The Wolves didn’t take a deep dive into the free agency pool over the summer. Part of that was because they swung and missed on a player or two, particularly Pau Gasol. But much of it was a desire on the part of Tom Thibodeau, new president of basketball operations and head coach, wanting to see what he had before spending huge dollars.
But the moves he did make — particularly the free-agent signings of Cole Aldrich and Brandon Rush — have added much-needed depth to the roster.
Indeed, one of the positives of the first week-plus of training camp is the play of the second unit; it’s something Thibodeau has mentioned more than once.
“It has played very well, so far,” Thibodeau said. “Now, once we get into games we’ll see if that carries over. But I like the depth.”
So far the Wolves have been going with a starting five of Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng, Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins.
But when was the last time the team had enough depth to list another five or six players fighting for playing time? The Wolves, though talented, are still young. But the team is looking pretty deep.
The main backup group has been rookie Kris Dunn, Rush, Aldrich, Nemanja Bjelica and Shabazz Muhammad.
Thibodeau likes the speed Dunn brings to the unit, the three-point shooting of Rush and Bjelica as well as Bjelica’s ability to play a point-forward position, when needed, with his passing ability.
“Bazz gives us a tough matchup, he can play inside or out, good in transition,” Thibodeau said. “Nemanja spaces the floor, gives you the four-five pick-and-roll. Cole is very, very effective, just because of his screening ability. He does a lot of little things to make your offense better. Kris can race the ball up the floor.”
Tyus Jones has been playing with the group at times as well, as well as others; the team has plenty of inside depth with Jordan Hill, Adreian Payne and Rasual Butler.
“I think we’re gelling really well,” Muhammad said. “We’ve been playing well as a team. I can’t wait to get out there and start playing with these guys.”
Dunn, who is having a strong camp, said he loves the mix of people on the second group.
“We all gel well,” he said. “I always tell people, every day in the locker room, I think Bjelica and Brandon Rush are some of the easiest players to play with. Because they’re so good at spacing. Especially Bjelica. They’re great shooters. As a point guard, you love shooters around you.”
Thibodeau was known to do a good bit of platoon substitution when he was in Chicago. But he has yet to decide how he’s going to approach his rotation here, whether he will substitute in waves or try to keep a starter or two on the floor most of the time. Much of those decisions will be influenced by what he sees in games when the preseason schedule begins Saturday.
“I have a pretty good idea,” Thibodeau said. “We’ll see how the games unfold, who plays well with whom. There will be some bench guys with some starters. We’ll mix and match a little. And we have to see who we’re going to finish with.
‘‘I want to see what teams are doing against us. We can’t allow people to over-help on a Wiggins and Towns at the end of games. So we have to make sure we have the right people around them.”