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An Extremely Early Look At The Depth Chart
Starter: Ricky Rubio
Rubio is the clear-cut starter given he’s healthy going into the season. With last year’s contract extension, the Wolves made it clear that Rubio is the future point guard of this team. It’s a little frustrating he won’t have a full healthy offseason under his belt, but it might have given Rubio a chance to work more on his shot.
Backup: Andre Miller
After the draft, it looked like Tyus Jones would fill this position, but Flip Saunders went out to get a veteran – something this team was lacking. Miller is familiar with assistant coach Ryan Saunders from their days in Washington. Miller is 39 years old, so he’s not going to play more than 20 minutes per game. But with Rubio playing 30-35, he won’t need to.
Third String: Tyus Jones
Many will be wanting the hometown kid on the floor ASAP, but the truth of the matter is Jones has plenty of growing to do. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s expected for a 19-year-old who was drafted at the end of the first round.
Jones won’t have a problem being a game-managing point guard. He thrives when he just takes what the defense gives him, something we saw in his second Summer League game against the Bulls when he scored 14 points, shooting 4-of-8 from the field and 6-of-8 from the free-throw line. Defensively, though, Jones will need to adjust to bigger and faster point guards. Learning under Rubio and Miller for a year might not be the worst thing.
Fourth String: Lorenzo Brown
Brown outperformed Jones in Las Vegas. That was somewhat expected, though. Brown is five years older than Jones and has three more years of college ball and 55 more NBA games under his belt.
Brown is an NBA-quality point guard. He proved that in Summer League and late last season with the team. With the signing of Miller, it looks like Brown will be fighting for a roster spot (once again) come Training Camp.
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Starter: Kevin Martin
Martin is the veteran in this group and is still one of the best scoring shooting guards in the NBA. Last season he averaged 20 points per game, his highest mark since 2010-11 with the Houston Rockets.
His defense has been a concern for the course of his career, but it looked like he gave more of an effort last season, perhaps because of the young pups watching and learning from him. Expect the veteran to start alongside Rubio in the backcourt next season.
Backup: Zach LaVine
After spending his rookie season mostly at the point guard position, it looks like LaVine will transition back to his more natural position of shooting guard. LaVine worked on his three-point shot over the offseason and after averaging 14.2 points, 4.2 assists and 3.9 rebounds after the All-Star Break last season (while shooting 38 percent from deep), Wolves fans should be confident with LaVine playing big minutes as a combo guard in 2015-16. You can probably expect somewhere between 18-22 minutes per game.
Starter: Andrew Wiggins
Backup: Shabazz Muhammad
Muhammad is spending a big chunk of his summer working out with “Crazy Frank” again in San Francisco after gaining a few pounds after rehabbing his finger injury from last season. Expect Muhammad to come into camp in tip-top shape again in 2015-16, especially after he saw how much it benefited him last season.
Per 36 minutes last season, Muhammad averaged 21.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 39.2 percent from deep. That’s impressive even before you combine that with the fact Muhammad can play SG, SF and even PF when the Wolves decide to play small ball.
Expect the Wolves to play Wiggins and Muhammad together at the 2 and 3 to create matchup nightmares for defenses.
Third String: Damjan Rudez
Rudez is kind of the unknown here. At 6’10”, his height tells us he should play the power forward position. But the Wolves have 2,983 power forwards and Rudez’s game fits more at the small forward position.
At 29, Rudez isn’t a prospect, but last year was his first NBA season after playing in Europe. He shot 40.6 percent from deep, averaging one three per game, so he gives the Wolves something they don’t have: A big man who can shoot from deep.
With that being said, it’s probably still too early to tell how he’ll fit into the rotation.
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Starter: Kevin Garnett
Saunders already said after KG re-signed with the Wolves that The Big Tickets would start for the Wolves. The future Hall of Famer will play about 15-20 minutes per night. He's not the same player he once was, obviously, but he is still a solid defender and makes the right plays on the offensive end.
Backup: Nemanja Bjelica
Five years after the Wolves drafted him in the second round, Bjelica is finally in the NBA. Bjelica can play both the 3, 4 and when the team wants to go small, he can play 5. The 27-year-old Serbian forward was recently named the Euroleague MVP and averaged 11.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He also shot 37.2 percent from the three-point line.
With a smooth game and a high basketball IQ, the Wolves are hoping the Bjelica’s transition will be as easy as a player like Nikola Mirotic’s was last season for the Bulls.
Third String: Adreian Payne
The Wolves gave up a future (protected) first-round pick for Payne, so they have an investment here. Payne showed glimpses last season with the Wolves after not getting any playing time with the post-heavy Atlanta Hawks.
Payne showed in Summer League that he’s been working on his three-point shot. There are times, though, when Payne gets a bit out of control and plays outside of the offense. He’ll have to work on that. One thing on his side is that he’s athletic enough to play the 4 and the 5.
Fourth String: Anthony Bennett
Bennett started last season looking like the player we saw at UNLV. And then injuries and his love for the three-point shot landed him on the bench. Confidence is a factor for Bennett.
The talent is there, as we saw in the Pan Am Games. We’ll see if it can translate over to the 2015-16 season. It looked like Bennett was in pretty good shape during those games, which has been an issue for him in the past, so that’s a good sign.
Getting minutes at the power forward position won’t be easy. But as Gianni Versace (yes, the fashion designer) said, “It is nice to have valid competition; it pushes you to do better.”
We’ll see if that’s the case for this group.
Starter: Karl-Anthony Towns
This position has a lot to do with the health of Nikola Pekovic after undergoing Achilles surgery at the end of last season.
If he’s not ready to roll, Towns will see big minutes. As the No. 1 pick, he’ll be the favorite to win the starting job, although third-year standout Gorgui Dieng will challenge him.
Towns is a versatile player, so we could also see him play a lot of power forward as well. While the Wolves have plenty of power forwards and centers, it’s a plus that most of them can play both positions. The positions are pretty much interchangeable in Minnesota’s offense.
Backup: Gorgui Dieng
Dieng has been a steal for being the No. 21 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. In 133 career games, he’s averaged 7.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in just 22.6 minutes per game.
He proved last year that he can hold his own as a starting center and his offensive game has evolved nicely as he’s incorporated a step-back jumper and a Tim Duncan-like bank shot. Defensively, he can block shots, but he could probably average one more per game if he was in better position on that end of the court.
There’s no reason to doubt that Dieng will be in the team’s rotation next season.
Third String: Nikola Pekovic
As you just read, health will be the biggest concern for Pekovic. Ideally, it would be nice for him to play 15-20 minutes per game. If that means him coming off the bench, he’d help the team’s second unit become that much more dangerous offensively. Miller, LaVine, Muhammad, Bjelica and Pekovic? That’s a very scary second unit.
Again, these are simple projections that are being made on August 11. Things can and absolutely will change before the Wolves kick off their season in late October or early November.