Minnesota Timberwolves: 3 potential X-factors on Wolves roster

Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Jaden McDaniels, Anthony Edwards
Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Timberwolves’ X-Factor No. 2: Jaden McDaniels and Anthony Edwards’ rebounding

The Wolves defense is what grab the headlines surrounding the team’s issues over the past couple of seasons, and understandably so.

However, the Wolves have struggled mightily to rebound the ball in recent years as well. There are plenty of factors that play into it, including Towns’ injuries and time missed, as well as scheme and the high frequency of small-ball lineups deployed by former head coach Ryan Saunders.

But there are also some individual players that simply need to improve on the glass, and perhaps none more obvious than last season’s rookies, McDaniels and Edwards.

First, McDaniels. As a 6-foot-9 wing with a 7-foot wingspan and above-average athleticism, McDaniels should be able to grab his fair share of rebounds. Yes, he possessed a slight frame as a rookie out of the University of Washington, but for a player with strong overall instincts and size, length, and athleticism, it was fair to expect more.

Early in the season, McDaniels received all of his minutes at the power forward position. Once Saunders was fired and Finch took over, however, he began to see more time at the 3, where his rebounding abilities played a bit better and there was less pressure on him to rack up boards.

For the season, McDaniels carried a rebound rate of just 8.3 percent, which ranked No. 7 on the Wolves roster and just barely ahead of guards Beasley (7.2 percent) and Ricky Rubio (6.8 percent).

Finch addressed this recently following a training camp practice, attributing some of McDaniel’s rebounding shortcomings to his defensive assignments.

This is a nuanced answer and definitely checks out. McDaniels isn’t going to be a double-double guy this season splitting his minutes between the 3 and the 4, but he is likely to be the team’s highest-impact defender. At the same time, he needs to be active on the glass when given the opportunity, grabbing weakside rebounds and checking his man as to not allow uncontested offensive rebounds to the opposition.

Edwards’ issues are more related to a lack of awareness and focus but are completely fixable.

As Finch discussed in an offseason interview, Edwards can rebound the ball better, he just needs to be told that it’s what the coaches want him to do.

From an interview with Chris Hine of the Star Tribune:

"“[Edwards is] an extremely unique player and has all this raw ability, but he’s very literal when you coach him. Like I say to him, ‘I need you to go out and do X,’ he’ll do it,” Finch said. “We discovered in the last part of the season [when I’d tell him], ‘I need you to get seven rebounds tonight.’ We gave him goals almost every game or every period of time, so you give him stuff to focus on and he went out and did that.”"

Finch also noted that Edwards has apparently grown two inches, from 6-foot-4 at the start of last season to 6-foot-6. Combined with his top-flight athleticism, it’s a legitimate possibility that we could see a massive jump in Edwards’ rebounding this season.

If both McDaniels and Edwards could rebound their positions at something resembling a league-average rate, then the Wolves defense will immediately improve.