Lakers: Better Reserves, Lakers or Minnesota Timberwolves?

Feb 2, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) and Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black (28) battle for a rebound in the second half of the game at Staples Center. Lakers won 119-115. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 2, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) and Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black (28) battle for a rebound in the second half of the game at Staples Center. Lakers won 119-115. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

In the last piece of our series, we break down which team has the better reserves, the Lakers or the Minnesota Timberwolves?

In this series, we have taken a look at how the Lakers young core stacks up against the most highly regarded young team in the league, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Each team’s starters have been compared in head-to-head match-ups, determined by position.

We’ve established that although the comparison is close at several positions, the dominance of Karl-Anthony Towns swings things heavily in the Wolves’ favor. The Lakers don’t have a similarly decisive victory across the board, although this writer favors Brandon Ingram and D’Angelo Russell to their counter-parts on Minnesota’s roster.

However, top-flight talent isn’t the only factor in determining the strength of a team, as every great team relies heavily on bench depth and role players in addition to the stars. In this piece we’ll find out if the depth of each team helps to draw the Lakers closer to the Timberwolves, or only puts the Wolves further out of reach.

With a lot of talent to analyze in this one, let’s get started.

Core Reserves: Nance Jr, Black, Brown vs. Jones, Muhammad, Payne

Both the Lakers and Timberwolves have such a plethora of young talent that they even have strong players who project as reserves. For the Lakers these players are Larry Nance Jr., who they selected in the first round, Anthony Brown, who was a second round pick, and Tarik Black, who was an undrafted free agent.

The Timberwolves have Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad, and Adreian Payne, all of whom were first round picks in their respective drafts. In fact, the lowest pick in this group was still selected higher than Larry Nance Jr., with Muhammad and Payne going in the late to post-lottery range.

This makes it all the more impressive that Nance Jr. is the best player in this group by a considerable margin. An incredibly athletic four, Nance Jr. has the ability to defend multiple positions, finish well around the rim and has also begun to add the ability to shoot from beyond the arc. His play has even made some fans question whether he deserves a starting role and will provide great value for the Lakers whatever his role may be.

Tarik Black is another extremely athletic big man, albeit considerably less versatile than Nance Jr. Despite being limited offensively, the undersized center has been impressive in pick and roll situations, demonstrating solid hands to catch lobs and bounce passes, and using his athleticism to finish over the top of defenders. This, combined with good rebounding instincts and consistent energy on defense, makes Tarik Black a legitimate rotation big man in the NBA.

For the Timberwolves Shabazz Muhammad has emerged as a reliable scoring option off the bench. While he doesn’t contribute much outside of scoring, Muhammad is a solid finisher who handles the ball well for his size. This alone gives him a solid case for the position of second best player on this list. His three point shooting took a big hit last season, falling to 29 percent from a stellar 39 percent in his second year. If he can become more consistent from the outside, Muhammad can be a real contributor for the Wolves as they continue to improve.

Adreian Payne has not lived up to his draft status so far, averaging only four points a game despite being taken fifteenth overall. While it’s possible he eventually learns to harness his impressive athleticism in an effective way, at this point he poses very little challenge to any of the Lakers reserves. Still, he’s a worthwhile prospect for a team in the latter stages of a rebuild like the Timberwolves.

More from Lake Show Life

Tyus Jones is a solid point guard prospect, who had a phenomenal career at Duke playing alongside Jahlil Okafor. He’s undersized for the NBA, and lacks elite athleticism, factors which combine to limit his future upside. Jones hasn’t had the chance to shine in the NBA as of yet, but he could still emerge as an above average backup point guard.

The other Laker on this list has also made contributions at the NBA level. While Anthony Brown has struggled to find his shot in the NBA, he was the Lakers best perimeter defender last season and has the tools and determination to become an elite defender.

An elite shooter in college, there is definitely reason to believe Brown can become the three and D ace the Lakers hoped for when they drafted him. If he can improve on offense he could ultimately become the most valuable player on this list. However, the possibility that his offensive woes continue are definitely a cause for some concern.

No matter how you match these players up against each other, the Lakers win at least two out of three. Depth is definitely a strength of this Lakers core, with Nance Jr. and Tarik Black profiling as long-term contributors, and Anthony Brown as a low-risk, high-reward project. The final category goes to the Los Angeles Lakers, making the final score 4-2 in favor of the Purple and Gold.

The Lakers win more categories, but with one big caveat. At this point they don’t have a prospect who can truly rival Karl-Anthony Towns as a legitimate number one option. In order to truly rival the Timberwolves as the league’s best young team, the Lakers will need one or both of D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram to emerge as a player of that stature.

Next: Ranking the Lakers' Worst Decisions Since 2010

Both players have the talent and potential to do so, but will need to prove themselves on the court. Hopefully we’ll be able to watch them do just that starting this season.