Tough roster decisions only getting tougher for Minnesota Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 6: Malik Beasley #5 of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks on. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 6: Malik Beasley #5 of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks on. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Juan Hernangomez
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – MARCH 03: Juan Hernangomez #41 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots against the New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The Wolves desperately wanted to evaluate a natural stretch-4 next to Towns, and they targeted Juancho Hernangomez as a potential fit.

At power forward, the team had previously employed the likes of Gorgui Dieng, a natural center, and Taj Gibson, a defense-first, limited-offense option. Both worked to varying extents, but the belief all along has been that the best fit next to Towns is a low-usage player with deadly 3-point range while also playing solid defense and holding his own on the glass.

Dario Saric didn’t inspire confidence in two-thirds of a season next to Towns last season, and he was moved in the trade-up to land Jarrett Culver on draft night. He was supposed to be the versatile offensive option that could both stretch the floor and create next to Towns, providing something of a high-low dynamic.

This season, the Wolves began with Robert Covington at the 4. It mostly worked, as the plight of the Wolves this season was a lack of 3-point efficiency early in the year, which wasn’t Covington’s fault, and, more recently, a lack of defense  — also not the fault of RoCo, who was traded in early February.

In a perfect world, Towns’ frontcourt complement would have a bit more size and rebound at a higher rate than Covington. Hence, the acquisition of Hernangomez.

Hernangomez was the No. 15 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and was a fringe member of the Nuggets’ rotation for his first two seasons in the league. Similar to Beasley, he emerged as a key part of the Nuggets’ bench during their 54-win campaign in 2018-19.

While his current production with the Wolves doesn’t quite match Beasley’s, his improvement over his numbers with the Nuggets is easily as impressive. Hernangomez’s per-game averages of 12.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 29.4 minutes would all be career-highs. His field goal percentage of 45.3 and 3-point percentage of 42.0 with the Wolves would also be career-bests for a season.

Beasley’s upside appears to be much higher than Hernangomez’s, meaning that he’ll warrant more money on the open market. But the Wolves are in a tough spot for two primary reasons.

First, Hernangomez and Towns have only shared the court for two games. One was the blowout win over the LA Clippers in the first game following the trade. Hernangomez had 14 points, making all three of his 3-point attempts, but he only pulled down one rebound. Towns had 22 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists. However, D’Angelo Russell did not play in that game.

The other game that the duo appeared in together was on the road in Toronto against the defending champions. Hernangomez 15 points and five rebounds while Towns had 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in a hard-fought loss.

Since then, Towns has been out due to injury. Hernangomez has continued to be effective, although it’s fairly clear that his ceiling is as a complementary piece and fourth-option on a good team — which is exactly what the Wolves envision him as behind Towns, Russell, and Beasley.

The second issue involves both Hernangomez and Beasley…