Timberwolves

How Will the Timberwolves Use Their Bench Wings and Bigs?

Photo Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Note: this is the second in a two-part series about how the Timberwolves will use their bench players this season. Read the first part here.

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ wings and bigs exhibit some of the most positional flexibility on the roster. Perhaps most notably? There may not be a true center on the bench. However, this flexibility should be a major bonus for head coach Chris Finch as he navigates the course of the season.

The Glue Guys:

Kyle Anderson is one of those players who always seemed to cook the Wolves when the Memphis Grizzlies came to town. He doesn’t do any one thing spectacularly, but he also doesn’t do much wrong, which is exactly why Minnesota jumped at the opportunity to sign him. Anderson is a 28-year-old 6’9″ wing who can do a little of everything, including bringing the ball up the floor and initiating the offense. His shooting statistics don’t jump off the page (33% from three, 63.8% free throw percentage last season), though he brings stability and a veteran presence to any lineup Finch will deploy him in. The Timberwolves are lucky to have him.

Rivers is technically a guard, but the “glue guy” category made much more sense. He’s much of the same story. Rivers garnered tons of headlines playing for his dad with the Los Angeles Clippers. But he’s a pesky guard who can hit shots at a near-average clip and, most importantly, defend opposing guards well. Finch will likely deploy Rivers similarly to Josh Okogie‘s role last season. He will not see the court much if he bears an injury or matchup-specific scenario. Still, as a locker room presence with playoff experience, Rivers will be a valuable addition to the team.

Prince returns on a freshly-inked two-year extension to a team that welcomed his versatility last season. He’s a big wing who can match up with just about any player on the court while also knocking down threes at an above-average clip (38%, 44% from the corner). Prince’s 56.6% effective field goal percentage was good for the 84th percentile league-wide, and that efficiency is highly valued in rotational players in the modern NBA. Prince knows his role, can step up when he needs to and brings a steadying presence to the lineup. He’s a great guy to keep around and will be a vital presence for this core moving forward.

The Bigs:

Reid is in a precarious position this year. Unlike Jordan McLaughlin, who got promoted, Reid seems to have gotten demoted to being the third-string center behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. That being said: Are we sure center is still the best position for him?

Optically, Reid was overwhelmed by traditional centers for most of the season last year. Minnesota was 6.7 points worse in the minutes that Reid played last season, while the offensive efficiency suffered greatly as his high usage rate (19.9%) did not translate into efficient scoring. At just 6’9″, 264 lbs., he could be labeled as a prototypical “small ball” center, but his still-developing skill set caps the team’s potential as Naz continues to find his optimal role in the NBA.

To his credit, he is a good shooter from beyond the arc: Cleaning the Glass metrics have Reid at 35% from three and a massive 50% on corner threes. The Wolves probably put Reid into many compromising positions last season as Towns could not stay out of foul trouble, forcing Reid to play bigger minutes against better opponents as Towns was relegated to the bench. Reid has a lot of potential, so it might not be bad for his development that he is further down on the bench this year.

Maybe Reid, like Towns, could try his hand at power forward this season. Towns and Reid have similar skill sets at their core. Finch will likely stagger Towns and Gobert’s minutes, so one of them is on the court at most times. Therefore, Naz could probably play a good skill complement to Gobert at PF if and when the occasion ever arises. That would give him more room to use his athleticism and be less relied upon to guard the rim, an area where Reid struggles greatly. It’s sure to be a development in the 2022-23 season.

Connelly recently gave Knight, and he may factor into the bench rebounding role more than some may have initially thought. Knight is unabashed regarding contact and has showcased that he can thrive in limited minutes. Knight’s dominant performances at the Twin Cities Pro-Am were of NBA-caliber play, and if the opportunity arises, he can provide size and comfortability. Knight’s role will be limited, but he is essential to the team’s depth.

The Rookie:

There is a solid chance that Minott is the most exciting player on the list. However, he is a raw and undeveloped prospect. As I mentioned in my last piece, there is little chance that this team gives its young rookies many opportunities early. The Timberwolves will be contending for a top seed in the Western Conference, and this roster construction does not provide much room for unproven players like Minott. He has all the physical tools to become a quality player for the Timberwolves. However, that likely won’t be realized for a couple of years. Expect Minott to spend plenty of time in Iowa this season with fellow rookie Wendell Moore Jr. and Matteo Spagnolo.

Ultimately, this is far and away one of the deepest Timberwolves teams that they have ever assembled. Credit to Connelly for somehow assembling a contending roster while ensuring the team’s future is intact with Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels. It will be exciting to see how Finch’s bench rotation looks when the season starts, but the plus side is that he has many options to create lineups. It will be a fun year to watch all parts of this bench ascend and coalesce, and Finch is the perfect guy to make it all happen.

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