Entering the season, the Minnesota Timberwolves had a lot of promise after acquiring Rudy Gobert. The move placed Minnesota’s big-man duo in the spotlight. It slid Rudy alongside seventh-year center Karl-Anthony Towns, who was fresh off a new extension and an All-NBA nomination. Anthony Edwards also reveled in newfound national attention after an excellent display on the big stage of his first career playoff series, scoring 25.2 ppg on 45.5/40.4/82.4 splits. Many fans and pundits expected him to take a third-year leap, something we often see with players. A recent example is Ja Morant stepping his game up, potentially becoming a top-25 player last year.
The Gobert trade and Edwards’ emergence created a heavy media burden, but people around the league focus on Minnesota’s core players rather than the team around them. Specifically, the Timberwolves’ forward trio has kept them afloat this year. While it makes sense for this position group to be overlooked when there are many other talking points with the roster, they have found a way to offer some of the most stability around the key components of the roster while not needing much usage.
Jaden McDaniels has stepped his game up this season on both ends of the floor. The Timberwolves didn’t include him in the Gobert trade because of how high the Wolves were on his potential and how he had played in his first two seasons. Jaden is Minnesota’s point of attack (POA) defender at all times this season when on the floor, picking up incredible offensive talents and doing his best to slow them down. McDaniels has had great success thus far with the eye test of his screen navigation skills and his ability to use his frame to contest shots, and it’s starting to show up in advanced analytics.
This season became a massive year for Jaden’s development. When you are implementing the drop scheme with Rudy Gobert, the on-ball defender must be able to hold their own as well, especially with the vast amount of offensive talent in the league.
Offensively, McDaniels has also taken a vital step in his development. He is shooting 52.9% from the field and shooting 37.9% from three, both career highs. Therefore, he has an excellent true shooting percentage, a stat that best measures three-point shooting and shooting percentage together, of 61.7%, also a career-high. He has been able to do a good job at times as a cutter and off contested closeouts to beat his defender for close-range looks.
Many people overlooked the Kyle Anderson signing because it happened a day before the Gobert trade. SloMo brings a lot to the table, but it took a while for things to settle as he dealt with lingering issues and the adjustment to a new system. However, his impact has been massive on this team. He brings his on-ball skill set with good passing, ball-handling, and overall smart play. His ability to impact the game while not putting shots up is exactly what this team needed. On top of that, he has solid defensive ability. SloMo has been the perfect role player to help everyone gel everyone and create some cohesiveness.
Finally, Taurean Prince has injected shooting into this team. He is connecting on 39.1% of his threes this season, and the team is 13-8 when he is healthy. Prince is also vital as a catch-and-shoot option for the Wolves, and his defense is solid. Prince uses his frame to be active and get deflections. He offers a great safety net of balance, never going to go too far out of his way from his own role but still doing enough to have a positive net impact for the team.
Overall, these forwards are the glue that holds the rest of the team together. The Wolves will have a lot to figure out once KAT is back healthy in the lineup, but this group can help things stay in balance. Each offers their own distinct play style to ensure the team can stay afloat if there is another growing period with a fully healthy roster.