Minnesota Timberwolves: Roster today compared to start of the season

D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves celebrates with teammates. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves celebrates with teammates. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Naz Reid
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – FEBRUARY 12: Naz Reid #11 of the Minnesota Timberwolves passes the ball against the Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /


Out: Gorgui Dieng, Jordan Bell, Noah Vonleh

In: Jarred Vanderbilt, Omari Spellman, Naz Reid (kind of)

The Wolves started the season with Noah Vonleh as the primary backup center. Gorgui Dieng, the longest-tenured Wolf, won the job back only a few weeks into the campaign, and Vonleh fell out of the rotation entirely.

Bell, the former Warrior, never earned a regular spot in the rotation and existed on the fringes, seemingly only seeing the floor when Saunders wanted some energy or a change of pace.

Dieng was traded at the deadline in what was, at least from the Wolves perspective, effectively a one-for-one swap that landed Johnson while Bell and Vonleh were both moved as ancillary pieces in the four-way deal with Houston, Atlanta, and Denver.

Vanderbilt is a long-term upside play and only saw a handful of minutes over two games, while Omari Spellman went directly to the Iowa Wolves and hasn’t been seen in the Twin Cities since the introductory press conference following his acquisition.

Reid has been in the fold since his impressive performance at Las Vegas Summer League, but didn’t become a major factor until Dieng was moved out and Towns began struggling with injuries. Reid was initially going to be signed as a two-way player after going undrafted out of LSU, but played so well over the summer that he earned a partially-guaranteed, multi-year deal.

The results have been decidedly mixed for Naz, who has struggled defensively, had uneven performances on the glass and cooled off considerably from beyond the arc after a hot start.

The Wolves are clearly trying to find another big man who can shoot a high volume of threes at a passable percentage. Reid has played almost exclusively at the 5, and while it would be intriguing to see the offensive fit alongside Towns, playing Naz at the 4 is likely a non-starter on the defensive end of the floor.

While he is extremely nimble for his size, a combination of a lack of understanding of defensive coverages and a lack of fluidity in pick-and-roll coverage has provided a significant challenge.

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Perhaps Reid becomes Towns’ backup, allowing the Wolves to effectively run the same five-out sets even when KAT is on the bench. That’s probably the solution in the near-term for Reid, but if he can provide a chunk of Towns’ offensive production while holding his own defensively, assisted by someone like James Johnson at the 4, then the Wolves will have a bargain.

Reid’s per-36 numbers (19.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.8 steals) are gaudy, but in games that he’s seen longer stints they haven’t exactly played out entirely as expected. He’ll need to improve upon his pedestrian 33 percent shooting on 3-point attempts, although he only has 97 attempts from deep under his belt at the NBA level.

Summarizing the roster turnover

All told, the Wolves have jettisoned 10 players from the roster over the course of the season. Outside of Johnson, Towns is the elder statesman on the roster while playing in just his fifth season as a professional.

There is a healthy mix of well-paid — or soon to be well-paid — guys with high upside (Towns, Russell, Beasley) and bargain contracts for likely positive contributors who have been overlooked (McLaughlin, Reid, and possibly Martin, Nowell).

The Wolves also have some cost-certainty on likely role players in Layman, Culver, and Okogie, although decisions will need to be made on the pair of former first-round picks soon.

Outside of the defensive development and leadership capabilities of Towns, Russell, and Beasley, the biggest roster-related question marks are related to the role players.

What will Hernangomez be paid in restricted free agency? Will it be worth it? If Kelan Martin isn’t the answer, where will the Wolves find a wing that can add shooting alongside the defense of Okogie and Culver? Are McLaughlin and Reid viable backups at the point guard and center spots, respectively?

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The upcoming offseason will give us further insight into the direction that the Wolves front office is headed, but we’re likely several months — if not a full 12 to 18 months — away from seeing exactly what Rosas and Co. have planned.