To say the Minnesota Timberwolves season started out ruff (ha dog humor) is putting it lightly. A team that has some actual legit expectations for once. I had a feeling we could sip from the goblet of slight success and maybe slide into the playoff play-in spot. Something obtainable and realistic. Give some hope for the full season instead of 5 weeks of hope then realize we have already more losses than the top 6 teams’ losses put together. Talk about a letdown.
Time to Work On Defense
Surprisingly (not really) the Minnesota Timberwolves have one of the worst overall defenses in the NBA. They are 28th in the league in defensive rating only in front of the Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings. The Timberwolves lack serious size in the big man category minus Karl Anthony-Towns. Even then Towns has been out for 7 games due to a dislocated left wrist he got in the second game of the year against the Utah Jazz. Due to the lack of size, the defensive rebounding per game is bottom 5 in the league. Same goes for the defensive rebounding percentage.
The lack of size means easy buckets for teams. The Timberwolves have a serviceable big man vet in Ed Davis. A player that already has some experience playing with D’Angelo Russell and under assistant coach, Pablo Prigioni. Also, a young up and comer in Jarred Vanderbilt who is still trying to fight for consistent playing time. They are 29th in the league in points allowed in the paint, which is odd since they are middle of the pack for blocks per game in the NBA.
They have been missing their best wing defender in Josh Okogie due to a hamstring strain. If you don’t know how good Okogie is at defense, let’s just say he is one of the few guys that can keep up with James Harden when he is on a scoring hunt. With the best wing defender and best interior defender in Towns out, lots of players have had to step up on that end. Most whose biggest weakness is defense.
Offensively Confused Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves do have some bucket getters. D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley have been instant offense for the most part of the season. Able to create their own shot, which has been an issue the Timberwolves have had for a bit. Towns, when healthy, is one of the best offensive centers in the league. He almost pulled off 50-40-90 last year before he went down with a hand injury. Besides those three guys, the offense becomes inconsistent and lost.
When they sit out, the offense goes stagnant and no one really seems to know who is the guy up next. Ricky Rubio is there to guide the second unit, but he is definitely not there for scoring. Second-year player Jarrett Culver was thought possibly to be that scorer considering he fixed his shooting mechanics this offseason and the shot looks smooth. However, it would look smoother if the ball would go through the net considering he is shooting 24% from deep and 58.8% at the free-throw line.
They have tried to pick up the 3 point game more since over the past forever and always the Timberwolves have lacked that part of the game. Years and years ago they could get away with it since it wasn’t taking the league by storm yet (calling you out Steph Curry). Now that it has though, the Timberwolves have yet to have a consistent 3 point shooting team. They take on average around 34 three’s per game, but only make 11-12 per game. That leads to a whopping 33.7% from deep. Making them 26th in the league in that regard. There are 5 players on the Timberwolves that shoot below 30% from deep keeping that percentage low.
Time for a Bit of Leeway
You could look at this and look up more stats and think, “Good God, what kind of ball playing style is this? How could you have takeaways from this?” Well, just watch me then.
The first overall pick in Anthony Edwards has been a bright spot for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He is averaging 13.6 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. A solid stat line for a “weaker” draft class. He has been shaky at times on offense. Forcing shots, silly pass mistakes, and mental farts. You know, the usual rookie growing pains. Edwards, though, has motor and work ethic that can’t be questioned and Timberwolves fans can only get happy to see a player with work ethic to go with the talent *cough* Andrew Wiggins *cough*.
The fans have also seen the importance and difference of not having Towns over the past few games. With him, they are 2-1, and the one loss they had gone into overtime against the more veteran clad team in the San Antonio Spurs. He is once again averaging a 20-12 stat line while averaging 3 blocks too. Granted that block stat that will more than likely drop a tad, but considering this guy has been labeled “soft”, it’s nice to silence a couple of haters
The team plays with more confidence on the court when he is there. Towns is now slowly becoming that leader that the Timberwolves have been looking for for years now that didn’t cause too much controversy. When you watch him play you are seeing a new man. He’s not complaining about calls anymore and continues to hustle. Sadly, all of that has come through some extreme hardships that he has dealt with over the past 11 months.
Back to the Gym Minnesota Timberwolves
Luckily, there is still another 62 games to figure some things out. Karl Anthony-Towns and Josh Okogie being out has shown the Timberwolves extreme weaknesses that President of Operations Gersson Rosas and head coach Ryan Saunders can now fully address. The only thing is they can’t wait too long to find answers to these glaring holes. Having a shorter season means less time to hold back on trades and signings though. Let’s find the rest of the pack, gather up, get on the same page, and maybe some close L’s they get can turn to some W’s.