If we put together a team of former Minnesota Timberwolves players who are still actively playing in the NBA, would said team make the playoffs?
Let’s give this fascinating exercise a try.
How many games would a team of active former Minnesota Timberwolves win?
As of the start of the 2021-22 season, there are 592 players in the NBA.
Excluding the current Timberwolves roster, 22 of those players once suited up for Minnesota. With rosters being a maximum of 15 players, we selected the former Timberwolves with the most games played on the team.
Let’s do a rundown of games played with the Wolves. Here’s your 15-man roster:
Gorgui Dieng (498 games played), Andrew Wiggins (442), Ricky Rubio (421), Kevin Love (364), Tyus Jones (247), Zach Lavine (206), Nemanja Bjelica (192), Wayne Ellington (189), Taj Gibson (152), Jeff Teague (146), Jarrett Culver (97), Kris Dunn (78), Robert Covington (70), Jimmy Butler (69), Dario Saric (68).
Not making the cut is Keita Bates-Diop (67), Juancho Hernangomez (66), Derrick Rose (60), Thaddeus Young (48), Kelan Martin (31), James Johnson (14), and James Nunnally (13).
The full roster breaks down this way:
PG: Ricky Rubio, Tyus Jones, Jeff Teague
SG: Zach Lavine, Wayne Ellington, Kris Dunn
SF: Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Jarrett Culver
PF: Robert Covington, Taj Gibson, Nemanja Bjelica
C: Kevin Love, Dario Saric, Gorgui Dieng
In order to figure how this team would fair, let’s take into account win shares, usage percentage, and minutes played.
Win shares measure the estimated number of wins contributed by the player. Usage percentage measures the number of possessions used by an individual player while on the court.
Point guard Ricky Rubio contributed 3.1 wins to the Wolves last season, with a usage rate of 16.0 percent in 26.1 minutes per game. Shooting guard Zach Lavine contributed 5.9 wins to the Chicago Bulls last season, with a usage rate of 31.0 percent in 35.1 minutes per game. Jimmy Butler contributed 9.3 wins to the Miami Heat last season, with a usage rate of 26.6 percent in 33.6 minutes per game.
Robert Covington contributed 3.7 wins to the Portland Trail Blazers last season, with a usage rate of 11.5 percent in 32.0 minutes. Kevin Love contributed 0.9 wins to the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, with a usage rate of 21.9 percent in 24.9 minutes.
All told, the starting lineup contributed 22.9 wins on 107 percent of usage. If we carry over the minutes played last season into this season, we have 21.9 remaining at point guard, 12.9 at shooting guard, 14.4 at small forward, 16 at power forward, and 23.1 at center.
Let’s see how many wins the bench unit can add to this roster.
Tyus Jones gets the nod over Jeff Teague based on win shares, plus Teague only play seven minutes per game for Milwaukee in the playoffs and is turning 33. Oh, and Jones is from Minnesota, so that helps with the tibreaker.
Jones contributed 2.8 wins last season for the Memphis Grizzlies with a usage rate of 16.6 percent in 17.5 minutes. The backup on the wing will be Andrew Wiggins. He contributed to 3.9 wins with the Golden State Warriors last season with a usage rate of 23.3 in 33.3 minutes.
Power forward Taj Gibson contributed 3.8 wins to the New York Knicks last season with a usage rate of 9.7 percent in 20.8 minutes. Dario Saric contributed 1.7 wins to the Phoenix Suns last season with a usage rate of 22.6 in 17.4 minutes.
The bench unit contributes 12.2 wins on 72.2 percent usage. Dieng, Bjelica, Culver, Ellington, Dunn, and Teague would only fill-in due to injuries. It could possibly be the best bottom-six of a roster in the league.
For clarification, Gibson would take over the leftover Center minutes to equal his playing time last season, leaving 0.9 leftover at the power forward position. Wiggins needs six more minutes to equal his minutes from last season, so LaVine could run the point for 4.4 minutes per game, giving Wiggins 4.4 of the shooting guard minutes and roughly a minute per game at the power forward spot.
Usage percentages can be put into any rotation that equals to or is less than 100 unless players are doing less. An example would be Rubio at 16 percent, plus Wiggins at 23.3 percent, then Butler at 26.6 percent, Gibson at 9.7 percent, and Saric at 22.6 percent. That put’s this rotation at 98.2 percent, room for someone to get an extra play or two to get to 100.
The main point of the usage percent is we wouldn’t be able to have all kinds of stars on our team and expect them to put up the same numbers. Luckily for this article, most of the possible rotations are around 100 that way win shares could remain almost the same.
Coming into this article, I was expecting a contending team, but this roster would only win 35.1 games based on win shares. With the win share average absolute error being 2.74 wins, this team could have up to 37.84 or as low as 32.36 wins.
We have to take into account that five of the players added were on bad teams, and win shares can be impacted by the teammates around a given player. Also, we’re looking at the 2020-21 versions of each of these players and not their individual peaks. Obviously, prime Kevin Love would provide a lot more of an impact than present-day Kevin Love.
Still, the roster seems far too good for that low of a record. Perhaps it’s a homer’s perspective, but this estimate seems just a bit low.