Finally after 13 seasons, the Timberwolves should be playing in the NBA playoffs.
Let’s take a moment and appreciate what Tom Thibobeau and Scott Layden have done for this team; the Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t had such a strong lineup since the Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassell, and Latrell Sprewell era.
Outside of the starting unit, Thibodeau and Layden also set out to improve this team bench play.
Signing Jamal Crawford, a two-time Sixth Man of the Year player, was huge for this team and was a mild shock to the NBA world after rumors led many to believe that Crawford would sign with a team like Cleveland or Houston — clear-cut conference finals contenders looking for that one last piece.
Instead, Crawford saw something special in Minnesota that he wanted to be a part of and help build. Crawford will join a bench that, at this point in the summer, consists of Tyus Jones, Gorgui Dieng, Justin Patton, Nemanja Bjelica, Cole Aldrich, and Anthony Brown.
The bench has a vision. Jones, Bjelica, and Crawford are capable shooters, as well as Dieng from the corner. Patton is raw but full of potential and if not this year (remember, he has a fracture in his foot), he will contribute in the future.
So, who’s the sixth-man?
Many would say that Jamal Crawford is the clear-cut sixth man on this team. Another reminder: Crawford has won multiple Sixth Man of the Year awards and has filled the role for many years.
Dieng is also a player who Thibodeau fell in love with and saw plenty of time on the court a season ago. We have no reason to believe that Dieng won’t continue to increase on the defensive and offensive side of the game.
I’ll venture a guess to say that the real sixth-man of the Minnesota Timberwolves will be Tyus Jones. He’ll see plenty of time on the floor this season being Jeff Teague’s backup. Last year, Jones played slim minutes because Thibodeau leaned more on his draft pick Kris Dunn.
After trading Dunn and Rubio, signs point to Thibodeau having trust that Jones can be this team’s backup point. His trust seems to be for good reason, too: Jones has game and has improved as a shooter, increasing his field goal and 3-point percentage.
If you were to look at Jones stats, four points and three assists per game wouldn’t jump off the page or excite you, but 41.6 percent from the field and 35.6 from the 3-point line sounds good.
Let me leave you with a prime example of what Jones can bring to this team with the right amount of playing time. Against the Houston Rockets last season, Jones played 28 minutes and put up 17 points, seven assists, and four rebounds while shooting 6-for-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from deep.
Tyus can and will be this team’s sixth-man, and with the right playing time could be eventually a key piece of a championship-caliber team.