The Timberwolves have a full 15-man roster, but a handful of those spots are being occupied by players currently unable to contribute. Nikola Pekovic won’t play this season, Zach LaVine is out for the year, and this week Nemanja Bjelica and Lance Stephenson have gone down with injuries as well. The latest injuries to rotation players have left the Wolves considering adding a new healthy body to their roster, according to Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune.
As Zgoda notes, it’s possible that Tom Thibodeau will look at in-house options as he considers how to replace Bjelica, who will miss the rest of the season with a foot injury. Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad, or Cole Aldrich could be asked to take on larger roles, and perhaps a player like Adreian Payne or Jordan Hill will rejoin the rotation. For his part, Thibodeau says he thinks his roster has “more than enough to win with.” Still, Minnesota’s head coach and president of basketball operations acknowledged that an outside addition is possible.
“We’re just looking at where we are and who’s available,” Thibodeau said. “With Pek being out, too, you’re down roster spots. You want to be sure you have enough bodies just so you’re able to practice and handle foul trouble and things like that.”
Stephenson’s second 10-day contract with the Wolves will expire tonight, and as long as he remains on the shelf with an ankle injury, he won’t be a candidate for a full-season deal. However, Thibodeau indicated that it’s “premature” to say whether Minnesota is ready to part ways with Stephenson, since the extent of his injury hasn’t yet been determined.
Although the expiration of Stephenson’s 10-day contract will open up one spot on the Wolves’ roster, the team likely wouldn’t be eligible for a hardship exception that would allow for a 16th man. To be awarded that exemption, a team needs to have at least four players who have missed at least three straight games and will continue to be sidelined. In Pekovic, LaVine, and Blejica, the Wolves have three of those players. Payne likely doesn’t qualify as a fourth, since he was cleared to practice more than a week ago and seems to be available to play if needed — he’s just not in the club’s rotation at the moment.