Minnesota Timberwolves: Exploring a potential Naz Reid and Karl-Anthony Towns pairing

Minnesota Timberwolves, Naz Reid.(Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images)
Minnesota Timberwolves, Naz Reid.(Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images) /

Fleeting glimpses, like a teenager stealing glances at their crush, is all we’ve had when it comes to a possible Naz Reid and Karl-Anthony Towns pairing. These quick flashes of a double-big pairing give us both excitement and worry, as traditional dual big lineups are somewhat archaic at this juncture of the NBA’s development.

Worry not! Double-big lineups as we once knew them might be best served on the scrap heap, but big-men have kept with the times (for the most part), and many are now multi-faceted ballers, capable of stretching the floor or quarterbacking an offense. When Naz Reid and Karl-Anthony Towns shared the floor against the LA Clippers, we got an insight into the pairing’s defense-busting partnership and how their attacking skillsets blended well together.

There are many examples of how this pairing could punish defenses when sharing the floor, but let’s explore one. Horns sets are among the most popular offensive sets in the NBA, with multiple variations spinning off from the initial concept. In essence, they all begin with some variation of the following: A ball-handler (usually a guard) is above the break, and two players (usually the power forward and center) step up to set screens, one on either side of the ball-handlers defender.

As the ball-handler leads their defender into one of the two screens, one of the screeners pops out to the three-point line while the other rolls hard to the rim. Now the ball-handler has three options: create their own shot off the dribble, drive and kick to the shooting big, or hit the roll man for an easy bucket at the rim. Now imagine that Reid is the roll man and Towns is the popper, then imagine they rerun the same set but Reid and Towns switch roles this time.

It’s that level of versatility that will make the pairing the Freddy Krueger of NBA dual-big lineups murder in your worst nightmares. That’s just one offensive set, a single possibility in the vast array of options available in the Chris Finch playbook.

We did see a Reid and Towns pairing for small spurts last season, with Towns operating at the four throughout those lineups. According to Cleaning The Glass, the duo shared the floor for 333 possession and largely failed to impress, other than those lineups’ ability to pressure the ball and force turnovers.

This year’s roster seems different, though, primarily due to their newfound love of defensive intensity. Neither Reid nor Towns are defensive slouches when it comes to skillset; instead, any issues with their defensive ability (I’m looking at you, Mr. Towns) comes from application or a lack thereof.

Here you have two highly-skilled big-men who don’t rely on post touches to generate their offense. Three-level scorers in every sense of the word, it makes sense that Chris Finch wants to develop this partnership and test its viability against NBA-level competition.

The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t the only team toying with running a double-big lineup for stretches this season, either. In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics and their fanbase are very excited about the prospect of an Al Horford and Robert Williams pairing. For many of the same reasons, we’re excited about a potential Reid and Towns one. The Wolves’ potential big pairing is arguably much better than the one the Celtics can roll out, albeit perhaps less experienced and possibly slightly less impactful on defense.

But the point remains the same, two-big lineups can be a positive addition to a team’s rotation, so long as both players are capable of offering more than just low or mid-post offense. So long as the spacing remains at a league-wide level and the defensive intensity that we’ve seen thus far doesn’t begin to slip. There’s every reason to feel encouraged about another wrinkle in the rotation becoming a staple of this year’s Wolves’ roster as they bid to make the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference.

The Timberwolves won’t live or die by the success of this pairing, and it’s unlikely the duo will become of the team’s more prominent weapons. However, matchups are essential in the NBA, so having a duo capable of countering both small-ball and big-bruising lineups will ensure the Wolves’ don’t fall prey to more versatile rosters in the coming season.

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For now, we wait for the final preseason game and hope to see the Reid and Towns pairing once more as we gather data on the pairings viability moving forwards.