When the Timberwolves traded for Jimmy Butler, the consensus was the Wolves were a) going to break their playoff curse, and b) win 50 games. If you’ve been around the NBA long enough you knew the former was likely and the latter was a little bit of wishful think. The strategy of winning 50 games is go .500 on the road and win 80% at home. It was the on the road part that had many doubting the Wolves. Even with Butler. The Wolves kids, Wiggins and Towns, would determine their year. Butler needed help. In the series against the Rockets, he didn’t really get it.
Wiggins has underperformed all year long since signing the max deal. Call it the Hassan Whiteside disease. You can blame it on Jimmy Butler taking over the offense but Wiggins, in many games, disappeared. Karl-Anthony Towns had a great season but in the playoffs he turned into a peculiar dude who didn’t know how to use his size against small players and make them pay at the rim. He looked like this was his first playoffs. Wiggins and Towns need more seasoning as far as the mental part of the game and how you have to be mentally tough in the playoffs. Neither one raised their game, a playoff must. It was a quick series because of it. You hope it is something they grow from.
As for the team and how do they get better. The T-Wolves will have an interesting summer. Their bench was pretty pathetic. They leaned on Jimmy Butler too much. When he went down their top-4 seed in the West came to a crushing halt. Their bright spot in the playoffs was Derrick Rose.
Rose looked rested and healthy and very quick. He played fast, got to the cup and finished. He did what Rose can do now. His defense was what you would expect- 116 defensive rating- but he was the only Wolves player outside of a gimpy Butler who played with confidence, who understood what the playoffs were all about.
15 points. 52% field goals. 71% three ( a limited sample size). PER better than Towns and Wiggins at 16.4. Rose didn’t take one midrange shot in the playoffs which was a good thing. He knows his limitations. Rose played himself into a decent contract next season. He’s not washed up after all.
2017-18 Wolves Weaknesses: 30th: 3-Point Attempts. 29th: Field Goal Percentage (Defense) 27th: Defensive Rating, Defensive Rebounds. 24th: Pace, Total Rebounds, Blocks.
2017-18 Wolves Strengths: 2nd: Free Throw Percentage. 4th: Offensive Rating, Field Goal Percentage. 6th: Steals. 8th: Points Scored, Offensive Rebounding. 10th: 2-Point Percentage.
2018-19 (3) Largest Contracts: Andrew Wiggins, $25,250,000. Jimmy Butler, $20,445,779. Jeff Teague, $19,000,000.
Player Options: Jamal Crawford, $4,544,400.
Scoring isn’t the Wolves problem. Going forward, they have two glaring issues. Defense and mental toughness. The defense hasn’t changed under Tom Thibodeau. It has remained pretty awful. Toughness comes in the form of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson. For the rest of the Wolves, it’s wait and see. Grow up a little more.
Who are the Wolves? It is hard to define. Karl-Anthony Towns was an All-Star. Most expect him to be All-NBA for a decade. He can rebound, score from the left or right and protect the rim. He’s a talented passer with superior court vision. He’s good at the line, great in the locker room. His first year was baptism by fire. His second year, he played like a veteran. His third year, an All-Star. But in the playoffs he came up real small, outworked by Clint Capela.
Andrew Wiggins is a vague figure. He is one of those former Rookie(s) of the Year who seems to be getting worse, not better. Nothing about Wiggins game yells All-Star yet he is taking All-Star money.
Rose may be back with Minnesota. They are one of the few teams that can fit him in seamlessly. Because aggression is not part of the Wovles kids DNA, Rose can go wild. At some point, the Woves have to stop being a developing team and turn into a consistent team. It can be done. We are witness to it in Philly. By God, what is taking the Wolves so long?
The Wolves are over the cap and KAT will get his extension. The same crew will be back next year, more or less. But will they have gotten tougher? Did the playoffs teach them anything?