Minnesota Timberwolves: Noah Vonleh should take Gorgui Dieng’s minutes

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - NOVEMBER 08: Noah Vonleh #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - NOVEMBER 08: Noah Vonleh #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Ryan Saunders has made a curious decision by playing Gorgui Dieng more than Noah Vonleh, and that may be a reason for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ recent skid.

The Minnesota Timberwolves brought in two big men on one-year contracts this offseason as both Jordan Bell and Noah Vonleh were expected to be ahead of Gorgui Dieng in the rotation this year.

Gorgui and Bell had trouble getting minutes early on for various reasons while Vonleh was consistently getting about 15 minutes per night in relief of Karl-Anthony Towns.

Then, a two-game Towns suspension opened up some playing time for Dieng and he made the most of it by playing well when called upon.

While Bell didn’t see the court much during October and November, he’s also been able to get pretty consistent playing time over the past five games.

Dieng and Bell’s increase in playing time has come at the cost of Noah Vonleh, who has been relegated to a garbage time role with nine “Did not Play-Coach’s Decision” entries in his game log over the past 12 contests.

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During that stretch where Vonleh has been nowhere to be seen, the Wolves have gone 3-9 and fallen out of the playoff picture after a strong start to the season.

While I do think Saunders is justified in playing Jordan Bell over Vonleh, there is no reason for Dieng to get consistent playing time while Vonleh wastes away on the bench.

Gorgui did have some exciting moments during a strong stretch of play during the month of November, but he has the worst net rating on the team among the players that have been in Minnesota full-time this season. The only players below him on the list are Kelan Martin, Jordan McLaughlin, and Jaylen Nowell.

Meanwhile, Vonleh has a +0.5 net rating for the year which is the only positive number on the squad outside of Jake Layman, who’s absence also coincides with the Wolves’ recent struggles.

Vonleh’s mobility makes him a much better fit in Saunders’ defensive scheme where the Wolves want to be able to switch often, and his athleticism to run the floor is obviously much better than Gorgui who can’t really run the fast break anymore.

That switchability on defense and an increase in pace on offense were supposed to be major changes for Saunders in his first year as the full-time head coach, but Dieng’s skillset doesn’t fit either of those styles of play.

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The Wolves need to try something different to break out of this seven-game losing streak, and giving all of Gorgui’s minutes to Noah Vonleh might give this team a little spark.