You may or may not be impressed with the Minnesota Timberwolves’ young center, Luka Garza. But as the season progresses, I get the feeling that he is becoming more and more entrenched with this team’s future plans. The Timberwolves need to identify and develop young talent for this team., must do so without the benefit of an abundance of NBA Draft picks, and Garza appears to be in the pipeline for development into a larger role in the future.
Garza continues to show rapid improvement, which is surprising in that he is not exactly getting the lion’s share of playing time. After all, he’s made appearances in 12 games so far this season but averages just 7.0 minutes per game.
Garza, get in there
But when Minnesota Timberwolves Head Coach Chris Finch needs a big to absorb some minutes, he turns to Luka Garza more and more in a pinch.
He is a pleasant surprise for the Timberwolves so far this season. Even as the Timberwolves roster has been shaken for a considerably long period of time, the team has been forced to use rookies and young untested talent in NBA gametime situations. Garza is an ideal example of that one.
He entered the most recent game against the Cleveland Cavaliers with just 3:45 remaining in the third quarter. At the time, the Minnesota Timberwolves trailed the Cavaliers by five points, 72-67. Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman sank his second of two free throws, stretching the lead to 73-67 before Garza could get involved. And if Luka Garza was a lesser player, that is how the game would have ended.
Fourth quarter comeback
But on the first play, Timberwolves shooting guard Anthony Edwards missed a mid-range jumper but Garza was there to get the offensive rebound. He then fed the basketball to a driving Taurean Prince to ensure a basket and tightened the score up to 73-69. Anthony Edwards kept scoring to keep the Timberwolves within striking distance until Luka Garza could get to work. And that is exactly what he did in the fourth quarter.
Garza drilled a three-pointer to tie things up at 11:03 to go in the fourth quarter. Then, after Cavaliers Evan Mobley turned the ball over, Garza nailed another basket to put the Timberwolves up by two, 82-80. From that point on, the Timberwolves would never trail again. In fact, when Naz Reid returned to the game, the Timberwolves were up by a score of 95-90. Luka Garza had done his job.
The beauty of this situation is that there was no way for Luka Garza to know that Rudy Gobert would injure his groin, leave the game early, and force the Timberwolves to rely on him once more. He was ready to go regardless.
Yes, there is a long way to go before Luka Garza is an NBA starter or even a key rotational player for the Minnesota Timberwolves. But the Timberwolves face a difficult extension to negotiate with backup center Naz Reid, an extension that is increasingly unlikely. In fact, there is a growing consensus that Reid will test his NBA Free Agency market value at the end of this season and hold out for a chance to compete for a starting role at center.
If that happens, the Minnesota Timberwolves roster appears to already have his replacement.