The Minnesota Timberwolves are riding high off a 109-105 defeat of the Los Angeles Clippers. Prior to Sunday night, the Clippers were winners of eight of their last nine games. The game looked all but over until a furious fourth-quarter comeback made it too close for comfort.
At one point, the Timberwolves led 97-80 with just over five minutes remaining. Over the next four minutes, the Clippers went on a 20-6 run, narrowing the Timberwolves' lead to only three points. With just over a minute left, Minnesota big man Rudy Gobert knocked down four consecutive free throws to put the game out of reach.
Gobert's four free throws added to his 15-point total on the night. The French big man also corralled 18 boards and swatted four shots. However, he wasn't the only valuable contributor. Star guard Anthony Edwards poured in 33 points, and had 20 in the third quarter.
Aside from his scoring prowess, Edwards recorded nine rebounds and six assists. Jaden McDaniels and Karl-Anthony Towns added 14 and 17 points, respectively. Although Mike Conley scored just six points, he played his usual role as an offensive focal point.
Each starter played 32 or more minutes of action. Head coach Chris Finch only played three players off the bench, Naz Reid, Kyle Anderson, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Anderson finished with a plus/minus of minus-6, while Alexander-Walker didn't fare much better at minus-4.
In limited action, Reid led all bench players with a plus-6. Although a win over the Clippers is impressive, it's concerning only three players entered the game off the bench. Also worrisome is the lack of a true reserve point guard. Jordan McLaughlin is fine in a pinch, but he's not a legitimate backup point guard.
Additionally, the Timberwolves lack a consistent 3-point threat off the bench. Minnesota reserves rank in the bottom third of the league in both 3-point makes and 3-point attempts.
Even without a dominant bench unit, the Timberwolves are one of the best teams in the NBA this season. It's easy to imagine just how good Minnesota can be with a viable bench. Here, seven targets are identified as potential difference-makers off the Wolves bench.
7. Tyus Jones
First on the list is a former Timberwolf. The ever-steady, Tyus Jones. Although Jones is currently a starter for the Washington Wizards, accepting a role as a backup point guard on a championship-caliber team wouldn't be a demotion.
Jones has spent the majority of his career as a backup. Before this season, he had never started in more than 23 games in any season. And the sole reason for Jones' 20-plus appearances as a starter was due to injury.
The lack of starting experience isn't to say Jones is a bad player, but he's better suited as a reserve guard. The former Blue Devil is the epitome of a backup lead guard. He's a high-efficiency, low-turnover game manager.
Jones leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio with a dazzling 6.6-to-1 ratio. In 27.9 minutes per game, the Wizard guard averages less than a turnover per game. Slotting in behind Conley at point guard would ease Conley's extensive burden.
At 36 years old, Conley is playing nearly 30 minutes per game. Not to say Conley is unworthy of a heavy workload, but playing 30-plus minutes on a nightly basis in the playoffs would likely be detrimental the Timberwolves.