Mailbag: Who could be the third star on the Minnesota Timberwolves?

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There is not much going on in the basketball world currently. Top hoops recruit Jalen Green decided where he is going to be spending the next year of his life — and it’s not college. The five-star wing signed a deal with the G-League which he earns over $500 thousand to play on a team in Los Angeles. Fellow five-star recruit Isaiah Todd also is expected to join him.

Oregon star point Sabrina Ionescu is also expected to be the first overall pick in the WNBA Draft tonight. She is expected to be picked by the New York Liberty, five spots above where the Minnesota Lynx select.

The Big-3 league is going to have a “Big Brother” type reality show during the COVID-19 crisis. They are going to have a group of 16 players play in a three-week-long tournament.

Alright, let’s get into it.

It’s hard to guarantee a playoff spot in the Western Conference, no matter how good your team is. This past season, the Pelicans (Zion Williamson and Jrue Holiday), Trail Blazers (Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum), Kings (De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley), and Spurs (DeMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan) all were projected to miss the playoffs.

A lot of the question surrounding whether the Timberwolves will make the playoffs will revolve around the question of if Minnesota can surround their two-star players with players that compliment them really well.

That said, it would be surprising if the Timberwolves missed the playoffs this coming season.

Finding any sort of third core player for a team can be hard — and when you try to find a player that specifically benefits both of your star players, it can be even more difficult. The obvious answer, or at least the one fans seem to enjoy the most, is Devin Booker. But I’m going to ignore that and pick someone else.

Though I doubt his team would ever trade him away, Ben Simmons would be a great fit next to both D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. He is a pass-first guard that is elite in transition and can provide playmaking for nearly anyone. He is an elite interior and perimeter defender. Simmons would be incredibly valuable on both ends of the floor.

Again, it is unlikely that he becomes available any time soon, but Simmons would be a perfect fit for the team.

If Minnesota miraculously traded for him this offseason, the package would be very large and could very well take an incredible amount of draft capital — but it would be worth it.

In theory, Spellman is an ideal fit next to Towns in the big rotation. Coming out of Villanova, he was supposed to be a Draymond Green-type player (or at least a very watered-down version of him). Spellman showed some promise in both his rookie season and this past season as a stretch-4.

Inevitably, Spellman will get some playing time this coming season (assuming he is not moved) due to injuries and such, but after his lack of playing time on Minnesota’s roster, I’m not sure he is in the long-term plan.

I do believe Spellman could become enough of a positive on both ends of the floor to become more playable but at this point — between James Johnson and Juan Hernangomez, it’s unlikely he carves out a role on the Timberwolves. It is not unlikely that he is traded.

Yes. The best competitive advantage in sports is having a good owner. This past year it seems like Taylor has meddled less within the team than in the past, but the Timberwolves will never be championship-caliber until he either yields most (if not all) involvement with the team or he simply sells the team.

Josh Okogie is going to be able to get on the floor regardless of how well he shoots. He is way-too-good of an on-ball defender to not receive minutes because of his lack of spacing. That said, if he wants to become a high-level starter, he is going to have to develop his shot into (at least) the low-30 percentage range for 3-pointers.

As for Jarrett Culver, he was simply horrendous beyond the arc. I would be lying if I said I was optimistic about his shot, especially after he hit less than 50-percent on free throws as a rookie. However, Culver does a lot of things that would allow him to have a decently-sized role even if the shooting never came around. He is a great secondary/tertiary playmaker as well as a promising on and off-ball defender.

https://twitter.com/sneakytree123/status/1251054070162501632

First and foremost, the Timberwolves need someone that can be an elite interior presence on defense. That is the first thing that Minnesota needs when it comes to finding a front-court mate with Towns. After that, the offensive fit should be taken into consideration.

This offseason, there are two main players that come to mind, one through the draft and one through free agency.

The first is forward/center Onyeka Okongwu of Southern California. Okongwu is an incredible rim protector that has the mobility and possible shooting upside to become a perimeter threat at the next level on offense. He would slot right into the starting lineup and be a ‘glue guy’ of sorts.

Next is Serge Ibaka, who averaged 16 points, eight rebounds, and one block. A two-time block champion, his defense would fit right in next to Towns, as well as his perimeter spacing on offense. He is a win-now player that would help the Wolves in the short-term.

The Timberwolves need two-way forwards/wings. Currently, they do not have any players that are positives on both offense and defense. The NBA has become so much of a pace-and-space league that acquiring these types of players has become fundamentally harder.

One possible trade target is Mikal Bridges. He has become less of a force in the Suns’ wing/forward rotation as they re-signed Kelly Oubre and drafted Cameron Johnson. It likely would not take too much to get him, and the Nets’ pick alone could net Bridges.

Through the free-agent market, it can be difficult to pinpoint these players, but Justin Holiday would be a cheaper, short-term option.

Alright so here’s the thing: There are only two five-man lineups that include D’Angelo Russell that registered above sixty total minutes played together. And neither of them were good. Towns also only played one total game with the new-look Timberwolves. So, we are going to have to build this lineup from scratch.

Obviously, any five-man lineup that is going to be *the best* is going to have to include both Towns and Russell.

After that, Malik Beasley is probably the best scorer on the team. We also have to supplement that offense with real perimeter defense (especially when he is playing next to Russell). Enter: Josh Okogie.

Finally, the best big next to Towns on the existing roster is James Johnson. He can stretch the floor and provide at least some interior defense. Although we didn’t see much of the two together, the fit is promising, at least for 2020-21.

The final lineup:

PG: D’Angelo Russell

SG: Malik Beasley

SF: Josh Okogie

PF: James Johnson

C: Karl-Anthony Towns

Next: Pekovic is still haunting Drummond

PSA: The WNBA Draft is tonight and the Lynx have the sixth pick. You should tune in.