Evaluating the Minnesota Timberwolves’ roster from top to bottom

Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves celebrates his basket with Josh Okogie. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves celebrates his basket with Josh Okogie. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Jaden McDaniels
Jaden McDaniels of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

Players the Minnesota Timberwolves should build around

Above all else, the final third of the season is important to see how this franchise functions with Towns and Russell as the centerpieces of the offense. During the trade deadline, the Wolves were adamant that they were building around the Towns/Russell duo (subscription required) for the foreseeable future.

The 90 minutes the two friends have played together this season has been largely mediocre. The Wolves boast a +0.8 net rating with Russell and Towns sharing the floor.

One thing Wolves fans have been clamoring to see between the two former All-Stars is how they look in the ball-screen game. Russell thrives in the pick-and-roll and was averaging 0.93 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, putting him in the 64th percentile league-wide. Towns is above league average as a roll man. His 1.15 points per possession places him in the 56th percentile, and he is hitting on 38.5 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes so far this season, making him a versatile operator in the high pick-and pop-game.

If Towns and Russell are the pillars of the present, Anthony Edwards is the future of the franchise. The 19-year-old rookie continues to improve in his souped-up role since Russell went down almost two months ago.

With Russell out of the lineup, Edwards is averaging 20.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 39.2 percent from the floor and 29.4 percent from three. Edwards is getting significantly more shots than with Russell in the lineup (19.2 vs. 13.8 attempts per game). The hope is that with Russell and Beasley in the backcourt, their proclivity for draining threes should in theory open the floor for Edwards to drive to the basket without having to crash into three defenders on his way up.

Russell has yet to play for Finch, so it will be interesting to see how the first-time head coach integrates another ball-dominant guard with no defense at all into the fold seamlessly so everyone has enough shots to go around.

If Towns, Russell, and Edwards are the primary building blocks for Finch to work with, he should fill out the rest of his rotation with players who actually have a future in Minnesota. Forty-six games into the season, it’s becoming clear who those players are: Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels, Jaylen Nowell, and Naz Reid.

Before Towns’ renaissance under Finch’s tutelage, Beasley was the only consistent offensive player on the team during the first half of the season. The 24-year-old was Minnesota’s best 3-point weapon before cooling off a bit in his return to the team. Still, Beasley is shooting 39.6 percent from deep on 8.8 attempts and gives the team an efficient 20 points per game.

Add in the fact the Wolves signed Beasley to a four-year, $60 million contract in the offseason that looks like more of a steal every day. Outside of untouchables Towns and Edwards (and perhaps McDaniels), Beasley is the best trade asset on the team who could be dangled in a trade for a power forward.

McDaniels is the apple of many Wolves fans’ eyes as he’s shown the potential to become a two-way terror over the next few years. In the four games since being promoted to the starting lineup, the 20-year-old is averaging 12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and two blocks per game on an absurd 58.8 percent shooting from the field and 57.1 percent from three.

Nowell is a burgeoning 3-and-D wing off the bench who can create his own shot and is hitting from long range at a 36.2 percent clip.

The last Timberwolves player who should factor heavily into the rotation down the stretch is Naz Reid. Naz is everything you could ever want in a second-year, undrafted backup center. At 6-foot-9 and 264 pounds, Reid can bully defenders in the post and stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting.

That’s the seven-man rotation that Finch should be giving heavy minutes in the final 26 games of the season. This is the foundation that Wolves fans hope Rosas and Finch can build a contender around in their lifetime.