One of the questions that wasn’t answered by the Minnesota Timberwolves throughout the course of the preseason is what the rotation will look like when the regular season begins on Wednesday night in Brooklyn. Four of the starters are relatively obvious, while the fifth one fluctuated during the five preseason games.
The fact that the Wolves didn’t have a single game this preseason with their full compliment of players means that there likely wasn’t a single game that saw a rotation similar to what could be seen in the regular season.
Going through each player, here’s an estimate of the ideal number of minutes, as well as what the actual rotation could look like:
Karl-Anthony Towns – Starter, 33-35 minutes
This is obvious. As Towns goes, the Wolves will go. He’s going to need to play over 30 minutes a night for the team to find success. The one thing that has the chance to hold him back from reaching that number on a regular basis is foul trouble.
Towns led the entire NBA in personal fouls with 292 of them in the 2018-19 season. The next closest was Detroit’s Andre Drummond with 272 fouls. If Towns can keep himself out of foul trouble, his minute total should be above 30 on a regular basis.
Robert Covington – Starter, 30-33 minutes
Covington has played just 22 games with the Timberwolves in his career, but as things stand right now, he’s their second-most important player. Head coach Ryan Saunders has said – and shown during the preseason – that he thinks Covington is a good player to pair with Towns. Covington should start every game if healthy, but the position he starts at could be up in the air. Against smaller teams he will likely be the starting four, while against bigger teams he could shift to the three spot.
Andrew Wiggins – Starter, 28-35 minutes
Wiggins didn’t have a great preseason. Wiggins hasn’t had a particularly good career to this point. Wiggins hasn’t been in a system like this before in his career and needs time to adjust to it. Wiggins can still have the best season of his career despite not having a good showing thus far.
All of the above things can be, and are the truth. Wiggins is still going to be an opening night starter for the Wolves when they take on the Nets, and going to get his fair of attempts from the floor. He might be a frustrating player at times, but if he can find a way to put it together this season the team’s chances of success become much greater than what they currently are.
Jeff Teague – Starter, 25-31 minutes
This minute total might be a little bit higher than what it begins as. Teague is still trying to find his game shape after spending much of the summer rehabbing from surgery after a foot injury kept him out of roughly half of the 2018-19 season. He’s poised to have a bounce back season, but it might get off to a slow start as he tries to get his rhythm back and adjust to playing in a more wide-open offense than what he’s used to.
Jake Layman – Potential starter, 18-25 minutes if starting
Here’s where things become a little more interesting. Layman started three of the five games for the Wolves in the preseason, with Treveon Graham starting the other two. Graham did miss the final game against Milwaukee after a hard fall against Indiana left him with a left hip contusion. For now, we’ll estimate that Layman gets the nod for the final starting spot, but this could also be Graham or someone else.
Shabazz Napier – Back up lead guard, 18-23 minutes
Napier is going to surprise a lot of Wolves fans this season. He’s excited to be running this type of fast-paced offense after being traded here from the Warriors (technically). Napier may have a higher minute count early on with Teague still working his way back to where he needs to be, but lineups with both Teague and Napier on the floor together could be really fun as well.
Jarrett Culver – Potential sixth man, 18-25 minutes
Culver could be the guy that swings things eventually for the Wolves, but 18-25 minutes feels like a fair place for him to start as an NBA player. In the preseason he showed that he could do a lot of things at a high level, however, shooting from the outside was not one of them. If he improves his shot, his minutes will go up, and he could even be thrust into the starting lineup at some point this season. For now, this is a good spot for him.
Jordan Bell – Back up big man, 13-20 minutes
Bell didn’t see much time in the preseason due to a nagging calf injury, but he could see some minutes in the rotation as a flexible big to back up both the four and the five spots. With him on the floor the Wolves are going to be small, but that’s the case with almost anyone other than Towns on the floor.
Treveon Graham – Potential starter (with Layman), 15-19 minutes if off bench
As mentioned above, Graham could be a starter on opening night, we don’t know. If his shooting is better than it was last year in Brooklyn (29% from 3-point range) then his minute total will certainly be higher than this.
Noah Vonleh – Back up big man, 13-20 minutes
Vonleh is a little undersized at center, but will probably start off the season as the primary back up big man to Towns. Defensively it could be an issue on the interior, and it will be interesting to see how the Wolves combat that early on this year. Maybe it means minutes for Gorgui Dieng.
Josh Okogie – Energy wing, 9-15 minutes
Okogie is the 11th guy in this mythical rotation. It’s difficult to think he won’t be on the floor in some capacity, but it’s also difficult to fit him in for more than 15 minutes a night. If he shoots better than the 29% he turned in last year from deep, this becomes a tougher, but better, problem.
Out of the rotation: Keita Bates-Diop, Gorgui Dieng, Jaylen Nowell, Naz Reid, Jordan McLaughlin (two-way), Kelan Martin (two-way).