New Faces: Cole Aldrich, Jordan Hill, Kris Dunn (R), Brandon Rush
2015-16 Regular Season Record: 29-53
2015-16 Regular Season Achievements: 2nd: Free Throw Attempts. 4th: Free Throw %. 5th: 2-Point Attempts. 7th: Field Goal%. 8th: Assists.
Leading Scorer: Andrew Wiggins, 20.7
Leading Rebounder: Karl-Anthony Towns, 10.5
A team with back-to-back Rookies of the Year is expected to make the playoffs at some point, and to the naked eye, and summing up the Wolves talent on paper, this year seems to be it. Besides their ROY(s), they added in the draft the best playmaker at the guard position and the best perimeter defender. It’s a long leap for Kris Dunn to become the third Timberwolves player who wins ROY. There is too much talent on this team for him to get the adequate amount of possessions. But his teammates bode well for Dunn’s learning curve. They have been where Dunn wants to go, and very recently. The Timberwolves are still a young team.
In the off-season, the Wolves upped their front court game with veteran Jordan Hill who is a rebounder and post scorer, primarily mid-range. Hill had his best year playing for the Lakers in 2014-15, 12.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, career highs.. Also helping the front court is Cole Aldrich who did amazing work for the Clippers when Blake Griffin was out the lineup for most of the second half of the season.
Their biggest pickup up was Tom Thibodeau, the defensive genius. He is exactly what the Wolves need. They were 28th in field goal % defense, 28th in 2-point field goal % defense. Furthermore, they were 20th in offensive rebounding, 28th in defensive rebounding and 29th in total rebounding.
Considering that the Minnesota Timberwolves were one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA last season, things are bound to look up with Tom Thibodeau, right? Maybe.
Hill and Aldrich should help the rebounding numbers but neither one has the explosive quickness to rotate on pick and rolls and defend in the paint.
The T-wolves are still a very young team with the bulk of their roster still in the developmental stage. Andrew Wiggins followed up his ROY with a solid second season but he still is a horrible three point shooter, 30.0%, which makes him easy to defend in late game situations.
Karl Anthony Towns delivered on his promise.Towns can rebound, score from the left or right and protect the rim. He’s a talented passer with superior court vision. He is good at the free throw line, great in the locker room. He is everything you want a #1 pick to be, except like all #1 picks he had peaks and valleys. He will be expected to cross the 20-10 threshold this season. If last year was Towns baptism by fire year, this year will be Towns taking his game to a near veteran level, fueled by the pressure year.
Suddenly, the Wolves have expectations lording over them, this talented young core. But the Ricky Rubio elephant in the room haunts them. Trade him? Keep him? Let Kris Dunn take charge?
Their young team with a new coach will go out and make mistakes and learn from their mistakes but will that guide them into the playoffs?
Zach LaVine is another promising Wolves talent. LaVine’s 45.2% and 38.9% from three was a nice sophomore stat line. Is he moved into the starting lineup and Wiggins is rotated back to the small forward? Like Towns, and unlike Wiggins, LaVine is a player with tons of charisma whose enjoyment of the game is infectious. His weakest spot is his defense and with Thibs that should get better quickly. He has the potential with his length to create perimeter havoc if he devotes himself to it but it’s hard to tell if he just wants the aahs…and oohs that come from his spectacular dunks and nothing but net scores, or if he wants to be an exceptional NBA player.
One of the most improved players last year was second year guard/forward Shabazz Muhammad. He shot 46.5% but his three point shooting was dismal, 28.9%. A positive, Muhammad played all 82 games, the first such mark of his career. His energy off the bench was palpable.
It’s easy to forget the Wolves have Kevin Garnett. He is worth his salary in what he provides as a leader. Elsewhere, Garnett has been stricken with the kind of game older players have once their athleticism erodes. It’s kind of sad, though. You look at Garnett now and miss who he used to be. Has it been that long since he won a title? Yes. Eight years.
All these parts have individual merit but do they fit together? It will be Thibs job to somehow make it all work.
The Timberwolves December opens up with a home game against the Spurs. Then the Raptors, Pistons, Warriors, Bulls, Rockets, Suns and Hawks. Five of the games are at home. The first thing a young team has to do is beat the good teams at home. After this series of games we will have an idea of what the Wolves are this season. And what they are not.
photo via llananba