Myles Turner is a perfect fit with the Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves drives to the basket against Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves drives to the basket against Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves are reportedly interested in acquiring Indiana Pacers big man Myles Turner. And they should be; Turner would be a perfect fit.

It’s not obvious at first. After all, Turner has played almost exclusively at center over the course of his career. As it turns out, the Wolves have a pretty good center of their own.

But it’s probably not a stretch to say that Chris Finch might just see a frontcourt pairing of Turner and Karl-Anthony Towns as a match made in heaven.

Let’s take a quick look at the fit as a preface to a deeper dive on both ends of the floor — coming soon!

Myles Turner would transform the Minnesota Timberwolves defense

Let’s start with the obvious: Myles Turner is one of the best defensive big men in the NBA.

Turner finished No. 4 among centers in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus, finishing behind three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, Clint Capela, and DPOY award finalist Bam Adebayo. Turner finished No. 7 in the metric 2019-20 and No. 2 in 2018-19.

He also led the league in block percentage this year for the second time in his career with an insane mark of 8.8 percent.

Turner is highly switchable for a 6-foot-11 big man. Combined with Towns’ ability to guard mobile bigs and hold his own when switching on the perimeter, the duo would be able to manage defensively, even against stretch bigs and large opposing lineups.

In the first minute alone of this highlight video, there are multiple instances of Turner playing drop pick-and-roll coverage perfectly — a concept that Towns has struggled with at times and only recently was able to show something resembling a level of comfort regarding the scheme.

There’s also a great clip of Turner helping and recovering in the paint, stopping an easy bucket at the front of the rim and forcing a turnover.

It’s exactly what the Wolves have challenged Towns to do, but if they can acquire Turner, he could single-handedly transform Minnesota’s defense and allow Towns to play a lower-leverage role on that end of the floor.

Myles Turner would fit the Minnesota Timberwolves’ offense

Turner is not a star on the offensive end of the floor in the way that he is on defense. But he could prove to be a perfect fit in head coach Chris Finch’s system.

With Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, and Malik Beasley, the Wolves have plenty of offense. There aren’t many shots left to contend for, which is exactly why the fifth member of the starting lineup would ideally be a defensive-minded, low-usage offensive player.

(Yes, the Wolves would have to send someone out to acquire Turner, but that’s a conversation for another day. For the record, my money is on Beasley being part of a Turner deal.)

In 2020-21, Towns and Jarred Vanderbilt put up a two-man net rating of 5.0, which was Towns’ best mark for any of his two-man pairings. Vanderbilt is an extremely limited offensive player but is a long, athletic, switchable defender and plus rebounder.

Turner is a better defender and rim protector than Vanderbilt, is two inches taller and carries a wingspan that is three inches longer. He’s also a far superior offensive player.

Turner is a career 35.2 percent 3-point shooter who has seen his rate of long-range attempts grow exponentially over the past two seasons. A whopping 47.7 percent of his field goal tries in 2020-21 were from beyond the arc, up from 42.6 percent last season and 25.1 percent in 2018-19.

But Turner is perhaps best used in screen-and-roll game; this season he put up a mark of 1.28 Points Per Possession (PPP) as a roller, good for 93rd percentile league-wide, according to (subscription required). Last season, that mark was 1.25 PPP, which was 91st percentile.

Towns’ marks were 1.18 PPP (84th percentile) this year but a whopping 1.62 PPP in 2019-20, which was in the 100th percentile.

Despite an all-around disappointing season, the Pacers offense finished No. 14 in offensive rating despite being ravaged by injuries. The pairing between Turner and Domantas Sabonis worked and demonstrated something of a blueprint for a modern-day twin towers-esque pairing in the frontcourt.

Suffice it to say, the Wolves’ offense could survive on a bevy of horns pick-and-roll sets. Throw in some creative wrinkles, isolation sets for Edwards and Towns, and a dangerous transition game led by Edwards and Russell, and the Wolves starting lineup will be a problem on both ends of the floor.

Chris Finch would add influence from the Pelicans and Nuggets playbooks

Finch was the associate head coach under Alvin Gentry in New Orleans when the Pelicans had a top-10 offense built around DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis back in 2017-18. They ran plenty of similar concepts to what Finch has already done over 41 games in Minnesota: tons of horns, mid-post and split-post sets centered on Towns, and double-drag screens as a staple of the secondary fastbreak.

Expect Finch to continue to dig up plays from those Pelicans team, in addition to what the Denver Nuggets ran when Finch was on staff early in Nikola Jokic’s career.

If the Wolves managed to trade for Turner, they would round out their starting lineup with a two-time block champion and top-flight defender and actually gain something on offense. Additionally, if Beasley was indeed included in a trade, such a move would allow the Wolves to use Jaden McDaniels and Juancho Hernangomez at both the 3 and the 4, and there’s a high probability that McDaniels would remain in the starting lineup.

Next. 3 potential Wolves trades with the Knicks. dark

Now, what would the Wolves need to give up to acquire Turner? Stay tuned. That’s a conversation for another day.