Whenever Towns returns, Wolves should know some things

Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns have played together in 19 of the Timberwolves' 21 games this season for a total of 401 minutes.

That's a useful but limited sample size. And it won't grow for several weeks.

With Towns going down Monday with a calf strain — a diagnosis conveyed Tuesday in a news release from the Timberwolves that also said he will be "sidelined indefinitely and reassessed in several weeks — the Wolves' supersized experiment has been put on hold.

If the first 21 games of the season have been uneven — intermittently clunky and promising, with more of the former than the latter for the 10-11 Wolves as discussed on Tuesday's Daily Delivery podcast — the next 21 or so figure to be fascinating.

In those 401 minutes with two of the best big men in the NBA sharing the court, the Wolves this year have a negative net rating — meaning they are giving up more points than they score per 100 possessions.

The Wolves desperately need this pairing to work, at least as they are currently constructed, to have any hope of being a true playoff contender.

But in the absence of Towns for these weeks, two short-term possibilities are in play:

The Wolves' fortunes crater without Towns as they have in recent years. They remain stuck on the fringes of the NBA Western Conference playoff race — or worse — and have a steep climb in the standings when Towns returns, hampering their ability to meaningfully compete this season.The Wolves look somehow more functional in a more conventional lineup, even if it doesn't include one of the NBA's most prolific offensive big men.

Let's say Kyle Anderson slides into the starting lineup at power forward and builds on some promising chemistry with Gobert (plus-1.1 net rating in 117 minutes together this year). And/or let's say Jaden McDaniels plays some minutes as a small-ball power forward, giving the Wolves a quicker lineup more adept at chasing three-point shooters and cutting down drives.

It wouldn't necessarily be a repudiation of the Towns-Gobert pairing, and it would help the Wolves in the standings to play well in Towns' absence, but it could raise some long-term questions about the Wolves' master plan.

Knowledge is gained through experience and information. What we learn in the next several weeks will be interesting, to say the least.