Breaking down the Minnesota Timberwolves’ opening night roster and rotation

D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Jake Layman
Jake Layman of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Timberwolves Opening Night Roster: Forward

Starter: Jake Layman
Reserves: Juancho Hernangomez, Jarred Vanderbilt
Depth: Jaden McDaniels

Again, the way that the Wolves roll out their lineups is unique enough that there is plenty of crossover between the more traditional designations of “forwards” and “guards”, or “wings”.

The assumption all along was that Juan Hernangomez, who signed an extension worth an average of $7 million per year, would be the starter at the power forward position. But Jake Layman started all three preseason games at the 4, with Hernangomez coming off the bench.

Then again, Layman has also played plenty of 3, and head coach Ryan Saunders said that he would play both spots. There’s a world in which Layman starts at the 3 and Hernangomez at the 4, which is exactly how the Wolves came out of the locker room after halftime in Dallas during the final preseason game. Okogie started the game, but Hernangomez started the third quarter.

Complicating matters a bit is Hernangomez’s lackluster preseason performance, appearing a step slow defensively and not shooting the ball well at all.

The vast majority of minutes at the 4 will go to the trio of Layman, Hernangomez, and Okogie. Jarred Vanderbilt is the wild card, providing a combination of size, strength, athleticism, and intensity on the glass and the defensive end of the floor that the other options simply can’t provide.

Vanderbilt is the most offensively challenged, however, and has only appeared in 28 NBA games to this point. But the Wolves are clearly intrigued by his upside, and he may be the perfect bouncy, switchable defender and rebounder that is the most synergistic fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns.

Jaden McDaniels was the No. 28 pick in this year’s draft and likely won’t see the floor in a non-blowout situation. His game is more similar to that of a point forward, but he has the length and athleticism to play the 4 in today’s NBA immediately.

Of course, McDaniels’ lack of strength and awareness are a whole separate issue. He won’t be in the rotation.

Another possibility is that either Ed Davis or Naz Reid could see some time next to Towns as part of a big lineup. Both Davis and Reid will see the majority of their minutes backing up Towns, but they could each provide a different dynamic alongside KAT as well if the Wolves ever decide to go big.

Now, let’s talk centers.