Minnesota Timberwolves: 5 role players to target in free agency

Kelly Olynyk of the Houston Rockets is defended by P.J. Tucker of the Milwaukee Bucks. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Kelly Olynyk of the Houston Rockets is defended by P.J. Tucker of the Milwaukee Bucks. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, David Nwaba
David Nwaba of the Brooklyn Nets attacks against the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

David Nwaba

If the Timberwolves need anything, it’s defense.

If David Nwaba can be relied on for anything, it’s the very same.

Two areas in which he’s less dependable are availability and 3-point shooting. In his five years in the NBA, Nwaba has played over 55 games once, suiting up for 70 for the Bulls over the 2017-18 season. And while he shot an impressive 42.9 percent from deep over 20 games for the Brooklyn Nets in 2019-20, he’s a career 32.3 percent shooter from beyond the arc.

Are you sold yet?

Yes, there are risks involved in this signing, but they should be minimal. Mainly because Nwaba, given his history of injury problems, should be willing to sign for a minimal amount of money. If he were to pan out, the Timberwolves would receive a malleable, active defender who could come off the bench and play the 2, 3, or 4.

If he didn’t, it won’t hamstring their salary flexibility.

TJ McConnell

The Timberwolves’ reuniting with Ricky Rubio was reminiscent of something that’s frequently said about communism: it should have worked, in theory. Why not test that theory again with a fresh subject?

TJ McConnell provides a lot of the same qualities as the Timberwolves’ on-again, off-again mainstay: solid playmaking and defense with a sturdiness that teams value in a backup point guard. However, at this stage in their respective careers, McConnell should serve as an upgrade.

Signing McConnell is doubly contingent on trading Rubio. He’ll command a price in free agency that the Wolves can’t afford with Rubio on the roster, and their skill sets are entirely redundant.

Still, if the Wolves are able to get off of Rubio’s pact, they should absolutely pursue his newer model.

Kelly Olynyk

The Timberwolves, as we know, need defense. With that said, more offense has never hurt anybody, and especially not Kelly Olynyk’s brand.

The 30-year-old Canuck got a rare opportunity to strut his stuff with the tanking Houston Rockets after the 2020-21 trade deadline. He showed a combination of shooting, ball-handling, and playmaking that somehow, after eight years in the league, not a single human being knew he possessed.

Now that he has a taste for being a featured offensive weapon (averaging 19 points on a 55/39/84 shooting split over 27 games in Houston), it’s hard to say whether Olynyk would prioritize a similar offensive role or team success.

The Timberwolves can offer him a chance of both. Olynyk could thrive as a sixth man, backing up KAT while also playing spot minutes alongside him in a modernized twin towers line that features a metric (remember, he’s Canadian) ton of shooting. Meanwhile, improvement from Edwards and better health for D’Lo and KAT could easily lead to a more successful year in Minnesota.

At the very least, more successful than the Rockets’ 2020-21 season.