When we last saw the Minnesota Timberwolves on the court, Anthony Edwards made his star turn in the playoffs. However, Karl-Anthony Towns had a disappointing performance after the best year of his career, and D’Angelo Russell left fans wondering if he was coming back for another season. It was a wild offseason. The Wolves hired Tim Connelly as their new lead executive, and he traded for another leading man in Rudy Gobert. He also made one of the savviest free agent signings, snatching Kyle Anderson from the Memphis Grizzlies.
These additions are huge and have vaulted the Timberwolves into awards consideration with a faint din of championship buzz around the corner. But the Wolves also made many changes on the margins, which could make or break one of the most anticipated seasons in franchise history. So which new supporting cast member will make the biggest impact in Minnesota this season?
So if Tim Connelly, Gobert, and Anderson are ineligible, who is in the running for this very important but very made-up award? The nominees are Austin Rivers, Bryn Forbes, PJ Dozier, Wendell Moore Jr., and Josh Minott. Due to restrictions, the category must be capped at five players, leaving the likes of CJ Elleby, Luka Garza, Eric Paschall, and A.J. Lawson on the outside looking in.
As rookies, Moore and Minott might not see much playing time in the big leagues. They will probably have more of an impact for the Iowa Wolves this year. If and when they get their chances, Moore’s shooting ability and defensive prowess might allow him some run if, God forbid, anything happens to Edwards or Jaylen Nowell. The Duke product should be ready to step up. Minott’s raw athleticism makes him a worthwhile project. Still, we will likely see him stashed behind Towns, Anderson, Jaden McDaniels, and Taurean Prince at forward.
Dozier showed some promise in the last few years in Denver. However, he’s coming off an ACL tear that derailed his season after just 18 games with the Nuggets last year. He’s not a great shooter off the bench, which will blunt any impact he could potentially make on a team devoid of knockdown shooters.
Forbes is a knockdown shooter with a career three-point shooting percentage above 41 percent. He played an important role on the Milwaukee Bucks when they won the NBA championship in 2021. He’ll carve a nice role as the designated shooter off the bench for 12-15 minutes per game.
But when it comes to overall impact, Rivers is the new arrival who will add the most to the supporting cast.
Back in college, my friend was convinced that Rivers was the new and improved version of Steph Curry. Ten years later, things didn’t quite pan out how he had dreamt it. However, Rivers is still in the NBA, contributing to winning basketball teams. He succeeded under his father Doc with the late-era Lob City Clippers teams. Then he bounced around to three more teams until he found a new home in Denver last year.
He comes to Minnesota as a grizzled NBA veteran who can fill multiple roles for the talented Wolves off the bench. Think of Rivers as the poor man’s Patrick Beverley, but without the flair and the antics. He’s a prototypical third-guard in the NBA who can play on or off the ball. Rivers can provide high-level on-ball defense and sits just a tick below league average as a three-point shooter. Similar to Beverley, Rivers won over media members and fans at his first Wolves media day by saying he grew up watching the Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury teams of the ’90s and preaching playing tough defense while giving a detailed (and correct) breakdown of why D2 is the best Mighty Ducks movie.
Rivers doesn’t have to be amazing at any one thing to help keep things together. If he can be a glue guy and a veteran leader, Rivers will quickly become a fan favorite in Minnesota. The roster is talented enough that he won’t be expected to play extended minutes or drop 25 points off the bench when the starters are struggling. Rivers can make his mark in games in 15-18 minutes off the bench.
It makes me want to throw up a little knowing that Rivers is the second-oldest player on the team. But his veteran leadership is what this team needs to fill the void left by Beverley’s departure. Edwards blossomed under Pat Bev’s tutelage, and now Rivers has been brought in to aid Edwards in his development while not getting in anyone’s way.
The Wolves made far more important acquisitions this offseason to turn the franchise around under new owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez. However, Austin Rivers will greatly impact Minnesota’s new supporting cast members.