The Minnesota Timberwolves' season has been all about talent evaluation and seeing what pieces they needed going forward.
The goal wasn't necessarily ever about competing this year, despite the Minnesota Timberwolves' hot start to begin the year. It's why the Wolves let veteran players like Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague and others go.
Ryan Saunders, Gersson Rosas, and company know what they want to build and they've completely scrapped everything to the point of Josh Okogie and Karl-Anthony Towns being the only players that have been on the team for more than a year.
One of the underrated parts of what the brain trust of the Wolves has done is find talent from nowhere, similar to the way the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors seem to find those players.
Instead of grabbing middling veterans this offseason, Rosas took fliers on guys like Jordan Bell, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier, Treveon Graham, and Jake Layman. The first three were ultimately packaged in the deal that brought Minnesota their third star in Malik Beasley; Graham and started a good portion of the season before being traded in the Jeff Teague deal; and Layman has been a solid player for Minnesota when he's been healthy.
The rest of the Wolves' acquisitions came through the draft, off the scrap heap, or as undrafted free agents. Naz Reid and Jordan McLaughlin have played so well that they've earned the backup roles at their respective positions. Kelan Martin has also shown a lot of promise, and the jury is still out on Jaylen Nowell as he spends most of this season in the G League.
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On top of Rosas' small stockpile of youngsters with potential, he acquired Omari Spellman, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Jacob Evans in his myriad of deadline trades. With Towns missing significant time and the Wolves only have Reid as a center, they've played James Johnson at the five while having the aforementioned players playing in the G-League for the Iowa Wolves. However, there should be plenty of backup center minutes at the NBA level for actual centers like Vanderbilt and Spellman though.
At this point of the season with the playoffs not being a realistic option, it should be time to start toning down minutes of Minnesota's veterans and giving some opportunity to the younger Wolves to see what they can bring to the table.
Minnesota will likely have a ton of these players fighting for roster spots next year, and it could be nice to at least have some film on Vanderbilt, Spellman, Evans, and others with the team to see what their role could be going forward. It could be easier to sever ties with Spellman and keep Vanderbilt, for example, if they both see backup center minutes and Spellman just looks lost or is a glaringly awful fit while Vanderbilt looks like an NBA player and fits like a glove. Same goes for Nowell and Evans when D'Angelo Russell is getting load managed down the stretch.
I'm not advocating to tank, but there's a value in knowing what you have in these young players. There could be a substantial opportunity cost of keeping player X on the roster rather than finding a replacement in free agency or the draft simply because the Wolves still don't know what they have in them. Especially if it's clear that they're not ready.
Another bonus of this strategy is that it keeps everyone fresh. Russell, Towns, Johnson, and Juancho Hernagomez all have higher injury risks with each player missing portions of this season or past seasons. Being able to cut down their minutes to let a youngster get some run could be beneficial for their long-term health.
Rosas has shown an incredible competence for finding talent around the margins and will likely continue to do so moving forward. It makes sense to continue what the Wolves have done with the season and assess what the long-term roles of Evans, Spellman, Nowell, Vanderbilt, and Martin are now, like they've done with McLaughlin and Reid, before they make some crucial offseason decisions regarding their roster spots.