What Is The Missing Piece For The Minnesota Timberwolves?

This perspective might be very forward of me, or the type of tangent that leads to wasted hours typing on a keyboard. It’s the type of faith in a movement that even the most zealot NBA fans would pass off as heresy. The assumption that a team that has been drenched in mediocrity would finally be turning the corner in a significant culture change that hasn’t been seen in roughly 20 seasons. Essentially, I’m just throwing out the notion that the Minnesota Timberwolves are going to make the play-in game to squeak into the playoffs this season, moreover, I believe that this trajectory won’t be a flash in the pan.

So, there are some glaring points I want to bring up before getting into the minutia of my deep dive. Currently, the Timberwolves are placed in the 9th seed, and they have ironically the same record as the Dallas Mavericks, who are the 8th seed. Even more surprising, they are only one game behind the 7th Seed, and the position is held by the Los Angeles Lakers who I expect to fall even further. 

Now if you’re looking at the overall stats, I probably sound like an idiot. Not going to lie to you, the numbers aren’t pretty; the T-Wolves are 16-18 after a rough loss to the New York Knicks last night; they rank 14th in offensive rating with 108.1; which could be considered respectable. However, they are 19th in defensive rating with 108.8; so, for all the non-math people out there, the team is getting scored on more than they score per 100 possessions which is not great…at all. There are a couple of silver linings for the Young Wolves that can’t be slept on and those are some of the same things they get slandered for. 

The first thing I want to address is the excellence of the Timberwolves star Karl Anthony Towns (KAT), not only is Towns putting up 24.5 points per game (which is 14th best in the entire league); he’s doing it at an effective field goal percentage of 57.7%. Although Towns is only shooting 55% on all his 2-point shots, the man is scorching from behind the arc; he is in the 85th percentage of the league from 3-point percentage at 42.3%. towns are also averaging a respectful 9 rebounds and 3.6 assists. As annotated earlier, the 9 rebound Towns is averaging is considerably low for a prototypical Big, but as he has shown Town isn’t anything remotely to that mold. 

The playmaking he shows, and the attention he garners as a shooting bug and be understated; he allows the post defense to have to move up close to guard him, which in turn allows him or his teammates to drive to the hole more freely. I’m not saying the 26-year-old is a perfect player or doesn’t have flaws in his game. But the Offensive pull he has by his style of play is a rarity for centers. 

So, when it comes to defense the Timberwolves have acknowledged the lack of defensive-minded players, they have addressed the issue by signing Patrick Beverly. Although Beverly has only played 24 games this season; his presence Is surely felt by the team. Are advanced metric stats being nothing but stunning (this is coming from someone who would consider Pat Bev highly overrated.) The efficiency differential when Beverly is playing is +8.5, which equates to the 85 percentiles in the league; another way to break down that information is that, from a metric standpoint; Patrick Beverly play would equal an extra 22 games in the win column when you look at his on/off effectiveness. 

Another factor, which I believe to be the heart and the soul of this new chapter of the Timberwolves is none other than the epitome of self-confidence, Anthony Edwards. Let us be clear, this man has every reason to have the swagger that he exudes. In his Second year, Anthony is averaging 22 points of a field goal percentage of 43%, comparing that to the 19.3, 41% of his rookie season the progress is a good indication, but it’s not just from a scoring aspect; all of Edwards Stats have increased. But one factor I would like to bring up is on the defensive side. 

When Anthony first entered the league, the opposing offensives were having a field day with him; when he was on the defensive side teams were shooting 3% better from the field, now that number has dwindled down to -0.7. Anthony’s clearing getting more comfortable with the pace of the NBA season, which is valid only playing in 29 games his first season; but you’re starting to see how he’s beginning to use is atheism to get under players shot and contest them, especially from non-corner 3’s where he has opponents shooting -5.3% from deep.

 With all that said to be quite blunt the Timberwolves have the investiture to be making something special with Towns, and Edwards. If you’re familiar with the roster, you may have realized that I have omitted a notable name from the sepal, D’Angelo Russell. The reason why I haven’t spoken about Russell on my list is that, in my opinion, he is the antithesis of what Timberwolves need to rescue. Do I believe he is an exceptionally gifted player? Absolutely. Do I think a high-volume scorer who is averaging an efficient field gold percentage of 47% is the best option to pair with Karl or Anthony? I say no.

To those who believe in the Big 3 they have accrued, I completely understand. In my opinion, it would make more sense to trade the asset that fits the least to get something that fills the holes the Timberwolves have, which would be a primary playmaker and a mobile big who can assist Kat with post defense. And so, folks, we have realized that all this was typed just to make say, D’Angelo Russell should be traded for Ben Simmons.

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Co-host of Charity Stripe Commentary on the HoopSocial Podcast feed. You can follow Marcus on Twitter at @OPipeGod.