Minnesota Timberwolves: 3 ways to upgrade at each position

Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Jaden McDaniels
Jaden McDaniels of the Minnesota Timberwolves fights for a loose ball. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Timberwolves: 3 ways to upgrade the frontcourt

The Wolves have a unique frontcourt situation.

At center, they have a superstar backed up by an exciting young player on a bargain contract. But at power forward, there’s a mix of exciting, young, raw talent and underachieving veterans.

Current rotation: Karl-Anthony Towns, Naz Reid, Juancho Hernangomez, Jaden McDaniels, Jarred Vanderbilt, Ed Davis

Reid had a tough time filling in for Towns early in the season but came on strong as the season wore on, both as Towns’ backup and at the 4 once Chris Finch took over and started experimenting with bigger lineups.

Hernangomez was signed to a multi-year extension in restricted free agency but had a terrible start to the season before testing positive for COVID-19. He, too, had something of a resurgence under Finch but was largely inconsistent.

Ed Davis is a free agent and seems unlikely to return, although if there are no offers from contending teams he could find his way back. Having a third center isn’t the worst thing, and by all accounts, Davis is a great locker room presence and good friends with Russell.

McDaniels and Vanderbilt grab the headlines here, as both received heavier minutes than expected and were, on varying levels, pleasant surprises.

Homegrown options

Who will be the starting power forward on opening night?

The smart money is on McDaniels, who is coming off an impressive rookie campaign and could be the lone plus defender in a starting lineup with Russell, Beasley, Edwards, and Towns. He’s already fantastic on that end of the floor and although his offensive potential is tantalizing, McDaniels could hold down a low-usage role focused on spot-up shooting for at least another season.

Reid is probably best cast as Towns’ primary backup and the occasional eight to ten minutes at the 4 alongside KAT depending on matchups. There’s plenty of upside remaining for Reid, and his contract is an absolute steal.

Vanderbilt is the unsung hero of the group. He’s a fully switchable defender only a half-step below McDaniels in terms of his all-around defensive game. But he’s the superior rebounder, and for a team that once again struggled mightily on the glass for much of the season, Vanderbilt could find his way on the court on an almost nightly basis in an energy/rebounding role — if he returns, that is. He’ll be a restricted free agent.

Hernangomez is the wild card here. It’s unlikely that the Wolves will be able to trade his $7 million salary for next year, but don’t forget that his $7.5 million in 2022-23 is non-guaranteed and effectively makes his contract an expiring deal. The more likely scenario is that Hernangomez is given the chance to crack the rotation at the start of the year, but McDaniels is the future at the 4 for the Wolves, if not the present.


Plenty of teams will be interested in McDaniels, but the Wolves won’t be moving him unless they get a true star in return.

Vanderbilt is a restricted free agent and it will be fascinating to see how other organizations value what he brings to the table. Davis is an unrestricted free agent. Reid’s contract is too valuable to move.

Hernangomez could be a prime candidate to be traded at next year’s deadline. Between what amounts to an expiring contract and the ability to theoretically be a plug-and-play option at the 3 or the 4 while providing above-average 3-point shooting ability, there could be a market. In the offseason, however, the $7 million price tag will surely be too steep for potential suitors.

With McDaniels and Hernangomez on the team and Reid a legitimate option in bigger lineups, the Wolves could stand pat and not make a major move to upgrade the 4. On the other hand, Finch was fond of using both players at the 3, indicating that he wouldn’t mind adding some additional size at the 4.

Names such as Aaron Gordon and John Collins came up consistently during the season, but Gordon has fit extremely well in Denver and Collins will be a restricted free agent this offseason. While a sign-and-trade is theoretically possible, it’s highly unlikely.

Free agency

If the Wolves shore up the power forward position, it’s more likely to be in a splashy trade than a significant move in free agency.

Minnesota would surely love to bring back Vanderbilt in restricted free agency. Otherwise, the duo of Hernangomez and McDaniels combined with small-ball options in Layman and Edwards and a twin-towers lineup of Towns-Reid is probably a group that the Wolves would feel okay with at least to start the season.

It could be a quiet offseason for the Minnesota Timberwolves

Frankly, it’s unlikely that the Timberwolves have an active offseason. There’s a greater than 70 percent chance that they won’t have a single selection in this year’s draft, there isn’t any cap space, and there aren’t many players on the roster with actual trade value that the Wolves would seriously consider moving.

Next. No, the Wolves aren't trading Towns to Portland. dark

Expect a relatively quiet offseason as the Wolves prepare for what will hopefully be a healthy start to the season for the Russell-Beasley-Edwards-Towns quartet.