In 2018, the Minnesota Timberwolves ended one of the longest playoff droughts in NBA history as it marked the first time in 14 years that they were playing postseason basketball. However the Timberwolves stay in the playoffs didn’t last that long as they were shown the door by the Houston Rockets in five games in the first round. But there was optimism that the Timberwolves would be able to build off of that trip to the playoffs with youngsters such as center Karl-Anthony Towns and swingman Andre Wiggins, along with swingman Jimmy Butler as their core. However that glimpse of what could’ve been for the T-Wolves was very brief and now this franchise is back to being one of the biggest disappointments in the NBA.
During Butler’s brief time in Minneapolis, he was never a happy camper there as he wanted Wiggins and Towns to be more serious about winning which never happened. This was part of the reason why Butler was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers last season when he let the Timberwolves know that he would not sign a long-term deal to remain with the team.
Along with Butler’s departure, the Timberwolves relieved Tom Thibodeau of his duties as the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations, as well as being their head coach. Thibodeau was supposed to be the steadying force on the sidelines that would turn the young T-Wolves into winners, but his old-school, no-nonsense type approach never got through to the youngsters.
When Thibs was fired last season, he was replaced by Ryan Saunders who has gone on to maintain that post. As a kid, Saunders saw his dad Flip become the most successful head coach in Timberwolves franchise history as he led them to eight consecutive playoff appearances. But the younger Saunders doesn’t have the luxury of having Kevin Garnett on his roster, and he doesn’t have anyone who has his hunger either.
Through 46 games this season the Timberwolves own a record of 15-31 which includes them losing their last nine contests. It’s also very disappointing once you factor in the talent on this roster, along with the fact that the Western Conference is not as strong as it has been in year’s past. And a big reason for that begins with the attitude of the players that the Timberwolves currently employ.
Right now only the Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Pelicans, and Memphis Grizzlies have given up more points per game than the 114.9 that Minnesota is currently surrendering. I acknowledge that there is more of a focus on offensive basketball in today’s NBA, but allowing nearly 120 points in a 48-minute game on a nightly basis would not lead to many wins even in the now extinct ABA.
Watching the Timberwolves play at the defensive end is hazardous for your health if you’re a fan of basketball fundamentals. There is no communication whatsoever in regards to covering pick and rolls. And instead of players stepping up to guard opponents, they are moving backwards, while their transition defense resembles a summer stroll through Central Park in New York City as they are carefree.
It isn’t that much better on the offensive end of the floor as whereas Towns is nearly impossible to stop from scoring when he is close to the basket, he has joined the fad in today’s NBA of big men jacking up three-point shots at nauseam. Towns is attempting 18.1 shots per game this season, but 8.2 of those are from behind the three-point arc where is making 41% of his shots as there is no reason why a player with his talent so close to the basket should be standing on the perimeter as much as he does.
And like Towns, Wiggins has always been a solid scorer, but he is not a perimeter player either. For Wiggins’ five-year NBA career, he is a 44% shooter from the field, but he is only a 33% shooter from behind the three-point line as he needs to play closer to the basket as well.
Between Towns and Wiggins, this season they are accounting for 37 of the 91 attempted shots per game by the Timberwolves, while they are 23rd in the NBA in assists per game (23.3).
And as good as Towns and Wiggins are in regards to scoring the basketball, they are two players who are content with getting their respective 25 points per night even if it means that Minnesota is coming up on the losing end. Neither Towns or Wiggins know how to make the players around them better as this team has become the epitome of what is wrong with this era of basketball in the NBA.
Saunders is in his first full season as the Timberwolves head coach as he and team president Gersson Rosas are fighting a losing battle in regards to getting through to his young team just like Thibodeau previously did. Publicly the Timberwovles don’t have any plans to move on from Towns or Wiggins, but if this organization ever wants to be serious about winning an NBA Title, this is not the core that will get them to the promised land.