The Minnesota Timberwolves staked their claim as contenders on Draft night, engineering a steal that turned, effectively, the number 7 pick and Zach LaVine into Jimmy Butler and the 16th pick. A Trade hasn’t been so lopsided since the Boston Celtics robbed the Nets of their long-term future. It was also the reunion of Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau, establishing the Minnesota TimberBulls. The Wolves or Bulls, whichever they are now have 4 ex-Chicago players including D. Rose, Jimmy Buckets, Taj Gibson, Jamal Crawford and Aaron Brooks. Compared to Chicago however, the Wolves added their trade assets to a young, legitimate playoff team with exciting talents such as Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
The team notably moved Ricky Rubio over to the Jazz and subsequently signed Jeff Teague, but they have otherwise arguably gotten stronger across the board since last year. However, I don’t think this is the year for these young wolves. The first round will be a great experience and should help them grow long term, but their 47-35 record shows that they just aren’t ready to compete. Yet.
It feels strange writing about a Tom Thibodeau coached team and their strength not being defense, but more on that later. Offense has been their real strength, specifically inside scoring and free throws. They are really good at shooting free throws (80% – 2nd in the league), and 4th in field goal percentage. That inside presence is in part thanks to KAT, but Taj Gibson has been very efficient inside the arc too, hitting almost 60% of his shots. Towns’ ability to stretch the floor with his outside shooting ability has created great spacing on the interior, and he’s also a fairly undervalued passer, good for 4th on the squad with 2.4 assists per game. Sadly, I don’t think there is much else.
The strangeness continues when you consider that defence for this squad is a significant weakness. This is a shock when you remember that Thibodeau in Chicago was consistently ranked among the league leaders in defensive efficiency. This team has been awful defensively. They have the third worth defensive efficiency rating in the entire league, they are bad defensive rebounders and whilst they shoot well, they also let opponents shoot well against them. Teams shoot 47 percent from the field against the Wolves. The only real silver lining is the fact that they do force turnovers, but when you have Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler that should be a given.
Considering their coaching staff, the defensive inefficiencies is a shock, but it could be due to the fact that they have added a number of new parts to the squad. Guys have been injured, but I don’t think that should let them off for being such a bad defensive unit. This needs to change if they want to be taken seriously next season.
The Wolves are on track for where they want to be. They added new pieces, they have a second year head coach who took them from 31 to 47 wins this season, they have a young core that’s really promising and I don’t see them panicking this off-season and getting rid of Thibodeau. They just need to keep growing this young core and hope that the Warriors can’t keep their super team together forever.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER?
Since the All-Star game Jimmy Butler has only played 4 games. They are 37-22 with him in the team. They’re on a three game win streak since his return and in the last, and most important game of the season against Denver, he put up 31 points and dragged this team into the final playoff spot. Jimmy Butler is the key for the Timberwolves to win games.
THE ONE TO WATCH?
The big man, Karl-Anthony Towns has been a major reason why the T-Wolves grabbed that last playoff spot. Andrew Wiggins regressed a little this year statistically due to the addition of Jimmy Butler, but Towns has picked up the slack. Interestingly, he’s shooting far better in games that the Wolves win – 45.4% from 3PT land in their 47 wins this season. Watch Towns shooting the ball. If he’s stroking from the three point line, then the Wolves could be tough to match.
Written by Sam Chadwick – Copyright © 2018 Double Clutch. Double Clutch is not affiliated with the NBA and does not claim ownership over any NBA audio or images used. All rights are those of the NBA/NBA UK and respected parties e.g. Getty images.