When Karl-Anthony Towns went down with an ankle injury on November 28th, the Minnesota Timberwolves found themselves in a tricky situation. After a month-plus of inconsistent performance as a team, they would be down one of their most important players for roughly six weeks.
The resulting hole in the Timberwolves’ starting lineup has not made developing team chemistry any easier. The team has not found any more consistency with Towns out of the rotation, going 6-8 in their 14 games since his injury, and currently riding a four-game losing streak.
With a substitute needed in the starting lineup, Kyle Anderson and Naz Reid have made frequent appearances in Minnesota’s starting five. However, many players saw an increase in minutes with Towns sidelined, and they may not be exactly who you think. Let’s take a look at who has seen the biggest minutes uptick over the last 14 games.
Austin Rivers has had the greatest minutes increase since KAT’s injury
Believe it or not, the player who has gotten the most minutes since Towns went down is Austin Rivers. Before November 28th, Rivers was averaging just 12.2 minutes per contest. Since then, he has seen his floor time double, playing a surprising 24.4 minutes a game.
In those minutes, Rivers has certainly been productive. In fact, it is fair to say he has exceeded the expectations of most. In the month of December, he is shooting 50% from the field while providing a spark from three-point land with a scorching 47.5% mark from outside.
Rivers is making smart decisions with the basketball and has mostly minimized his mistakes. In all, he is shaping up to be the best possible version of himself, and is proving he could possibly be the Timberwolves’ most underrated addition of last offseason.
The top four risers in minutes played are all bench players
The next three players to receive the most minutes in KAT’s absence in order are: Kyle Anderson, Naz Reid, and Jaylen Nowell. The player who has seen the fifth-biggest minutes increase is D’Angelo Russell, but the top four are all typically bench players.
Anderson’s minutes jumped from 20.5 to 31.1 per game, Reid’s jumped from 12.9 to 21.6, and Nowell’s from 17.3 to 24.5. Chris Finch has done a significant amount of tinkering with lineups, and these three have been a big part of his changes.
Kyle Anderson has filled in nicely when he has been available, but he has now missed the Wolves’ last five games, further complicating their injury struggles. Reid has been a monster, putting up three 20-point outings and two double-doubles in his last seven games. Nowell’s play has been up and down, but it is clear that Minnesota has had to rely on his shot creation abilities more at times without Towns.
Overall, there have been several surprise performances without Towns in the lineup that have been encouraging for multiple reasons. While missing one of your team cornerstones is never a good thing, it is refreshing to see certain players make the most of their opportunities in a time of adversity.