The Minnesota Timberwolves bench has been not been good for quite a while. Will their offseason full of moves lead to a much-improved reserve unit in 2017-18?
This season should be different. Not only did the TImberwolves upgrade the starting lineup, which will take pressure off the bench, but they also upgraded the reserve unit itself, which in turn will take pressure off the starting lineup.
In the starting lineup, they added All-Star Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague. Taj Gibson could start next to Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng could come off the bench, or vice versa. It could very well be Gibson starting with his defense and his familiarity with Tom Thibodeau’s system while with the Chicago Bulls for five years. Either way, the bench will be improved with Gibson’s addition to the team.
Crawford is a three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner (2010, 2014, 2016). He has appeared in 1,182 games, including 433 starts, and is a 35 percent career 3-pt shooter; shooting was also a major weakness for the Wolves last season, of course. Crawford is 37 years old but should still be able to do enough to help the Wolves improve.
Muhammad was drafted by the Wolves in 2013 and has been the team’s best bench player the past three years, averaging 13.5, 10.5 and 9.9 points per game, respectively. For his career, he has appeared in 235 games, starting in 14. He is a liability on defense and tends to shoot a lot at times, but still gives the team a nice scoring option off the bench, and having him back at the minimum is also a huge steal.
Nemanja Bjelica averaged 6.2 points per game last season and shot 31.6 percent from 3-point range. He, too, is a nice option off the bench to have.
According to hoopsstats.com, the Wolves bench was dead last in the league with a -11.9 differential. They were also dead last in points per game with 22.8.
At the end of the day, the Wolves bench will not be great this season, but should be good enough to take some pressure off the starting lineup.
Having a great starting lineup always helps, but it can only do so much; you still need a bench. Last season, the Golden State Warriors won the championship — mostly because of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but they also got some nice production off the bench from Andre Iguodala and Ian Clark. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen‘s Bulls teams got nice bench contributions from guys like Steve Kerr and Tony Kukoc. There are plenty of examples, of course.
It has been a very rough past 13 seasons for this franchise, but good days are ahead if they can stay healthy. Ultiamtely, this looks like a team that can not only win more than 50 games but also have a shot at being the #4 seed in the Western Conference.