Timberwolves

Tim Connelly's Championship Recipe Has Some Familiar Ingredients

Photo Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Maestro Tim Connelly is making Chris Finch’s life easier by stacking the roster with players with similar skill sets.

In the NBA, a general manager and head coach are like a chef and a supplier. The coach has to take the ingredients the GM provides him and cook up a recipe that is not only delicious but also leads to wins. If a chef is making an amazing ravioli ragu, for example, what is he supposed to do if the farm-fresh eggs to make the ravioli get into foul trouble? Hopefully, the GM has stacked the cupboards with additional eggs. For if he hasn’t, there is no way to make a great ragu, no matter how good the chef.

Analogies aside, the Timberwolves have doubled down on their identity for the upcoming season. Connelly built this team with elite defense, ample bigs, and a pinch of scoring threat from Anthony Edwards and Co. When constructing the roster for their breakout season in 2023-24 and in reaching the Western Conference Finals, Connelly built a roster with overlapping pieces.

What if their star power forward Karl-Anthony Towns, who’s great on offense but decent on defense, gets into foul trouble? No problem; simply insert Naz Reid, another great-on-offense and decent-on-defense player – no need to dramatically alter the scheme or play-calling in this situation.

And if their second-team all-defense perimeter stalwart in Jaden McDaniels – who’s great on defense but has limited offense – were to similarly be injured or get into foul trouble? No problem. Simply insert Nickeil Alexander-Walker, another player of the same ilk.

This offseason, Tim Connelly made more moves that reinforced this philosophy. They added Terrence Shannon Jr., another player with a similar skillset as Jaden and Nickeil, with limited offense but superb defensive flexibility. Additionally, the team signed undrafted big man Jesse Edwards. At 7’0” and with a 7’5” wingspan and limited offensive skills, Jesse Edwards projects as a Rudy Gobert-lite type of developmental project.

Connelly’s philosophy has multiple benefits. One is that it allows a more streamlined learning/mastery of the system by all of the players. The scheme on offense and defense does not need to be altered dramatically within a game if one of their key players is injured or gets into foul trouble. That helps not only when those adjustments need to be made in-game or in-season but also helps make mastery of the system easier for all.

There is also the plus that Connelly can look for players in the draft or in free agency who most teams might undervalue but fit a niche within Minnesota’s system. TSJ fits this mold. The Wolves will not ask him to be a primary scorer. Instead, they will ask him to harken back to his days as a defensive force at Texas Tech. Additionally, it allows the players to play to their strengths as players within the pre-established system, adding to the likelihood of individual success.

Of course, there should be some added flavor this season. Connelly also found a way to add some spicy scoring ability in Robert Dillingham, who the Wolves will ask to create scoring off the bench when veteran Mike Conley or Anthony Edwards takes a breather.

Coach Finch will be asked to marinate and stir and saute the new pieces of Minnesota’s recipe this coming season. Still, the Timberwolves front office clearly believes they are on the right track to a championship by doubling down on skill sets that fit this philosophy. Now, we let Coach Finch cook!

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