Under the Radar Wolves Players


This Timberwolves off-season has mainly focused on the “stars” of the team. Whether that be the discussion of how Andrew Wiggins will perform after his rookie of the year campaign or the alleged trade rumors surrounding Ricky Rubio.

Regardless, most of the Wolves off-season has pointed to the big-name players on the roster. There are a few players that keep flying under the radar, however, and are ready to take the next step. They are the main core in what I think is a wildly underrated Wolves bench. In my own personal opinion, a few of these guys could be in line for a starting spot sometime during the season.

The first underrated Wolves player to me is Gorgui Dieng, and oh how I hear the collective sigh because I am obsessed with Dieng’s game and I talk about it a lot. But whatever.

We saw Dieng dominate the AfroBasket tournament over the summer, but despite his utter dominance on some less than amazing competition, his team did not win the tournament. I don’t necessarily think Senegal’s loss in AfroBasket is anything to worry about, but it is kind of puzzling that they did not win with Dieng apparently being so dominant.

But what makes him so underrated for the Wolves? The fact of the matter is, good centers are at a premium in this era of the NBA. If Dieng was not playing for the Wolves, he would absolutely, positively be starting on another team. It’s the fact that the Wolves now have Karl Anthony-Towns that will likely slide Dieng to the bench.

I think interim coach Sam Mitchell should at least give Dieng a shot at starting, especially since Towns will be a little raw in the early part of the season. Looking at last year, Dieng started 49 games. In those games, he had 15 double-doubles. That was the most out of any Wolves player and additionally, Dieng still managed to lead the team in Win Shares with 4.9.

Now that is at least partially an illustration of how little the Wolves won last year, but it has to be respected that Dieng was responsible for more wins than Andrew Wiggins or Ricky Rubio. That alone could be reason enough to put Dieng into the starting line-up at some point this season.

Shabazz Muhammad also flies under the radar on this years Wolves roster, as Muhammad missed most of last year due to a finger injury. However, as we’ve discussed in the past, Muhammad was playing very well before his injury.

His per-36 minute numbers last year in 38 games were 21.3 points and six rebounds. If anything, it’s his shot that needs as he was at his best when he within five feet of the basket. For a small forward in the NBA, some sort of reliable jump shot is required.

This off-season Muhammad has put in work to become stronger and hopefully stay healthy all season. As seen above, the dude looks like an absolute freak.

Regardless, it’s promising to see Muhammad put in the work as his effort has been called into question in the past. I think we can expect an even better, full season from Muhammad, and that’s saying something based on his previous seasons.

It’ll be hard for Muhammad to get out of a backup role, however, simply because he is backing up Andrew Wiggins. Muhammad has shown a lot of promise while playing the small-ball ‘four’ in the past, so we’ll probably see some more of that this year.

The wild card here for the Wolves is Nemanja Bjelica, the Euroleague MVP and off-season signing. While he won’t be an immediate starter and he may not get a ton of minutes to start off, his ability to play the stretch-four position is an asset the Wolves don’t have much of otherwise.

Bjelica could play something like a poor man’s Kevin Love role in Flip Saunders’ offense as he can come out and shoot the ball but he can also work down low and grab rebounds. That is an asset that is hard to come by in NBA, and we’ve seen how good Love has become in that style of play.

Let’s hope that Bjelica can at least turn into something like Love, and he can come off the bench and be an instant offense sort of power forward. However, the Wolves have been unlucky in signing European players in the past, and who know how Bjelica will translate to the NBA. Let’s just hope he turns into a great number 88, rather than this kind of number 88.

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