When Ricky Rubio ripped his team for not having heart he was talking about their defensive effort and not playing hard. Not so against the Warriors. The Wolves played hard for three quarters and then they went into their usual sleepwalking defense mode allowing Klay Thompson to be Klay Thompson in the 4th. A Wolves 10 point lead quickly disappeared and a tired Warriors team dropped 38 points in the 4th so more of the same for the Wolves.
Most experts predicted this would be the year the Wolves would break that long curse that last had them in the playoffs when Kevin Garnett was running things. Not so. Of all the non-playoff teams, the Wolves are one of the worst, residing in the near cellar of the West. If it wasn’t for the Mavs who are an old team with injuries galore, the Wolves would be the West joke. So how did they get here, from possible 8th seed to cover your eyes awful?
The Facts: They can’t score when they come out of the locker room at half time, meaning the other teams make adjustments and they don’t. Only the Mavs are worse. They are the worst defensive rebounding team in the league even with Towns. They give up 107 points per game. The only team that doesn’t contest shots at a higher rate than the Wolves are the Lakers but the Lakers have won 4 more games. They are 3-point delusional. Meaning they watch teams drain three point shot after three point shot. Their bench is worthless, last in the league in scoring, 28th in rebounding, 27th in assists. They have the worst point guards in the league. A depressing 12 points a game. That is why they are here, on track for another lottery appearance. Watch the Wolves for five minutes and you’ll see the layup drills and fast break points and transition offense- for the other team while the Wolves do nothing. It’s pretty pathetic.
Karl-Anthony Towns: He has had a strong start to his second year and is looking every bit the former Rookie of the Year ready to take his game to another level. He is playing more minutes, taking more shots, efficient at the three but he no longer is a 50%+ shooter but he makes up for it with an impressive 3.5 offensive boards. At 21.6 points per game he is a future All-Star. However, his defense is grotesque. He is the worst defensive center in the league (Defensive Real Plus-Minus), worse than anything the Lakers or Sixers or Pelicans throw out there. On the road he is significantly worse pulling rebounds, playing defense and making shots. Grade: B
Andrew Wiggins: The Andrew Wiggins season has suddenly turned in the opposite direction of spectacular. He is shooting at a level that is in line with his rookie year. His pull up three point shot which was so great at the start has fallen off a cliff because now he is being defended for the three. But 38.5% from three is still better than anything Wiggins has attempted so far in his young career and is a good number if it holds steady. His offensive rebounding is marginal. He is assisting more which is a bright spot, an area he really needed improvement in, and he is dropping 22.2 points per game. However, his PER is worse than it was last year. He is the least productive defensive small forward in the league (Defensive Real Plus-Minus), worse than ancient Paul Pierce and Luol Deng. Everything suffers on the road, offensive rating, defensive rating, points, rebounds, assists. Grade: B-.
Zach LaVine: If you just looked at it on paper, you’d think he is having a great year. He is scoring 20 points a game. He makes 46.9% of his shots, a better mark than Wiggins. He is hitting 37.8% of his threes. He upped his rebounding numbers, though his assists are slightly down. He has his highest PER. He is skilled on all areas of the floor except the midrange. But this is a game where you have to defend your position. There is just too much talent among guards to be apathetic which LaVine is. He is the worst defender on the Wolves. But, in a twist, he is not the worst defensive point guard in the league. Isaiah Thomas and Brandon Knight are worse. He is a good road scorer, averaging more points away from Target Center. But his defense on the road falls within the not trying category. Grade: C+
Ricky Rubio: Ricky Rubio throwing out shade because the Wolves were booed on their home floor is an example of transference. He is trying to deflect from this nightmare Rubio season. He is shooting 35.8%. He is making 21% of his threes. He is rebounding at a career low grab rate. His assists are the worst of career, not to mention he scored more points when he was a rookie than he does now. But let’s get back to his scoring. He is not even good at shots at the rim, 44%. The only area of the floor where he has had any success has been 10-16 feet, 55.6%. He is making 29.2% of his catch and shoots, 31.3% of his pull ups. His assists are even worse considering making others better is his job. Last year he assisted on 41.4% of the Wolves baskets. This year it is 29.2%. The Wolves assists are coming from everyone not named Rubio but this is the paradox. He is the 8th best defensive point guard (Defensive Real Plus-Minus). But hIs game doesn’t travel. The Wolves need Rubio and yet they can’t survive with him. Grade: C
Short term Outlook: It is going to get worse before it gets better. This month alone the Wolves can only count on three games against sure lottery teams. The other teams on the schedule: Thunder, Bucks, Hawks, Bulls, Rockets are either playoff locks or will fight to the last day to get in. That was supposed to be the Timberwolves story.
It was supposed to be the Timberwolves year to fight for and make the playoffs. But no fight. So no playoffs.
photo via llananba