Timberwolves offseason changes have been geared toward jump-starting the offense

The Minnesota Timberwolves most significant free agent signing this summer will turn 37 in October, averaged 4.4 points per game last season and has not started a game in three years.

And yet, Joe Ingles’ arrival is indicative of the Wolves’ approach to improving the roster after falling short against Dallas in the Western Conference finals. Ingles will come in and essentially take the place of the departed Kyle Anderson, one incredibly smart, unselfish playmaker subs in for another.

Anderson filled the role of point forward, using his size to help him see over the defense, get his teammates good shots and get the offense moving with well-timed screens and savvy drives to the elbow for pull-up jumpers or dump-offs. Wolves fans will see many similar traits from Ingles when he is wearing No. 7 next season. Neither player relies on athleticism to create advantages. They lean on anticipation and instincts that are high level.

Where the two deviate is in their biggest strengths. Wolves coach Chris Finch loved Anderson for myriad reasons, first and foremost his versatility on defense. He could guard bigs and smalls, switch, direct traffic and was an important part of the league’s best defense.

Ingles is a point forward as well, but he brings an entirely different element to the table. He is a career 41 percent shooter from 3-point range, including 43.5 percent for Orlando last season on 5.0 attempts per game. Anderson’s shooting fell off a cliff last season after a serious eye injury in the 2023 playoffs. He made just 23 percent of his 3s, struggles that were so clear that he all but stopped taking them for most of the season.

Playing Anderson with Rudy Gobert was terrific defensively, but it hampered the team’s spacing on offense. At 37 years old, Ingles is nowhere near the defender Anderson is, but bringing in his shooting figures to help the team’s 17th-ranked offense.

The Wolves also were aggressive in the draft when they traded a future first-round pick and pick swap with San Antonio to get the No. 8 pick and select Rob Dillingham, another player whose strength is on offense. That may mean that the Wolves have to take a slight step back from the very best defensive team in the league, perhaps to a top-five unit. But if that happens at the expense of the offense moving into the top 10, it will be worth it.

“We need to get better offensively,” Finch said after the season ended.

A lot of the emphasis Finch put on analyzing the offense was playing faster. With Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns in the starting lineup, no one is expecting the Wolves to turn into the Indiana Pacers. But Finch wants to see everyone get up the floor faster and finish better in transition. Easier buckets will help them avoid some of the half-court troubles they had against Dallas, especially when Towns was struggling to hit 3s like he was in that series.

The defense wasn’t great against Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving in the conference finals. They could not come up with key stops when they needed them most, and Dončić and Irving largely had their way with Minnesota’s defense at every level. But the Mavericks scored 111.4 points per game in that five-game series, a number that would have ranked 22nd in the regular season.

The big issue was the Wolves averaged just 105.6 points per game, nowhere near enough even in the playoffs when scoring and pace largely slow down. Towns had a horrible shooting series, Mike Conley was hobbled and not his usual self and the Wolves desperately needed more shot creation to take the pressure off of Anthony Edwards.

Dillingham should help quite a bit in that category. He is a dynamo with the ball in his hands, able to use his quickness and creativity to get his shot off in the blink of an eye. Terrence Shannon Jr., the Wolves’ other first-round draft pick, could help on that end of the floor as well with his ability to get to the rim and get fouled. And Ingles running pick-and-roll with Gobert or playing off of Naz Reid in the second unit is a tantalizing proposition for a team looking to boost its offensive production.

Focusing not just on personnel, but on scheme and approach, is going to be at the forefront of Finch’s mind this summer.

“Going into next season, we’ve got to play faster,” he said. “We don’t have the physically fastest guys, but we’ve got to make an effort and commitment to get easier stuff in transition, running, stretching the floor.”

In addition to the new faces, Finch will want to see improved finishing from Jaden McDaniels, a more consistent shot from Nickeil Alexander-Walker and he may have to give some of the younger guys on the roster who were not in the rotation last season a shot to deliver. Josh Minott and Leonard Miller are both raw prospects, but some interesting physical tools with their size and bounce could help boost the offense if they are up to the task.

All in all, this summer figures to be almost the reverse of this time last year, when Finch and the coaching staff were emphasizing defense. The strategy worked out well with 56 wins in the regular season, two playoff series victories and a firmly established identity. As long as Gobert and McDaniels are around, that foundation should still exist. That also should help instill a level of expectation on a smaller, less defensively inclined player like Dillingham.

“We’re not going to protect him. We’re going to challenge him,” president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said of Dillingham after the draft. “We’re not here to hold his hand. He’s a very competitive guy. There are plenty of examples of guys that are slight that are plus-defenders.”

But there is an acknowledgment that they need more offensively if they are going to take the last step. Ingles, Dillingham and Shannon were all added with the hopes that they can contribute in that regard.

“We’re trying to create more easy opportunities,” Connelly said. “We’re trying to play a bit faster. We have elite athleticism in Anthony, Jaden and Naz and those guys have to take the challenge. At times, we play a bit too slow.”

Finch said he was “extremely encouraged” by the offense last preseason. He said the execution had him excited for the season and seeing a “juggernaut” materialize in front of his eyes, rare exuberance from a coach who likes to stay on an even keel. But once the regular season began, Finch noticed a change in mindset. He saw Towns trying to find his way with Gobert and Anthony Edwards. He saw McDaniels struggling to find consistency in his shot. And the Wolves never were able to put together a sustained stretch of great offense.

I think we need to drill down on what that offense looks like,” Finch said. “It’s a summer-long vision that you then have to sell to the team when they show up in October.”

While there won’t be a roster overhaul evident during training camp in the fall, the changes that were made were geared toward helping that process. When the Wolves open Las Vegas Summer League play on Friday with a team featuring Dillingham, Shannon, Minott and Miller, the first glimpses of that vision will start to take shape.

(Photo of Tim Connelly, Rob Dillingham, Terrence Shannon Jr., Chris Finch: David Sherman / NBAE via Getty Images)

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