The Timberwolves didn’t sign Kevin Garnett just for his leadership.
They want him to play.
Minnesota coach Flip Saunders, in a Q&A with Zach Lowe of Grantland:
Is KG going to start?
He’s gonna start. That’s who he is. KG is a starter. He’s the best power forward on our team, actually. No one rebounds better. He’s the best help defender. No one communicates better. He knows the offense, and he can pass it.
That leaves Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng battling to start at the other big-man spot.
Towns was just the No. 1 pick, a productive two-way player who seems relatively NBA-ready for a rookie. Saunders said Pekovic is still hurt, but the center has been a steady starter the last four years when healthy. Dieng broke out late in his rookie season, and he maintained that level while starting a majority of Minnesota’s games last season.
Towns has the brightest future among that group, and maybe he should start for that reason. It will be pretty tough for the Timberwolves to make the playoffs next season, so maybe they should think long-term.
It’s also possible Towns is already better than Pekovic and Dieng, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the veterans are ahead when the season begins.
Simply based on productivity, Garnett belongs in the mix in a four-man race. But he’s clearly getting the nod based on stature. The 39-year-old also might be better off physically starting rather than sitting on the bench and getting cold to begin games.
I don’t expect Garnett to play typical minutes for a starter, which should leave playing time for those younger players. Enough to maximize their development? That’s a different question – especially with Anthony Bennett, Adreian Payne and Nemanja Bjelica also on the roster.
Perhaps, though, that issues takes care of itself. Garnett played just five games after Minnesota acquired him before the trade deadline, missing the final 21 games of the season. Injury is always an increased concern for players his age.
I’d hardly be surprised if, for one reason or another, Garnett is no longer starting by the end of the season.