Minnesota Timberwolves: Two takeaways from the playoffs

Jordan McLaughlin of the Minnesota Timberwolves remains unsigned. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Jordan McLaughlin of the Minnesota Timberwolves remains unsigned. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves concluded their season on Friday night with another disappointing loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 6 of their first-round series.

Let’s look at a couple key takeaways from the Wolves’ playoff run.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Two Takeaways from the Playoffs

The Timberwolves showed the ability to outplay the second-seeded Grizzlies, but ultimately were not able to close out games, blowing double-digit fourth-quarter leads in three different games in the series.

This was a gritty, back-and-forth series that tested a young Wolves team in ways they hadn’t been tested before, which revealed two key takeaways from this series:

1. Jordan McLaughlin needs to be a part of the team’s long-term plans

Jordan McLaughlin spent the bulk of the regular season fighting for minutes. Strong guard play from D’Angelo Russell, Patrick Beverley, and Jaylen Nowell all served as obstacles for McGlaughlin’s playing time.

However, in a chaotic playoff series, McGlaughlin turned out to be the Wolves’ only reliable source of stability. After a DNP-CD in the Wolves’ Game 3 meltdown, McLaughlin was the hero of Game 4, hitting four massive threes as part of his 16-point, two-assist, two-steal performance.

After McLaughlin’s key Game 4 performance, Chris Finch was asked why he didn’t play Jordan McLaughlin in Game 3. His response: “Sometimes you do stupid things.”

Finch was absolutely right, and the Wolves not retaining McLaughlin in the long term would also be, well, stupid.

McLaughlin is a low-usage playmaker who takes care of the ball. As a facilitator, he makes sense to use alongside high-usage players like Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns. McLaughlin’s value as a reliable playmaker will be incredibly valuable to this team going forward, and he deserves a ton of credit for bouncing back from tough stretches over the past year.

McLaughlin should be the Timberwolves’ plan at backup point guard for the foreseeable future.

2. Naz Reid is not a sufficient backup center

Naz Reid had a tough series against the Grizzlies.

In his defense, the Grizzlies were always going to be a tough matchup for Reid. He’s an incredibly skilled offensive big, but his biggest weakness in his career has been his rebounding, and the Grizzlies led the NBA this year in offensive rebounds.

Reid struggled on the boards when he was on the floor this series, which made him largely unplayable.

It’s mostly unfair to pin the Wolves’ rebounding struggles on Reid. The Wolves front office has done very little to address the size issue with this team. Had Jarred Vanderbilt not stepped up his rebounding to an elite level this season, the team’s size issues would have been even more glaring.

That said, Reid has taken the bulk of the backup center duties this season, and his lack of size, rebounding deficiencies, and inability to consistently defend other bigs make him an insufficient backup center – he’s hardly a true center at all. This isn’t to suggest that Reid isn’t a good player or that he should be traded. Rather, Reid should be considered more of a 4/5 hybrid option than a bona fide backup center.

The Wolves need to enter the trade and free agency markets to find a true backup center that can defend and rebound while KAT is off the floor, and with a first-round pick and three second-round picks in the upcoming draft, the Wolves front office will have plenty of trade bait to make that happen.

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While the end of the season was disappointing, the Wolves will have plenty to build on going into next season, and if the front office can make adjustments based on what was learned from this year’s playoffs, this team will be a serious threat in the Western Conference in seasons to come.