Minnesota Timberwolves 2015 Position Outlook: Center


This is the final piece in a series of five articles that will analyze each position for the Minnesota Timberwolves heading into the 2015 season. Today we take a look at the center position.

Here at Dunking With Wolves, we like to brag about the immense talent that the Minnesota Timberwolves front office has assembled in the last few years. The center position includes two of those young talents.

The first-overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft seems like a good place to start. Karl-Anthony Town, the big man out of Kentucky, seems poised to be a star in the NBA. After his first taste of game experience at the NBA level during the Las Vegas Summer League, his ceiling may have just gotten a little bit taller.

Towns showed an incredible all-around game in five Summer League games. Towns played just over 31 minutes per game and put up a respectable statline that included 12.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, and 1.8 BPG. There was no doubt that Towns struggled at times adjusting to the speed of the professional level, just like pretty much every rookie. However, most of the time Towns was on the floor it appeared clear that he was the best player on the floor. He protected the rim defensively and was a consistent threat offensively.

The most surprising thing I took away from Towns during Summer League was his ability to pass out of double-teams — a skill that Jahlil Okafor was praised for relentlessly leading up to the NBA Draft. Either I simply didn’t know enough about Towns and he was showing this ability all along, or it went pretty under-the-radar throughout his career at Kentucky.

Either way, I’m really impressed. Here’s just one example of an excellent pass from a double-team.

Towns can do it all. Offensively, he can shoot, score from the post, pass with good vision, and run the pick-and-roll. Defensively, he’s a rock solid one-on-one defender and we also saw his ability to protect the rim during Summer League. He’s also an excellent rebounder. Towns has all the skills, and now it’s only a matter of getting adjusted to the NBA game.

At the start of 2015-16, I expect Towns to start at the center position for the Timberwolves and play anywhere from 25-30 minutes, with a few of those minutes possibly at the power forward position. I’m really looking forward to watching him play with guys like Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, and Kevin Martin instead of the less-experienced guys he played with during Summer League. It’s a scary thought for other teams, because Towns will only get better as he plays with better teammates and gains more experience.

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Gorgui Dieng is the other young center with some talent on the Timberwolves roster. Dieng will never be much of a threat to score on somebody by using a vast array of post moves, but he can do many other things well. In his two years of NBA experience, Dieng has proven himself as one of the better rim protectors in the game. Offensively, Dieng has decent court vision and has one of the better mid-range jump shots in the NBA. (If you don’t believe me, look at the chart below. That’s 79% from the free throw line/elbow area. SEVENTY-NINE PERCENT).

Dieng does have a few things to improve on. While he’s usually pretty solid about getting the correct rebounding position, he simply gets out-muscled for rebounds often (which isn’t surprising when you look at his long, lanky frame). Additionally, Dieng is a relatively poor one-on-one post defender and isn’t great defending the pick-and-roll, either.

Going into 2015-16, Dieng should be a solid role player for the Timberwolves as long as he’s healthy. He’s proven that he can play big minutes and be effective in the NBA. Look for something around 20-25 minutes per game this season from Dieng at the center position.

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Nikola Pekovic is the last center on the roster, although it’s tough to evaluate how much he’ll be a factor this season as he recovers from an Achilles’ tendon procedure. It doesn’t appear as if he’ll be ready for the beginning of the regular season, and my hunch is that this is the type of injury that lingers and bothers Pekovic for quite some time.

When healthy, Pekovic has some game. He’s not a terrific defender by any means, but he’s a big body who can rebound and is a pretty crafty scorer in the low post. Still though, with the injury he’s recovering from, I’m not very optimistic about the amount of playing time he’ll see this season. If he does get healthy, expect him to get eased back into action and slowly take minutes from Towns and Dieng.

The selection of Towns first overall has undoubtedly increased the amount of talent on this team at the center position. While Dieng and Pekovic both do a few things pretty well, Towns is an excellent all-around talent. Hopefully, Dieng and Pekovic as well as Kevin Garnett can help Towns adjust to the NBA. If Towns adjusts quickly to the speed of the NBA game, the rest of the league had better watch out not just for Towns, but for the entire Minnesota Timberwolves team as well.

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