In the off-season, Minnesota Timberwolves fans were boiling over with excitement for what was one of the most anticipated regular seasons in franchise history. The Wolves entered the season with more talent than they’d had in ages. The team looked like it could be good enough to make some noise in the Western Conference. On top of it all, the roster that Tim Connelly had built is unique in its incredible size and length.
It was big boy season! Rudy Gobert was meant to clean up all the problems that gave the Wolves fits last year by defending the rim and cleaning up on the glass. This design by Twitter user @jakesgraphs was a declaration for the season: Small ball is dead.
(Available for purchase at Jakesgraphs.com)
But, fewer than 20 games into the season, Wolves fans have lost their confidence and might be reconsidering whether big ball is actually all it was chalked up to be.
I think that the Wolves’ super-sized lineup is actually right in line with the ethos of the NBA. Look around the league, and you can see that plenty of teams are opting to play big. The Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the best teams in the league and pairing Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. The Indiana Pacers are playing Myles Turner and Jalen Smith in their starting lineup. Heck, the Milwaukee Bucks just won a title a couple of years ago with Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo in their frontcourt. A lot of teams in this league play big.
Tonight, the Wolves will be matched up against one of the biggest teams in the league. The Orlando Magic takes big ball to a whole different level. It should prove to be one of the most unique matchups in the NBA because the Magic is an incredibly tall and long team.
A lineup with Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., Paolo Banchero, Terrence Ross, and Bol Bol lead the Magic minutes played per game this season. Compared to the Wolves’ starting group, here is how the length stacks up:
According to NBA.com, the average height in the NBA is 6’6.74-“, so both these teams can trot out lineups that are big compared to the rest of the league. Banchero and Carter are both questionable for tonight’s matchup, so we may see Chuma Okeke and Mohamed Bamba in their place in this super-sized lineup.
I would not be surprised to see the Magic continue to push the limits of size against the Wolves tonight because there aren’t many teams that serve as a better opportunity to test these types of lineups. For example, the Cavaliers deploy their huge frontcourt with two small guards, Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Bigger players might have trouble staying on the court against those two defensively, as they can find advantages with their speed off the dribble.
D’Angelo Russell has struggled with bigger defenders, and Anthony Edwards’ strength often forces opponents to guard him with a bigger player. The Magic should have no doubts about containing Minnesota’s backcourt with forward-size players.
Maybe this is an opportunity for the Wolves to try some super-sized lineups as well. Would Chris Finch be willing to push the limits of size against the Magic tonight? He’s been clamoring that he needs to find lineups that work, and this seems like a great opportunity to experiment. Personally, I would love to see a lineup that featured Gobert, Towns, Naz Reid, McDaniels, and Kyle Anderson. C’mon, Chris Finch, let’s go crazy.
Regardless of the lineups, the Wolves need to win tonight. Orlando only has four wins so far this season, and they are in the running to add even more insane length to their roster in next year’s draft. Can you imagine if this already humungous team added 7’3” Victor Wembanyama? If the Wolves can’t pull out a win tonight, it will certainly be disappointing. Still, the odds of coming out on top are even better for Minnesota because the Magic will be playing without Cole Anthony: Certified Wolves Killer.