Minnesota Timberwolves president Tim Connelly stated that Karl-Anthony Towns might fit nicely next to a more traditional 5 in a recent interview with Dane Moore. People may hear this and think Connelly should go after big-name guys like Myles Turner or Mitchell Robinson. But I’m more interested in veteran big man JaVale McGee.
It’s truly remarkable what McGee, 34, can bring on both sides of the ball. He also has a lot of playoff experience, which would be very valuable to Minnesota’s young roster. So, what would a potential pairing look like for him and the Wolves? What can we expect McGee to offer on a nightly basis? And how would the Timberwolves go about obtaining him?
The Timberwolves made the playoffs for the first time since 2018 last season, but they did so with some major holes within their roster. Their biggest weakness was the lack of size in the paint on both sides of the ball. Almost every opponent the Wolves faced had a player who would bully them down low. It felt like every team had someone capable of grabbing 15+ boards and dunking on them ten or more times.
The Wolves were probably in the market for a big man around the trade deadline last season. However, interim GM Sachin Gupta was intent on keeping the close-knit Timberwolves squad together.
The pack was intact when the clock struck 2:00 pm on Feb. 10. Wolves fans had mixed feelings about Gupta’s decision at the time, and the team’s size issues never subsided. However, any animosity mellowed when Minnesota made the playoffs. Now that they have Connelly on board, I believe that they will make changes. Connelly probably won’t overhaul the roster, but he won’t just run it back next year.
While Minnesota’s roster construction may lead to some of these issues, Towns is probably at the center of them. We all know how special he is on the offensive side of the ball, but Towns can’t contain the paint like other bigs around the league do.
Towns spends most of his time outside the paint on offense, making it difficult for him to be a force on the glass. However, Jarred Vanderbilt’s defensive prowess at the 4 kind of makes up for Towns’ lack of defensive presence. Still, he doesn’t guard the paint well. Towns allows himself to get pushed and shoved down low more than a lot of guys in the league. He also gets emotional about foul calls, making him a vulnerable player.
McGee is a somewhat easy signing who could fix most of Minnesota’s weaknesses.
He has been with eight teams in his 13-year career and has won three rings. When you hear McGee’s name, you might immediately think of his infamous appearances on Shaqtin A’ Fool. But his game is the opposite of that. Wherever McGee has been, he seems to have a significant impact from Day 1.
Last year he put up 9.2 points per game and 6.7 rebounds on 63% from the floor in 74 regular-season games. He came off the bench behind Deandre Ayton, but McGee’s per 36 numbers were almost identical to that of Ayton’s. To be fair, playing alongside Chris Paul, a future Hall-Of-Famer, makes the game very easy with Paul’s ability to see the floor. But that should not take away from what McGee can do in the right environment.
There are four things that McGee excels at: defense, rebounding, being a lob threat, and his overall basketball IQ. Those five words should be music to Wolves fans’ ears.
McGee would seamlessly transition into Minnesota’s starting group. He’d fill in the holes in Towns’ game. He’d allow Towns to play the 4, spend more time on the perimeter, and guard smaller players. Additionally, if Minnesota decides to keep D’Angelo Russell, the pick-and-roll game between McGee and Russell may give us flashbacks to Russell’s days with Jarrett Allen in Brooklyn.
Adding McGee would have some minor setbacks. It would force Vanderbilt to the bench, but with the proper roster construction, he may be able to flourish in that role. McGee doesn’t have to jump right in with the starters, either. He could come off the bench as Towns’ backup. But if McGee can play 30-36 minutes, I see no reason why he shouldn’t start.
So, what would it take to obtain McGee?
McGee is set to make about $5-7 million per year, making him one of Minnesota’s more affordable options in free agency. Not only that, but Phoenix currently has a logjam at the 5, with Ayton, Bismack Biyombo, and Dario Saric.
All signs point towards McGee being a good signing. Regardless of what happens, if the Wolves want to contend for a top-six seed in the West next season, they will need more size.