Minnesota Timberwolves: 3 early-season Wolves takeaways

D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves has had a rough start to the season. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves has had a rough start to the season. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Jarred Vanderbilt
Jarred Vanderbilt should have a more defined role with the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Timberwolves Early-Season Takeaway No. 3: Improved depth has led to unsettled roles

The Wolves’ improved depth has been well-documented. Chris Finch’s roster legitimately goes 10 or 11 players deep, and with an empty injury report to this point, t’s been challenging to find the right mix of five starters.

Experimenting with different starting lineups means that the reserve unit is also a bit unsettled. On the one hand, it’s to be expected this early in the season. On the other hand, it’s a challenge for the players whose roles have been all over the place over the first five games.

Jarred Vanderbilt is the most notable example. The energetic forward went from playing 15 minutes in the opener and 12 minutes in the second game of the season to just eight in the loss to New Orleans. Then, against Milwaukee, Vanderbilt was the designated Giannis stopper and joined the starting lineup, playing 30 minutes and putting up a double-double.

Vanderbilt stayed in the starting lineup against Denver, but only played 16 minutes and was kept on the bench in favor of a Towns-Reid frontcourt late in a close game.

Vanderbilt remains the Wolves’ best rebounder and arguably their second-most versatile defender, after Jaden McDaniels. He should have a more consistent role, especially considering that the Wolves are currently dead-last in team defensive rebounding rate.

Josh Okogie started the first three games, although he saw his minutes played decrease from 21 to 18 to 11 in each game. He didn’t play at all in Milwaukee, and then came off the bench to play 19 minutes against Denver.

Jordan McLaughlin played 18 minutes in the season-opening win over Houston due to Beverley’s suspension. He too has seen his workload decline each game. In the second game, McLaughlin played 12 minutes, followed by 11 in the loss to the Pelicans to just five against the Bucks and four against hte Nuggets.

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Again, it’s not a shock to have a rotation that is a bit unsettled less than two weeks into the season. But for some players — Vanderbilt, especially — a more defined role would seem to be a good idea moving forward.