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Hitting the Hardwood | Bench Adds Another Dynamic To Wolves


Mitchell Hansen
Web Editorial Associate

When you have a starting lineup that features the shooting and athleticism of Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, the scoring and rebounding of Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng, and the organization and vision of Ricky Rubio, there are many factors opposing teams have to worry about with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But like any team in the NBA, the bench has an impact on the team’s success, whether that be providing depth, giving the team a spark when it’s struggling or just giving the starters a break.

And for the Wolves, their bench adds yet another dynamic to the team.

In that last five games, Minnesota’s bench players have been averaging 23.4 points per game and are playing like many thought they would going into the season.

The Wolves have received their biggest spark from Shabazz Muhammad off the bench. During the past five-game span, Muhammad is averaging 13.2 points and 2.6 rebounds. Arguably his best game of the season came in Minnesota’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 30 when the fourth-year wing tallied a season-best 22 points.

This season, Muhammad has averaged 7.6 points and 2.6 rebounds off the bench. But in almost three minutes less than what he played per game last year, Muhammad is still shooting the ball well. In 17.7 minutes a game, he is shooting 43.2 percent from the field and is shooting 35.6 percent from three (up nearly seven percent from last year).

“I’ve really been working on my three-point shot with [shooting coach Peter Patton] each and every day. It’s really been helping me out,” Muhammad said. “I think I can carry this on and help us with production off the bench. . . I think the hard work has really started to pay off for me.”

Two other primary offensive contributors off the bench for Minnesota includes second-year forward Nemanja Bjelica and rookie guard Kris Dunn.

Bjelica is averaging six points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game, while Dunn is averaging 4.3 points, 2.5 assists, 2.3 rebounds and one steal per game.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive, just trying to improve every day. I think that’s what coach is looking for, just wanting me to improve and learn more and more each game,” Dunn said. “I feel like I can do a lot more, it just takes time. I’m trying to learn the game more and more. . . I’m trying to do as much as I can for the team.”

When Muhammad, Dunn, Bjelica and the rest of the Wolves bench are consistently playing the way they have in the past five games, it certainly adds another dynamic of how to defend Minnesota.

Wolves On Two-Game Road Trip

Minnesota kicks off a two-game road trip Tuesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The game will be aired on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.

After that, the Wolves travel to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Wizards at 6 p.m. Friday before returning to Target Center to host the Utah Jazz at 7 p.m. Saturday.