How Much Can the Wolves Lean On Their Young Players This Season?

Photo Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

As expected this summer, much of the Minnesota Timberwolves made most of their moves around the edges of the roster. Kyle Anderson and Monte Morris have left Minnesota, signing with the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns, respectively. To replace them, the Wolves have drafted Rob Dillingham and Terrence Shannon Jr. and added free agents Joe Ingles and PJ Dozier.

Minnesota has 14 players on its roster, so it’s unlikely to see much more change beyond adding an extra player on a minimum contract and a couple of two-way deals. That means that for the 2024-25 NBA season, there’s a huge opportunity for some of the young guys to play a serious bench role on a contender.

Rob Dillingham

Dillingham arrives in Minnesota with the most expectations upon his shoulders. The San Antonio Spurs selected him eighth in the 2024 draft and traded him to Minnesota for a top-1 protected 2030 first-round pick and a 2031 first-rounder. Trading for Dillingham was a creative way to try and find Mike Conley’s long-term successor at point guard. It also means that the Wolves have an exciting young player with significant upside who fits Anthony Edwards‘s age timeline.

Questions persist about the quality of Dillingham’s defense, and his size is a legitimate concern. However, his shot creation and playmaking potential are reasons to be excited. Of all the young players on the roster, Dillingham is the safest to assume he will play immediately. The Wolves don’t have another backup point guard unless they sign someone else, and they have invested significant assets to bring him to the franchise.

While he’s likely to have a slightly tumultuous first season, expect Dillingham to get consistent minutes off the bench immediately.

Terrence Shannon Jr.

The Wolves kept their first-round pick, 27th overall, and selected Shannon out of Illinois. At 23, Shannon is the sixth-oldest player on Minnesota’s roster. Unlike Dillingham, Shannon should immediately impact the defensive end with significant size and length.

Shannon should be able to contribute almost immediately, perhaps similar to how Jaime Jaquez Jr. did with the Miami Heat last season. Dillingham and Naz Reid will likely be Minnesota’s prime offensive weapons off the bench. Therefore, the Wolves will need Shannon to defend at a high level, make sensible plays, and score efficiently. At his age, it seems likely that he will play early minutes. However, there will be pressure on him to perform immediately.

The last player the Wolves took who played multiple seasons in college, Wendell Moore Jr., failed to translate to the NBA game, and they recently traded him to the Detroit Pistons. Given the cap space difficulties, it’s even more important now that the Timberwolves hit on this pick in the late 20s.

Josh Minott

With Kyle Anderson gone to Golden State, Minott might see minutes as a replacement at the small forward position off the bench. While Anderson had a strong end to the season last year, he struggled while Karl-Anthony Towns was healthy, forcing him to play at small forward. However, Minott may thrive at the 3.

Still only 21, Minott has hardly played in his first two seasons in the league. Last year, he played 32 games and averaged less than three minutes per game, almost always in garbage time. Having seen so little of him for the last two years, it’s difficult to say much about Minott beyond being an athletic, rangy forward.

However, the Wolves exercised his contract extension, meaning they still believe in his potential. However, he must have a strong summer league performance and prove he can shoot at least somewhat consistently before expecting serious minutes on this Wolves roster.

Leonard Miller

Miller is one of the most interesting prospects on the Timberwolves roster. Taken with the 33rd pick in the 2023 draft, Miller is another who hardly featured last season. Instead, he spent a lot of time in the G-League with the Iowa Wolves.

He had some impressive performances, averaging 20 points per game and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 37.8% from three. While he’s still raw, Miller potentially has a high upside that intrigues many Wolves fans.

Still, people raised questions during the last year about his willingness to play defense and whether he’s polished his game enough to make an impact. Given the size of Minnesota’s frontcourt, there was little reason for him to see any minutes.

If Miller is going to get playing time next year, it is more likely to be due to an injury to one of the bigs. He might not feature in the rotation at the start of the season. However, given his obvious potential talent, he might force himself to become a mainstay if the situation arises.

Jaylen Clark

Clark is another intriguing prospect. He will likely compete with Shannon for backup minutes at guard behind Dillingham and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. The Wolves selected him 53rd overall in the 2023 draft, but Clark missed all last season while recovering from a torn Achilles. They signed him to a two-year two-way deal, but Clark likely will not start as part of Minnesota’s rotation.

However, if his defense reaches the levels that his potential suggests it might, then Clark may force his way into the rotation to match the ethos of defense first that this roster prides itself on. If he can catch-and-shoot efficiently, something he didn’t do particularly well in college, he will almost certainly get a few minutes of playing time.

Clark likely sees a lot of G-League minutes this season, with an eye on future years in the rotation. However, Summer League will give everyone a good idea of his recovery from injury.

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