The Minnesota Timberwolves can take the next step by making this improvement.
As the Finals are now over and the draft is just one week away, let’s check in on what the Minnesota Timberwolves can do to improve their bench. This will be very exciting because it might just be the ingredient they need to take the next step.
The Timberwolves were dead last in bench scoring last season with an abysmal 22.8 points per game. To put this in perspective, the 15th best scoring bench, the Phoenix Suns, scored 35.2 points per game and the top bench in the league, the Los Angeles Lakers, averaged 47.1. So the Wolves are way behind everyone else in bench production.
Now, why is this? Is there just not enough talent on the bench? Are there just not scorers on the bench? Is it the system they play in? The questions have been asked night in and night out but what are the answers?
Let’s analyze who the players who made up this league-worst bench.
To start, Kris Dunn was supposed to be a big part of the bench if he was unable to crack the starting lineup. He was a disappointment on a lot of levels this year, but the Wolves should not give up on him. With how the sports society likes to respond nowadays, everyone overreacts and has their own opinions on social media.
Dunn was a high pick, but he only showed glimpses of what he is able to accomplish. As the starting point guard, he did not have a lot to work with. His jumper needs a lot of improvement so he didn’t have a whole lot to lean back on.
The product out of Providence played in 78 games, averaging 17.1 minutes, but just 3.8 points and 2.4 points per contest. If Dunn is unable to get his jumper going this upcoming season, getting others good looks needs to be his top priority.
Although the league has changed in recent years, I would still take a great passing point guard as plan B. The only issue is that if Dunn is not the one scoring then who should be?
Tyus Jones is next on the list, as he played in relief of Zach LaVine (torn ACL after 47 games played) and Brandon Rush. The hometown kid logged 60 games and showed lots of improvement, although his small numbers do not show it. Jones showed us more of the natural point guard
Jones showed us more of the natural point guard play and he did show everyone he has the ability to hit the outside shot, improving from just 30 percent in his rookie season to 35 percent this year.
Either Jones or Dunn will have to quickly pick up some of the scoring slack, otherwise, they will be sent down to the new Twolves G-league team or shipped out of town completely. The leash is not very long at the moment since the Timberwolves have two stars that are ready to help get Minnesota back to the playoffs.
Next up is Shabazz Muhammad. He is the only one on the roster outside of the top 5 that scoring should have been expected from on a nightly basis. The big issue was consistency. On a team that desperately needed scoring, Bazz did not come through. The former number one player out of high school has not lived up to his high expectations. After having a semi-effective sophomore season, Muhammad has dwindled a bit out of the game plan.
After shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc in his second season, Muhammad has lost his stroke. In his third year he appeared in all 82 games, but shot just 46 percent from the field as a whole and an awful 29 percent from deep. Even though his shooting from three went up to 34 percent, his overall percentage only went up to 48 percent this most recent season. T
o be the spark plug off the bench he has to score more than 10 points a game, especially if he is going to average less than one assist. As much as I would love to see Muhammad stay in a Wolves jersey and figure out his game, the free agent frenzy for athletic players is going to start soon.
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Muhammad is a restricted free agent and as Andrew Neururer said earlier this week on Dunking With Wolves, he very well might end up with the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets signed players like Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe to major offer sheets, so I could also see them giving one to Muhammad. If the price goes above the $40 million range, the Wolves will have to pass. With the contracts of Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine looming, most of the money will be going there, along with a max contract for Karl-Anthony Towns.
As we have now looked at three prospects that the organization has looked highly on, we take a dive into the last player who is expected to produce numbers, Nemanja Bjelica.
The former Euro baller will be called upon to try and stretch the floor and knock down more shots next season. Bjelica has holes in his defensive game but has shown potential promise as a bench scorer. Injuries have plagued Bjelica but with a bench rebuild hopefully coming, he might be one of the few pieces that stay. “Belly” played in 65 games this past season but will have to become more efficient to stay in the NBA.
After looking at what the Timberwolves have to work with at the moment, they need to make a couple of good moves this offseason. Now whether that is through the draft or free agency is the fun stuff to imagine. As the Wolves sit at the seventh pick in the draft, they will obviously be looking for someone who can come in and contribute immediately.
If it is a shooter, I would love to see LaVine get moved to the bench if he is unable to improve his game. He has shown the ability to score quickly, but he is a ball dominant guard. He needs the ball in his hands to be effective.
If it is a big man, Gorgui Dieng would be able to slide down to a bench spot and be a dog on the boards against the second tier of rebounders in the NBA.
The third option, which is most likely for this upcoming season, is that whoever they grab rides the bench most of the season. Now not what fans are hoping for with the team picking so high, but if they were able to get someone to come off the bench and consistently come in and affect the game, it would make a huge difference.
So if you have read through all of this so far, you have now come to the most exciting part- who can the Timberwolves get in free agency to bolster the bench? I would love to see the Wolves take a run at Nerlens Noel, but after multiple reports that Noel will receive max contract offers, that is out of the question.
Lets take a look at three solid options:
Dion Waiters (player option)-
Waiters is expected to decline his player option after breaking out in Miami. Dion is a shooter that would fit in well with the Twolves. If LaVine is able to polish his game around the edges, Waiters could be the sixth man Minnesota needs. His price might end up being around $40-50 million, but if he plays with the efficiency he showed off with the Heat, he would elevate the Wolves.
Taj Gibson (unrestricted)-
Gibson is a name that will be thrown around just because of his past with head coach Tom Thibodeau. As the Timberwolves were dead last at 8.1 defensive rebounds per game from the bench, Taj would help instantly. The Wolves have a couple nice prospects in guards with Jones and Dunn, but as far as back up big men goes, they have none. Gibson is a veteran that brings intensity on defense that Thibodeau loves and Minnesota NEEDS.
Tony Snell (restricted)-
Another former Bull that could help the Wolves right away. He has had his struggles, but with Milwaukee he was able to flash off his athleticism. After shooting 41 percent from 3-point range last year, if the Wolves miss out on the Waiters sweepstakes, Snell is a great plan B. One issue is they have to make an offer that the Bucks don’t feel is worthy.
Honorable mention: Brandon Jennings (unrestricted), Tyreke Evans (unrestricted), Ben McLemore (restricted), and Thomas Robinson (unrestricted).
If the Timberwolves are able to find production from anyone to add to the bench it will make for leaps and bounds this upcoming season.