When Ryan Saunders glanced down his bench on Saturday, he saw a lot of faces that have only rejoined the Wolves recently.
Given the Wolves’ personnel issues with five members of the rotation out for injury or personal reasons, those faces were going to get minutes.
Three of them — Jaylen Nowell, Kelan Martin and Keita Bates-Diop — were in Iowa recently. But the Wolves needed them Sunday. Of the three, Bates-Diop had the best night, scoring 22 points on 9-for-18 shooting in 37 minutes. Bates-Diop made the case that not only should he be on the Wolves roster, but he could contend for minutes in the rotation.
In a game in which the Wolves struggled to find a rhythm offensively, Bates-Diop was one of the only Wolves outside of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to make things happen.
“He’s capable,” Wiggins said. “Keita’s a very versatile player. He can knock down a shot, great defender, even though he’s very good at getting to the rim and amazing off-the-ball player.”
Saunders said he liked how Bates-Diop, the Wolves’ second-round pick in 2018, played defensively as well and fit into the role vacated by Jake Layman offensively.
“I thought he was aggressive,” Saunders said. “I thought he did a number of things, and I thought, defensively, he was pretty good, too. So it’s a credit to him. We played him a good amount of minutes, too.”
Nowell played 14 minutes and had three points while Martin, one of the heroes of Monday’s win in Utah, was 0-for-7.
Forward Robert Covington was out for personal reasons as he dealt with a death in the family. Josh Okogie missed his second game of the season because of left knee soreness. Okogie had missed a game against Houston last week before playing in the next two, both against Utah.
Treveon Graham was a late addition to the injury report with a left forearm contusion. Graham was available to play in an emergency. Layman (left toe sprain) and Shabazz Napier (right hamstring sprain) did not play.
Changes in works
The NBA is considering some sweeping changes to the league schedule, including an in-season tournament, a play-in format for the playoffs and reseeding teams in the conference finals, ESPN reported Saturday. The most drastic change would be the in-season tournament, modeled after European soccer, and could reduce the length of the actual regular season to 78 games.
“I’m always open to what can create competitive situations,” Saunders said. “It’ll just be something we’ll have to adjust to because we’ll all be new to that type of situation.”