The Timberwolves played three preseason matches, each with a different starting lineup. This is not necessarily surprising at this stage. Teams give certain players a day off as they prepare for important games. There are minutes and minor injuries.
But traditionally, after the start of the regular season, the rotation – starting with the starting five – is consolidated and order is restored.
Perhaps this season in Minnesota, things will be different. Because the Timberwolves have treated their preseason schedule, which ends Thursday in Brooklyn, like regular season games, with no minute limit for their favorites. As for the lineup change, well, that could very well be a harbinger of what is about to happen when the bright lights come on in Houston next week.
Four players have started each of the first three preseason games and will likely be preparing to kick off next Wednesday at Target Center against the Rockets: Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels / No surprises.
But the fifth starter slot is changing a lot. Josh Okogi played the role in the preseason against New Orleans.
“We thought he deserved a start based on (starting in training camp),” said Timberwolves coach Chris Finch. “I wanted to reward him for this.”
Then Jarred Vanderbilt started in Denver, and Malik Beazley started against the Clippers. We can only guess who will be fifth on the floor when Minnesota plays Brooklyn in Thursday’s preseason finals, not to mention Houston. This was by design. Finch said the Timberwolves could play four different starting lineups in four exhibition games early in the preseason.
And whoever starts against Houston on October 20 cannot start against New Orleans on October 23.
“Everything we’ve thrown away so far has been a legitimate choice for us. To be honest, we’re still not sure about this category, ”Finch said after the Clippers game. “I just keep evaluating. For us, this could very well be a match-up. It may be a way out of the situation, what are our best matches at that time. ”
This is not the norm in the NBA or professional sports in general, where routine is king. Players want to know when they will enter the game, for how long, and with whom, as far as they know. And Finch may end up picking a starting five and getting out of there.
“I think you would always prefer to have a rotation, because the guys are a little more comfortable,” said the coach. “Having said that, depth helps you in several ways. With the ability to rotate for 10-12 people, if you can, you have to get creative or obviously go through a bunch of traumas that we hope won’t happen to us if we knock on wood. We’re not married to anything right now. We are wide open in what we look at. ”
Uncertainty is a direct result of the Timberwolves’ weakness in the power forward. Vanderbilt is the only legitimate four-position player on the roster, and he may not be best tuned for 30 minutes. McDaniels is not quite the right forward for a strong forward, and even if he did, he is Minnesota’s best perimeter defender and is often accused of defending the likes of James Harden and Luca Doncic.
This leaves Finch probably playing a match-up. Sometimes at night it makes sense to put in another perimeter defender like Okogi to counter the team’s second bombing flank. Vanderbilt can play an important role in starting against an impressive frontcourt. Beasley gives Minnesota the most dangerous attacking lineup.
Others, like the Taurus Prince, Patrick Beverly, and perhaps even Naz Reed, also have deals to crack the starting five on any given night. This is good news for Finch: at least he has a lot of options. The Timberwolves have enough depth to shuffle a bench change and have a handful of players ready to step in when needed.
“We have several options right now. We may be addicted to matches. We can pick a five and see how things go, ”Finch said. “Our intention is to play as deeply as possible. This is a minimum of 10 players. If you can find a way to productively squeeze the 11th onto the floor, we will. We have a very fortunate situation here. We have a lot of guys who can step onto the floor and help us in the game, and we must understand this. But now we have nothing carved in stone. ”