Tom Thibodeau has a history of burying rookies on the bench, making them learn in practice and by watching before he'll trust them in game situations. But that might not be the case with the rookies the Wolves drafted in June.
Minnesota took Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie 20th overall in the first round and used the 48th pick on Ohio State forward Keita Bates-Diop – a player they were pleased to see still on the board considering they debated taking him at No. 20.
While both are likely a work in progress on the offensive end, Thibodeau told NBA TV on Sunday that he thinks they have tremendous potential on the defensive end.
"Obviously the wingspan of both of those guys. Josh has a 7-foot wingspan, Keita has a 7'3'' wingspan, and obviously the defense is something that we have to improve, particularly with our second unit," Thibodeau said. "We think that these guys are capable of doing that."
Minnesota's bench play was horrendous last season, finishing dead last (30th) in defensive efficiency by allowing 111.1 points per 100 possessions. Clearly, Thibodeau is looking for players capable of making stops, and if Okogie and Bates-Diop are capable of doing so as rookies, there's no reason to keep them on the bench.
"Our starting unit was very, very efficient," said Thibodeau. "It was top five in offense and seventh in defense, so obviously the bench is something that we have to shore up."
According to NBA.com's advanced stats, Minnesota's starters finished fourth in the NBA in offensive rating and 18th in defensive rating, not seventh as Thibodeau suggested. That said, a defensive rating in the middle of the pack is a lot better than one ranked dead last.