As the Minnesota Timberwolves reach the conclusion of the 2022 preseason, many players on the team have shown out and proven to be capable rotation players in the preseason. Players like Jaylen Nowell and Bryn Forbes have established their off-the-bench backcourt roles on the team. They displayed their efficient shooting and impactful play off the bench at the guard positions throughout the preseason. However, other players have also played well for the Wolves this preseason, but their projected roles with the team entering this season are still a bit uncertain.
With this in mind, the Wolves will have some tough decisions to make at the end of the preseason. Which players do they keep for their season-opening game roster? Which players to place on their G-league affiliate team? And which players do they waive?
However, aside from their performance in training camp and the preseason, the Wolves should consider the type of role that any potential player they hang onto will have for this crucial season. Case in point: Luka Garza has performed reasonably well this preseason and could serve a sneaky important role.
Through the first four preseason games for the Wolves, Garza has stepped up big late in the game in both matchups against the Lakers. In their first preseason matchup against LA on Oct. 6, Garza got his playing action all in the fourth quarter. He played all 12 minutes of the quarter. During that time, Garza played a significant role in helping the Wolves secure the victory, scoring 10 points in the fourth on 4-7 shooting from the field and 1-2 from three.
In Minnesota’s second preseason game against the Lakers on Oct. 12th, Garza once again helped the Wolves close out the game in the fourth quarter. With only a 9-point lead early held by the Wolves in the 4th quarter, Garza would put up 15 points in the 4th, shooting 5-9 from the floor and an impressive 3-4 from three. Garza would also finish the game with 4 rebounds and a steal, helping score half of Minnesota’s total points in the fourth quarter to ensure the Wolves remained undefeated in the preseason.
After their 2nd game against the Lakers, Chris Finch praised Garza. “He’s the perfect system fit for us,” he said. “Great acquisition by our front office. He’s a guy I think can really grow into our system here. He can stretch the floor, and he can score around the basket. … Not a lot of bigs can do that.”
While Finch is right in that Garza provides some strong play both around the rim and from three, the Wolves coincidentally have a couple of bigs that could do both. With their frontcourt players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Naz Reid, the Wolves have big men that are effective at scoring near the rim and stretching the floor. For that reason, the Wolves should strongly consider holding onto Garza and signing him to the team for this upcoming season. He could serve a quietly important role as a stretch big that could be an important piece for the Wolves at some point during the season.
While the Wolves have guys like KAT and Reid that could do what Garza essentially does as a big, every team has to hedge for injuries. Furthermore, many big men and frontcourt players are even more prone to injury. They often have to box out for rebounds and be more aggressive near the basket, which takes a toll on their bodies. While Towns had an incredible start to his career, playing in all 82 games in each of his first three seasons, he began to experience some ankle and wrist injuries from 2019-21, and he missed nearly half the games through two seasons during that span.
Towns was able to play in 74 games last season and stay fairly healthy, but one never knows what can transpire throughout a season. Therefore, Garza could serve as a backup big man that the Wolves can have on their roster and add to their rotation in the case of any injury to their frontcourt players. Finch already mentioned that he plans to have one of either Towns or Rudy Gobert in the game at all times this season, so it will be important for the Wolves to ensure that they have some added insurance pieces. Garza could still serve as a stretch big and play well with his back to the basket if the Wolves potentially lose any of their other versatile big men.
Reid has played well through the preseason and has improved as an outside shooter and a rebounder. While many Wolves fans would love to have Naz this season, Minnesota could trade him this year. Reid is in a contract year, and he faces another reduction in his minutes with Gobert in the mix.
Therefore, the Wolves could be put in a position to optimize Naz’s value and offer him to a team midseason that could utilize him more. It’s a way for the Wolves to get back some of the draft compensation they lost in the Gobert trade. Garza could be even more important to keep on the team if this is in the potential plans for the Wolves, so they could still have a stretch big man that could come off the bench. He would give the Wolves an added option in the frontcourt to perform within the system the way Finch envisions it performing.
Garza signed an exhibit 10-day contract for the Wolves in late August, and Minnesota converted that to a two-way on Sunday. While it’s still uncertain whether the Wolves will decide to keep and utilize Garza for the rest of the season, he could become a very underrated role player for this team or another, and he has played well enough to at least get an opportunity. Now, it’s all up to the Wolves to determine how they view their roster and whether or not Garza could be someone that falls in line with Minnesota’s plans for this exciting season.