Wolves Lead

Starting Power Forward Options for Minnesota


Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders has a lot of decisions entering this upcoming season. Probably one of the most pressing is: who will be starting at the power forward position? Dario Saric and Taj Gibson manned the four last season, but both are gone now and the coaching staff needs to figure out who should be starting at power forward moving forward. Saunders has three options he can choose from on the roster.

New Acquisitions

After spending time on the bench in his first seasons with the Golden State Warriors, Jordan Bell would be a nice defensive compliment to Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt. He has a career Defensive Box Plus/Minus score of plus-3.2, which is pretty impressive considering he’s played in a total of 125 games and averaged 12.8 minutes per game. Towns has struggled on the defensive end in the past and playing him alongside Bell would help hide some of his flaws on that end of the floor. He would be similar to what Gibson was as a starter in terms of defense.

On the flip side, Bell is the most limited player on offensive end of the three players on this list. Though he’s a good pick-and-roll player and has the ability to finish around the rim, Bell holds no real offensive game outside of the occasion mid-range shot. He’s only averaged 3.9 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game for his career. As good of defensive option that Bell would be at the power forward spot, his offensive limitations don’t make him an ideal choice.

Former lottery pick Noah Vonleh is another potential option for Saunders to plug into the four spot. Unlike Bell, Vonleh is a little less limited on the offensive end. For his career, Vonleh has averaged 5.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 0.4 blocks. Last season he posted a career high 8.4 points with with the New York Knicks while converting 33.6 percent of his 3-pointers. He’s by no means an elite stretch forward, but Vonleh is more than capable at his position.

Sadly, Vonleh’s not the same defensive player that Bell is either, as Vonleh boasts a career Defensive Box Plus/Minus score of plus-0.4. Still, he’s a plus defender that can guard both big man positions. The only downside to his game is that despite being able to stretch the floor, he’s at best a fifth option on the offensive end. Vonleh could be a good stop-gap starter for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but not a long term solution.

Can Covington Change?

The final option is Robert Covington. At 6-foot-9 and 225 lbs, the elite two-way wing could be in line for a position change this season. With Andrew Wiggins, Jake Layman, Josh Okogie and rookie Jarrett Culver all needing minutes on the perimeter, shifting Covington to the stretch four spot might allow Saunders to give all three the appropriate amount of playing time. Saunders has even hinted at Covington playing the power forward spot this offseason.

Having Covington at the stretch four spot would give the T-Wolves the best spacing possible at the position. For his career, Covington has averaged 12.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals. He’s been arguably one of the top 3-and-D players in the NBA over the past couple of seasons. The only question becomes if he can defend bigger and stronger players at the position in the paint. Covington has played power forward before in the past, most often back in the 2015-16 season when he played at the spot for 73.0 percent of his minutes. Hopefully that past experience will help him if Saunders decides to start him at that position.

As of now, it appears that Covington is the frontrunner for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ starting power forward role, but both Vonleh and Bell could still be considered in the running for the spot as well. Saunders appears to have a preference, but has options heading into training camp.


About Lucas Johnson

Regent University graduate with a B.A. in History. Married to the most wonderful woman in the world. Past writing experience includes The Sixer Sense, PopGates and Rotoden, while also being former Co-Site Expert for Valley of the Suns. Current Minnesota Timberwolves Lead for The Lead Sports Media and Co-Site Expert for The Sixer Sense.

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