The Minnesota Timberwolves It underwent massive changes in the 2022 season, and it’s worth wondering how they’ll all come together in Minnesota in 2022-23 as they look to build on a promising year. Every week between now and the start of pre-season in October, I will write about one thing specific to each potential rotation player that interests me the most in terms of how the team will fit in at the end. For last week’s story on Wendell Moore Jr. click here.
Today’s NBA requires players to play on both ends of the floor.
This concept is almost a prerequisite for gamers. If you don’t have star-level talent on the one hand, you’d better not be a target on the other, because you won’t get many minutes.
Both of these off-season backcourt Minnesota Timberwolves signings should prove they have this two-way ability. former Denver Nuggets Austin Rivers and Bryn Forbes will both have a hard climb to earn playing time on a roster that’s pretty deep, meaning they’re in competition with each other, even if their skills don’t completely overlap.
What interests me most about these two seasons is that both players are stronger in one phase of the game than the other, but the skills flipped. The player who beats the weak area in his game is more likely to have his leg up in the race for minutes.
Minnesota needs a capable defensive guard with Patrick Beverly out now, and Rivers will likely be brought in to fill some of that role. He is by no means a world hitter, but he is capable, energetic and has a solid size for the job.
Rivers got the job for Steve Curry when he faced the Nuggets Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. Granted, he got as much playing time as he did due to Denver’s horrific injury, but He did some great defensive plays against the ultimate heroes.
Former Duke star stuck himself against Curry, limiting him to 3/11 shooting, including 1/6 from downtown According to NBA.com’s match data. Five games is clearly a small sample size, but it was by far Denver’s best defensive choice against Curry, and that’s important for something in a team that could face the two-time MVP in the 2023 playoffs.
Despite this, the offense is less reliable. Rivers is a 34.9% 3-point shooter career, muddling his fitness with a team that needs breaks around their superstars. It’s not generally effective either; Rivers has not recorded a real shot percentage higher than 55.1%, which is his average position, in any of his 10 seasons.
One silver lining here is that Rivers has never had a negative turn assist ratio, which raises his floor significantly. As long as he takes care of the ball, he should be playable at this end.
On the other hand, Forbes is probably better in attack than Rivers in defense because of his shot. Forbes has paid less than 38.8% of downtown since the junior season in 2016-2017.
He has not shot less than 39.5% in 3 shoots and shoots in any of the past 4 seasons; In 2020, 21 and 2018-19, he was fifth in accuracy among players with no less than 200 3-point catch and shoot.
Bryn Forbes can let her copy screens.
He shot 33/84 (39.2%) coming off screens last season because he has excellent footwork, puts his shoulders square to edge, and his shooting movement is insanely consistent.
It will be fun to watch the bench when he finds a rhythm. pic.twitter.com/CGenJCUbif
– Jack Borman (@jrborman13) 2 July 2022
The ability to fire 3s will be critical to many of the players in possession of the ball. Just as Minnesota needs a goalkeeper replacement for Beverly, they also need a top scorer replacement after including Paisley’s owner in the Rudy Gobert deal.
The problem here is that Forbes has been awful on defense for most of his career. His best defensive result in a season is -1.3 (0 average) in 2017-18 per FiveThirtyEight. While that metric isn’t everything, it’s alarming that he has had three of the 27 worst single-season defensive results at RAPTOR in the past five seasons.
It backs up what you see on the bar: At 6-foot-2, Forbes is smaller and lacks the physical and proactive gifts that define good defenders. It has been the #1 deterrent to constant playing time as it has bounced back in the past few years.
At best, these two will face Jordan McLaughlin for 10th in the rotation. This may seem like an inconsequential struggle, but remember that McLaughlin was called upon to spend crucial minutes in the Grizzlies series.
McLaughlin certainly has a leg up in the competition now, but Rivers and Forbes could position themselves for a post-season role if they perform in the regular season. To earn this franchise, though, they face the daunting task of improving their playing areas that have proven lackluster over multiple seasons of NBA experience. We’ll see if either of them can overturn preconceived notions about their game with wolves.