With only 14 games played since Gersson Rosas overhauled the Minnesota Timberwolves roster, there are many lineups that we have seen only a small sample size.
Small sample sizes can lead to inflated or deflated numbers on both ends of the floor.
With massive roster turnover this season, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ myriad lineups may continue to thrive as they share time together or they may fall flat on their face, but I’m here to tell you why I believe the numbers are realistic representations of the pairings.
The dynamic of the two-man lineups can open the door for advantageous opportunities on the floor. The remaining three players on the court undoubtedly have an impact on the effectiveness of the two-man lineups. Finding the correct players to round out the lineup is essential in maximizing production.
Let’s take a look at some of the more successful pairings we’ve seen so far this season.
James Johnson and Karl-Anthony Towns
A two-big lineup has been a rarity for this Timberwolves squad.
In 33 games before the trade deadline, Karl-Anthony Towns only shared the floor with Naz Reid, Gorgui Dieng, Noah Vonleh, and Jordan Bell for a combined 145 minutes, according to NBA.com’s Advanced Lineups stats, an average of 4.4 minutes per game.
In the two games Towns played after the trade deadline, before he was ruled out due to a wrist injury, he shared the floor with James Johnson for 38 minutes, or 19 per game. Boasting an impressive offensive rating of 134.9, much higher than the league average of 109.9, Towns and Johnson showed off their effectiveness on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively, their 112.6 defensive rating is only slightly worse than the Timberwolves’ 111.6 defensive rating for the season, No. 21 in the league. The defense is not ideal, but with an effective offense, a rating of 112.6 should suffice.
An interesting stat about the duo…
According to NBA’s Advanced Stats, the Timberwolves had an assist percentage of 84.6 with this duo on the floor, meaning that 84.6 percent of the teams baskets were assisted.
To put that into perspective, the Phoenix Suns lead the league in this category with 66.6 percent. The ball movement in a lineup with Johnson and Towns will be good, which can cause defenders to be found out of position, typically leading to easy buckets.
Why these numbers could continue
The defense is likely to continue where it is, as Towns appears to be a below average defender moving forward. Johnson can cover up some of those mistakes, but it’d be impossible to think he’d take care of all of them.
Offensively, the numbers are very high, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think that the pairing could contribute an offensive rating that is well above league average. Considering the opponents in these two games, the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Clippers, are very good defensively with ratings that rank No. 5 and No. 2 in the NBA, respectively. The two bigs are likely to perform well against lesser defenses.
The pairing had an assist percentage of 84.6, which means that 84.6 percent of the teams baskets were assisted. To put that into perspective, the Phoenix Suns lead the league in this category with 66.6 percent.
The offensive rating should continue to be sky high with these two. The floor will be spaced out well because both are effective scorers from deep. Not to mention their ability to finish around the rim, each shooting over 70 percent within three feet of the basket for the season.
Best players to round out this lineup
Jordan McLaughlin: As a scrappy defender, McLaughlin should help this lineup on that side of the ball. Towns and Johnson are both very capable distributers, which means a point guard with a lower usage rate better fits the two-man lineup. For that reason, McLaughlin gets the nod over Russell.
Josh Okogie: His defensive capabilities would help contain players from getting to the rim and making Towns make a tough decision. Offensively, Okogie is a solid cutter and finishes at a rate of 68 percent, according to NBA.com. His shooting will disadvantage the offense some, but he is not completely incompetent from deep.
Jake Layman: His ability to cut and finish at the rim is one of his best attributes. He would be able to received dump passes from Towns and Johnson as he cuts from the wing or corner and his athletic ability would allow him to rise up and finish with a dunk or a strong layup. Layman has made 9 of 11 shots as a cutter, according to NBA.com.
He also is competent from deep, which bodes well for floor spacing. Layman is also a solid defender and should help on that side of the ball.