Once thought as a weakness of the team, the bench might be the secret weapon for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Basketball observers will tell you that it will take time for teams to completely gel together and that two games is a small sample size. Both of these statements are true, but we can learn a few things about the new look Minnesota Timberwolves after their 1-1 start to the season. One of those things is the beautiful bench play that coach Tom Thibodeau has seen.
Let’s start with the play of Jamal Crawford in Friday night’s game against the Utah Jazz. Crawford came off the bench and scored all 17 of his points in the fourth quarter including hit a three-pointer off of an in-bounds play to help solidify the team’s victory. Obviously, that is not going to be expected as the norm for Crawford, but if he can contribute that a handful of times throughout the season, that’s all the Wolves need from him.
Tyus Jones played the point during the fourth quarter of the Wovles’ season opening loss to the San Antonio Spurs. It may have been more of a statement about the poor play of Jeff Teague, but it does show to some extent that Thiboudeau trusts Jones to be playing at critical moments in games.
Gorgui Dieng is a stud. Dieng would be starting on a lot of teams around the league and there’s an argument that he’s better than Taj Gibson in Minnesota’s starting lineup. Dieng brings a great post presence off the bench plus he can spread the floor with his ability to hit a jump shot. There’s a great possibility that Gorgui might be the best player off of the Wolves bench.
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Most importantly so far this season has been the play of Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica has had an up and down NBA career with the highs being real highs and the lows being knock your head against the wall lows. Hopefully, the Bjelica the Timberwolves have seen over the first two games sticks for the season. Bjelica has looked really good on both sides of the ball in both games. Just look at his line from the game against Utah. Bjelica scored 10 points in 13 minutes and had a plus/minus of 14. If he can stay impactful, that’ll pay huge dividends for the Wolves moving forward.
Shabazz Muhammad has also seen minutes off the bench so far this season. Muhammad hasn’t shined yet, but he has the potential to put up a lot of points which he did in the preseason. Although frustrating at times, he’s a good body to have off of the bench.
Again, two games is a small sample size, but there was a lot of worries about the second unit going into the season for Minnesota. So far, it hasn’t been a worry and there’s no reason it should be a concern. The Timberwolves are getting older and have players that have gone through the trials of a competitive NBA season before. The likes of Jimmy Butler and Crawford will make sure this bench doesn’t fall apart.
Cole Aldrich, Aaron Brooks and Marcus Georges-Hunt are all also on the Timberwolves bench right now, but do not expect them to get much playing time. Obviously, they will become key members of the second string if the injury bug bites the Wolves sometime during the season.