Timberwolves

What Should We Anticipate the Wolves Rotation To Look Like Next Year

Photo Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves have finally assembled their 15-man roster and filled both two-way slots as the beginning of the season nears. Returning nine players from this last season while acquiring eight new players.

Returning Players: Jordan McLaughlin, D’Angelo Russell, Jaylen Nowell, Anthony Edwards, Taurean Prince, Naz Reid, Jaden McDaniels, Nathan Knight, and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Acquired Players: Bryn Forbes, Austin Rivers, Wendell Moore Jr, A.J. Lawson, Josh Minott, Kyle Anderson, Eric Paschall, and Rudy Gobert

Departing Players: McKinley Wright, Patrick Beverley, Josh Okogie, Malik Beasley, Leandro Bolmaro, Jake Layman, Jarred Vanderbilt

Minnesota’s offseason moves put them in an interesting position with their rotation. Last season, we saw Finch be very flexible with the game plan. He changed up the starting lineup often and had to adjust due to injuries and COVID. Finch primarily based his starting lineups on the other team’s personnel matchups.

If they faced a larger team like the Cleveland Cavaliers, with Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, and Lauri Markkanen, you would see McDaniels starting alongside Vanderbilt and KAT, with a heavy dosage of Reid off the bench. However, Vanderbilt would come off the bench when the Wolves played a smaller team like the Los Angeles Clippers, with Ivica Zubac as the only big man in their starting lineup. Finch would swap Beverley around to fill the gap when needed. It was a revolving door between the three, constantly adapting to the situation.

Gobert changes the rotations and starting lineup drastically, though. He adds size and rim protection, which will significantly impact the lineup. Therefore, the starting lineup should have a lot more consistency than it did last year. They must fill the gaps of Beverley’s point-of-attack defense and rely on McDaniels to polish his game.

Gobert’s presence aligns a fairly consensus projected starting lineup of D’Angelo Russel, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniel, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Rudy Gobert. This gives the Wolves an equal balance of offensive ability in DLo, Ant, and KAT while offering defensive versatility in McDaniels and Gobert to cover the perimeter and paint. Edwards can be more aggressive, using his athleticism to play passing lanes with more protection behind him.

But how do they replace Beasley, Vanderbilt, and Beverley?

Their departures offer more than enough for the new bench players to try and replace. Taurean Prince, Jaylen Nowell, and Reid are returning to the bench. Minnesota’s revamped roster offers a lot for them to grow from with usage and new opportunity. It also adjusts slightly with new veterans Kyle Anderson, Bryn Forbes, and Austin Rivers in the mix — three players who have played around many different situations. It will also accommodate rookies Wendell Moore and Josh Minott in the future. As they develop and refine their game, they will become more acclimated to the play style the Wolves will look from them.

However, figuring out who will fill out the bench rotation gets tricky. Jordan McLaughlin, Nowell, Prince, and Anderson should be shoe-ins. McLaughlin had a massive series against the Memphis Grizzlies in the playoffs and should benefit from Beverley’s departure. Nowell has an opportunity to replace Beasley with his ability to get much more volume and see if Nowell can match his exceptional efficiency this past season.

Anderson will be the do-it-all forward, providing decent spacing and defensive versatility. They re-signed Taurean Prince this offseason after showing the ability to play viable off-ball defense while spacing the floor excellently, and he gets the easy nod.

It gets tricky past there, though.

Reid is the only returning player whose stock is in limbo. He showed promise in the past, but he occasionally struggled with his defense and rebounding against larger opponents.

Three of their players, Wendell Moore, Josh Minott, and A.J. Lawson, have to develop more before they are NBA-ready. They will probably be out of the rotation while they get reps in the G-League or work with the team in practice.

Forbes and Rivers find themselves in similar spots. Both have time spent in the league off the bench. I slightly favor Rivers. He has shown more throughout his time in the league and can offer more than Forbes. Forbes is the smaller of the two and offers plus-shooting but lacks in other categories.

This aligns a fully healthy starting rotation of Russell-Edwards-McDaniels-KAT-Gobert and a bench of McLaughlin-Rivers-Prince-Anderson-Reid. It also leaves fringe players Nathan Knight, Bryn Forbes, and Eric Paschall to provide experienced depth behind and puts the Wolves in a position to compete. They have depth in case of injury while still offering a development path for youth. The front office has created a meticulously balanced roster as they gear up for a highly-anticipated season.

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Photo Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

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