What a season it's been for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Last night, Minnesota defeated the Detroit Pistons 124-117. The Timberwolves now have a two-game lead over the second-place Oklahoma City Thunder.
Although the starters played well, the lack of bench contributions is concerning. Head coach Chris Finch only played three reserves for more than eight minutes. And none of the bench players scored in the double digits.
While it may be difficult to add a player via trade, both free agency and the G-League remain potential avenues to add talent. And look no further than the Iowa Wolves. The Timberwolves' G-League affiliate rosters several intriguing talents.
Recent draft picks, Leonard Miller and Wendell Moore Jr. have proved to be solid all-around contributors. D.J. Carton is now spending his second season with the squad and has improved game-by-game.
However, a veteran has recently stood out in the minor leagues. Lance Stephenson, who briefly played for Minnesota in 2017, has been making noise for the Iowa Wolves. He recorded a triple-double in the Wolves matchup against the Salt Lake City Stars.
The 10-year pro is averaging 14.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game in seven appearances for the Wolves. The veteran guard is knocking down 41.5 percent of his field goals and 32.3 percent of his 3-pointers.
His shooting numbers might not inspire much confidence, but they never have. Stephenson's value is tied to his playmaking, rebounding, and defense. The 33-year-old combo guard averaged 8.3 points and 3.6 assists per game in his most recent season in the big leagues.
The versatile Stephenson is capable of playing multiple different positions, including point guard, a need for the Timberwolves. His ability to pilot the second unit would be a boon for Minnesota. Relying on the 36-year-old Mike Conley for 30-plus minutes per game is not ideal
Furthermore, Finch lacks confidence in both Shake Milton and Jordan McLaughlin, Conley's backups. Stephenson might not step right in and seize control of the backup point guard spot, but he'd surely be a worthy challenger with years of experience.
A Stephenson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Kyle Anderson trio doesn't offer much shooting, but it does offer enough playmaking and ball-handling to make up for a lack of spacing. Despite Anderson and Stephenson being non-shooters, big man Naz Reid relieves the lineup of poor spacing.
A Stephenson-Reid pick-and-roll would cause havoc for the opposing second unit's defenses. Reid is knocking down 40.3 percent of his triples this season. Operating next to a willing passer, such as Stephenson, would allow for even more open looks.
It's more than likely Minnesota will make a move before the February trade deadline. However, Stephenson presents a valuable opportunity to add a veteran without giving up assets via trade.