Tim Connelly Solved the Jokic Problem. But Does He Have A Luka Solution?

Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Anderson doesn’t want to go anywhere. His son is on the spectrum and thriving in Minnesota’s school system. Anderson also feels that Chris Finch understands his unique playstyle, and the Minnesota Timberwolves should be running it back with a team that reached the Western Conference Finals this year.

“I obviously want to be back here,” he said during his exit interview after the season. “You know, my family’s here. My son is on the spectrum. He’s doing really well here in the Minnesota school system, and his development is really key. And he’s doing so well, so, you know, that plays a part in it. But I don’t know where I’ll be.

“I don’t even like to think about that stuff. When the time comes, we’ll make that decision.”

Anderson may be the odd man out because he’s Minnesota’s only rotation player who isn’t under contract for next year. Anderson’s defense was vital against Luka Doncic in the Western Conference Finals. However, Anthony Edwards inadvertently hit Anderson in the eye during Game 4 of the first round last year, which impacted his shooting all year. Anderson shot 22.9% from three and 46.0% from the field a year after shooting a career-high 41.0% from three and 50.9% from the field.

“I wasn’t happy with the way I played this year,” said Anderson. “I think the key to having a good season is having that time in the offseason to put the work in. Unfortunately, the injury in Game 4 last year just didn’t allow me to [put the work in], and that carried over to me not playing well individually.

“Last season, I didn’t get back on the court ‘til like July and headed to World Cup with Team China in August. I just didn’t have that body of work where I’m getting the reps in and putting the work in and getting that sweat equity with my game. I don’t think I played well this season, but that’s not who I am.”

At 6’9”, 230 lbs., Anderson has the size to match up against Doncic and other larger, dynamic scorers. He’s a savvy defender who uses his length to disrupt shots and poke the ball away from opponents. But he was an offensive liability last year and played sporadic minutes against the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets.

However, Anderson averaged 22.4 minutes per game against the Dallas Mavericks. Finch primarily played him on Doncic, and Anderson offered enough offensively to validate keeping him on the floor. Finch likes Anderson and Rudy Gobert’s two-man game, and Gobert was Minnesota’s defensive anchor next year. However, he can’t play them together if Anderson isn’t generating offense.

“I personally,” Finch said, “would like to have him back.”

The Timberwolves beat Phoenix using their depth. They hung on to eliminate the Nuggets using Karl-Anthony Towns on Nikola Jokic and Gobert as the roamer. But they didn’t have an answer for Doncic and Kyrie Irving. Finch put Edwards on Doncic. However, Edwards is Minnesota’s best scorer and often brings the ball up. Asking him also to contain Doncic will sap his endurance.

Doncic (6’7”, 230 lbs.) can bully Jaden McDaniels (6’9”, 185 lbs.) with his size, making McDaniels better suited to cover Irving. However, while McDaniels is a great defender, Nickeil Alexander-Walker matches up with Irving better. Irving is quick enough to separate from McDaniels, but Alexander-Walker has more foot speed to complement his length.

But Alexander-Walker shot 28.6% from the field and 18.8% from three against Dallas. There is no way for Minnesota to keep up with the Mavericks offensively if Anderson, Gobert, and Alexander-Walker are on the floor together, regardless of how well they’re defending. Therefore, Anderson must improve offensively, or the Wolves must find a replacement for him in their rotation.

Jaylen Clark could push Alexander-Walker for rotation minutes next year, and Leonard Miller (6’10”, 210 lbs.) has size and scoring potential. However, Connelly would likely have to go outside the organization to replace Anderson. It will be hard to fit Anderson under the cap, given that Edwards and Towns are on max deals, Gobert will make $43.8 million next year, and McDaniels’ five-year, $131 million extension kicks in next season.

Still, Connelly says he’s open to the idea of re-signing Anderson.

“We’d love to have Kyle back,” said Connelly. “He’s not just a great player. He’s a great guy. His voice and his toughness are hugely important to who we are. So again, you never know what’s going to happen, not going to happen, but we’d love to have Kyle back, and we’re not here without Kyle.”

After reaching the Western Conference Finals, Connelly and the Wolves appear committed to running it back with a similar roster. They believe continuity will bring out the best in their team, especially their young players. Minnesota eliminated Jokic and the Nuggets this year. Still, they’ll have to have a solution for the Mavericks or another team with dynamic scorers in the backcourt.

Anderson would like to be part of the solution. But we’ll have to wait and see if the Timberwolves believe he offers enough to be part of another playoff run next year.

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