The Western Conference is as competitive as it’s ever been, and the Minnesota Timberwolves must focus on their bench in order to stay alive in the playoff picture come 2018-19.
Nothing ever seems to come easy for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After finally going into an offseason with optimism — namely one that didn’t carry the dreaded word “rebuild” — everything looked to be continuing to trend upward for the Wolves. And then the rich in the West simply continued to get richer.
With the addition of LeBron James, the Lakers are now in the conversation, and the Western Conference playoff hunt looks like an elevator during closing time at the office. With everyone pushing to get in and grab one of the coveted eight spots, only the best of the West will survive.
How might the Timberwolves stand their ground and not get forced out to wait for the next go-around? Building the best bench possible would be a giant step in the right direction.
Although their resources are limited, it will be the difference between playoff contention and another first round exit.
The solution may be to continue a familiar trend.
The Wolves roster is already full of former Chicago Bulls, but it might make sense to continue this trend. By adding Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, pending likely buy-outs from the Knicks and Lakers, respectively, the bench can take the Wolves to new heights. As reported by Alec Nathan of Bleacher Report, both players could be of interest if bought out. These former stars would make a huge impact in bench roles by taking the weight off Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins — all of whom need to be preserved throughout the season.
Thibodeau is going down a dangerous trend of overusing his stars, which will eventually cause injury and fatigue.
With Noah, a new energy could be brought to the bench. Career totals of 1.3 blocks and six defensive rebounds per game, combined with an athletic 6-foot-11, 230-pound frame, Noah brings a perfect complement to Karl-Anthony Towns off the bench.
Deng, even in his older, more banged-up state, would bring help to the defensive end of the floor, which is desperately needed coming off of a season with the league’s 22nd-ranked defensive rating. Deng has shown in the past he can bring an all-around style of play that can fill almost any gap, perfect for filling in for either Wiggins or Butler.
Both players are 33 years old and have playoff experience, bring a needed veteran presence, and are proven winners. With a bench otherwise composed of rookies and younger players, guidance is needed. They also should bring a rejuvenated style of play as they both come from frustrating situations, with Deng only appearing in one game with the Lakers last year and Noah in seven with the Knicks. Both veterans will be hungry to not only play, but win now.
With a familiar system in place, this is a win-win for both sides. The transition to a new team will be easier for Noah and Deng, giving them opportunities to teach the young bench.
Without a focus on building a veteran bench, the defensive gaps and lack of veteran presence will hamper the Wolves. In the fast paced Western Conference the Wolves can’t afford to miss opportunities. Moves need to be made every step of the way so they are not left behind. An all-around team is as important as ever, especially the bench.