Minnesota Timberwolves: Needs to consider when filling out the roster

Jarred Vanderbilt brought defense and energy to a Minnesota Timberwolves frontcourt that sorely needed it. Could he be a starter this year? (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Jarred Vanderbilt brought defense and energy to a Minnesota Timberwolves frontcourt that sorely needed it. Could he be a starter this year? (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves already have 12 players on their roster, but they still have plenty of clear needs.

Let’s take a look at what the roster already has, and what President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas and the front office must shore up heading into 2021-22.

How the Minnesota Timberwolves should fill out the roster: Point guard

One clear area of need for the Timberwolves is at point guard.

While the Wolves have former All-Star D’Angelo Russell locked up for the next two years on a max contract and Ricky Rubio on the roster for next season as well, the position could still use some work.

Russell is arguably a better off-ball fit for the Wolves, utilizing his plus skill as a catch-and-shoot threat from the perimeter. When Russell was acquired early in 2020, the Wolves didn’t have the possibility of adding Anthony Edwards on their radar. As the 2020-21 campaign wore on, Edwards’ chops as an isolation scorer, transition threat, and even emerging capability as a creator and facilitator moved Russell off the ball more frequently.

Add in new head coach Chris Finch’s (justified) desire to run more of his offense through Karl-Anthony Towns, and the need for a ball-dominant, shoot-first point guard is greatly diminished.

Theoretically, a low-usage, defensive-minded point guard with outstanding passing chops should be the perfect fit. Which, of course, explains why Rosas added Rubio on draft night last November.

The problem is that Rubio had a terrible shooting season. Coming off a career-best 36.1 percent from 3-point range in 2019-20, Rosas assumed that was the Rubio he was trading for. Unfortunately, the Spaniard’s outside shot regressed to resemble the futility that Rubio displayed in his first tour of duty with the Wolves.

If Rubio could shoot above league-average from deep and at least present something of a threat from the perimeter, he would be the perfect fit for what the Wolves are looking for in a point guard and would allow him to fit alongside either Russell or Edwards in the Minnesota backcourt.

The most likely scenario for the Wolves is that they’ll add a third-string point guard, either on a veteran’s minimum contract or a younger option on a two-way deal, along the lines of what they had in Jordan McLaughlin the last two years.

But it’s always possible that they’ll turn to the trade market to try and acquire a guard who is adequate both defensively and as a perimeter shooter, using Rubio’s expiring deal and perhaps Josh Okogie and/or Jarrett Culver and future draft picks as sweeteners.

How the Minnesota Timberwolves should fill out the roster: Defense-first big

The refrain throughout last offseason and the first portion of the 2020-21 season was that the Wolves needed a power forward to pair with Towns moving forward.

Minnesota re-signed Juancho Hernangomez and drafted Jaden McDaniels, but ended up playing Jake Layman and Okogie at the 4 early in the season. Eventually, McDaniels and Jarred Vanderbilt earned roles in the rotation, and when Finch took over the bench, Naz Reid saw minutes at the 4 occasionally as well.

It wasn’t a coincidence that the Wolves’ defense and rebounding improved when they played actual big men at the 4 instead of large wings doing their best power forward impression.

Still, Hernangomez has obvious shortcomings and now only has one year remaining before the Wolves will surely decline to pick up his $7.5 million option for 2022-23.

McDaniels is the obvious answer as the potential opening night starting 4 come October, but Finch seemed to prefer playing the talented young forward at the 3 when given the opportunity. This worked well with either Vanderbilt or Reid at the 4, but such a large lineup isn’t exactly matchup-proof.

Vanderbilt is a restricted free agent, and the answer could simply be bringing him back as part of a multi-headed monster at the 4. Or, if the Wolves think McDaniels is the best long-term fit as the primary power forward, the front office could look at bringing in a veteran option to shore up bench minutes.

Either way, the Wolves need to ensure that they have enough big men to assist in covering both the defensive shortcomings and foul trouble that Towns and Reid find themselves in on a regular basis. Positional flexibility is a major plus as well; the perfect fit would be able to guard 4s and switch onto 3s and 5s fairly regularly.

dark. Next. Why the Wolves might make a major trade

Next, we’ll be taking a look at some potential fits for the Wolves in free agency that could fit their limited cap space and still bring value to the rotation.