Now that we know Karl-Anthony Towns will miss multiple game with his wrist injury, let's talk about what the Minnesota Timberwolves' rotation might look like in the near future.
The Minnesota Timberwolves can't seem to catch a break.
First, the mysterious Jake Layman toe sprain in mid-November that has apparently turned out to be much more serious than expected. (The Fox Sports North broadcast called it turf toe at one point, which is indeed more serious than a sprain.)
Then, an unlucky losing streak that was partially brought on by The Untucked Jersey Debacle in Oklahoma City back on Dec. 6. The loss to the Thunder was the third in a row, on the heels of a hard-fought battle in Dallas 48 hours earlier.
Things spiraled from there, reaching 11 losses in a row before the streak came to a merciful end in a hideous, double-overtime win in Sacramento on the day after Christmas. Making things even worse, Karl-Anthony Towns went down with a knee injury in the middle of the swoon.
The Wolves stabilized just a bit in early January thanks to a soft schedule, winning five of eight including a blowout, 14-point win over Portland on Jan. 9. Towns finally came back on Jan. 17 in Indiana, but the newest losing streak was just getting started.
This time, it was 13 games, ending in the first game following an exceedingly busy trade deadline, with the Wolves roster essentially swapping out seven players, leaving only Towns, Josh Okogie, and Jarrett Culver as members of the rotation who have been with the team for the bulk of the season.
The trade deadline also brought D'Angelo Russell to town, and the excitement surrounding a Russell-Towns pairing was palpable in the Twin Cities. But Russell missed that win over the Clippers less than 48 hours after being acquired by the Wolves. Both players played in a loss in Toronto on that Monday, but Towns sat the final game before the All-Star Break with a wrist ailment.
That's where we are today. Fifty-three games played. Sixteen wins. And still only one game that featured two All-Star players on the floor for the Wolves, with none in the foreseeable future.
Towns missed practice on Wednesday, and Wolves head coach Ryan Saunders conceded that Towns will miss "multiple" games. Minnesota also assigned new acquisitions Jarred Vanderbilt, Omari Spellman, and Jacob Evans III to the Iowa Wolves of the G League, further paring down the active roster.
That means that aside from the injured Towns, Juancho Hernangomez and Naz Ried, who both stand 6-foot-9, are the only true big men on the current roster. Last Wednesday against Charlotte, the 6-foot-7 James Johnson started at center and was okay, but that left Hernangomez to contend with Bismack Biyombo. The Hornets center had five dunks in the first quarter alone and the Wolves were never truly able to control the paint.
Expect the Wolves to give Reid, the undrafted rookie from LSU with solid upside and a legit stroke from 3-point range, the opportunity to start at some point. The team needs to evaluate him as a whole, while Johnson's fit with the team is more about how he might play alongside Towns next season, not as much how he functions as a small-ball center or backup point guard -- both things he's done in his three games with the team.
The wing will consist of Malik Beasley, Josh Okogie, and Jarrett Culver with 10 to 15 minutes per game from veteran shooter Allen Crabbe, who has struggled mightily in his first month with the Timberwolves. Point guard is only Russell and two-way player Jordan McLaughlin, whose 45 days at the NBA level are surely coming to an end soon.
And that's it. The Wolves frontcourt depth is virtually nonexistent with no Towns and no true backup center. Fans will get a prolonged taste of a team playing a lineup full of players who can hit threes but lack rebounding skill and play largely spotty defense.
Here's hoping that this combination leads to a win or two while Towns remains out, although the schedule is brutal: Boston, Denver, Dallas, and Miami are the next four games -- all playoff teams, with at least three of the four likely to have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs come April.
Karl-Anthony Towns can't come back soon enough.