniels missed the entirety of the postseason due to a broken hand. There was speculation of Minnesota’s willingness to deal KAT this off-season. However, nothing materialized, as the front office still has a desire to see this group perform fully healthy.
From a depth perspective, Minnesota’s starting group of players looks like one of the NBA’s best on paper. You have some lockdown defenders in McDaniels and Gobert (I know, Ant can defend as well), some pure scorers in Edwards and Towns, and Conley’s floor leadership to round it all out. I can’t remember a time when the Wolves starting lineup looked this good.
The question with this group arises from their individual fit. Again, we haven't seen a large sample size of the starters healthy, so there is always the possibility that they can’t coexist in the same lineup. Last season, we saw some shaky play when Edwards and Gobert shared the floor. However, they ultimately were able to get on the same page and develop a pretty decent on-court connection. There was also some skepticism surrounding Towns and Gobert’s fit together, but in the few games they played together before Towns went down, they looked better than expected when sharing the front court.
Personally, I loved what I saw between Towns and Gobert last season. Their chemistry together on offense was pretty damn fluid — KAT made great reads to Gobert in the dunker’s spot often.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) July 28, 2023
The fit/flow issues with Gobert on the floor lies beneath the rest of the team. https://t.co/jkKqHX5rkj pic.twitter.com/GC31EKORFG
Shake Milton / Nickeil Alexander-Walker / Troy Brown Jr. / Kyle Anderson / Naz Reid
Last season, Head Coach Chris Finch primarily ran a nine-man rotation throughout the regular season and playoffs. He did this in hopes of making it easier for all players to gel with each other. While chemistry is vital to building a winning team in the NBA, health is even more important. Obtaining relative health can come from expanding the rotation at least 10-deep.
Minnesota was able to bring in two players who have the potential to pose real threats off the bench: Shake Milton and Troy Brown Jr., both of whom are essentially replacing two players the Timberwolves have lost this summer. Those players being Jaylen Nowell and Taurean Prince, respectively.
In Milton’s case, he will give the Wolves that scoring punch that Nowell was able to provide, while also being a better and more switchable defensive option at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan. For Brown Jr., he can offer up a 3&D impact similar to the one Prince provided.
Looking through some Shake Milton film this morning.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) July 2, 2023
One of the areas that Milton excels at is attacking defenders with long strides into the paint and rising up with his 7'0" wingspan over the defense.
Will come in very handy when running PnR/PnP with Gobert and Towns. pic.twitter.com/aZRCrWiqUS
Troy Brown Jr.'s role in L.A. was all over the place. However, you could usually find him spotted up from the corners or cutting into the paint.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) July 2, 2023
TBJ attempted 117 corner triples for the Lakers last season, connecting on 47 of those (40%).
Played very well in transition. pic.twitter.com/Pg5wjZfiYI
Aside from some new faces, the staples of Minnesota’s bench last season are back. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kyle Anderson, and Naz Reid all provide unique and much-needed skills off the bench.
- Alexander-Walker: A rugged, floor-spacing 2-guard with on and off-ball capabilities
- Anderson: MIN’s primary ball mover off the bench and a capable defender 3-5
- Reid: A versatile big/forward on both sides of the ball
The Wolves’ versatile depth off the bench is something that the team will need to lean on throughout the entirety of the season. Sure, prioritizing Ant, KAT, Gobert, and McDaniels offensively is important. However, it’s equally important to find guys off the bench that can take a considerable load of that starters’ back. That will not only help keep everybody healthy, but it will also give equal opportunities down the roster
All five of the players I listed above deserve to be a consistent part of the rotation. It would be a shame to see any of them left out. However, if Finch ultimately decides to run that 9-man rotation again, it seems as if TBJ would be the odd-man out — factoring in the team’s ample supply of versatile wings and existing familiarity with one another from last season.
The Third Stringers
Jordan McLaughlin / Matt Ryan / Wendell Moore Jr. / Josh Minott / Leonard Miller / Luka Garza
Of course, the “third string” on a team isn’t a set lineup. Rather, the players in this category need to stay ready for whenever their number is called. Guys like Matt Ryan, Wendell Moore Jr., and Luka Garza did a respectable job at doing so last season.
Having good backup depth is crucial when a team goes through a prolonged injury spell, as the Wolves did last season. It’s always unfortunate when a player goes down, but opportunities can arise for those who wouldn’t else have a shot at playing meaningful minutes.
Speaking of opportunities, seeing 2023 second-round pick Leonard Miller in this category is a bummer. After his impressive Summer League showing, he seems closer to NBA-ready than we originally thought. However, Minnesota has incredible depth at the four and five slots, so it may be quite some time before we get to see him playing for the Timberwolves. It’s a good problem to have.
All in all, Connelly and his staff were able to put together a very solid and deep squad for the 2023-24 campaign. That being said, the team wasn’t in need of an overhaul as we saw two summers ago. The under-the-radar signings that the Timberwolves were able to make give the team their best chance to win. However, making the Playoffs and how deep the Wolves go will all come down to the relative health of their star players.