Written by: Tre LyDay – Staff Writer (@trelyday23)
The Timberwolves and Lakers are in my opinion two of the most fun teams to watch in the NBA. Only one of those teams was projected to go to the playoffs this year. That would be the Timberwolves, but they’ve yet to live up to the expectations.
Living up to the lofty expectations that were graciously bestowed upon the Wolves were probably unrealistic. Winning 50 plus games after only winning only 29 games is something that hasn’t been done since the Thunder did it back in 2010. The Timberwolves are an extremely talented team with guys like Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns and Zach LaVine. As far as young talent goes, it doesn’t get much better than what Minnesota has.
With all of this abundant talent why are the Wolves only 16-28 and two and a half games out of the eight seed in the West? Well for one they’re an abysmal defensive team both individually and collectively. They’re ranked 23rd in defensive efficiency and are 21st in fourth quarter points allowed. Giving up all those fourth quarter points is part of the reason the Wolves are extremely prone to blow big leads. This season alone the Wolves have blown 11 halftime leads, and five of them have been double digit leads via Basketball-Reference. Most notably when they blew a 13 point halftime lead at home against the Rockets back on December 17th.
This is very uncommon for a Tom Thibodeau coached team. A man who coached a stingy defense in Chicago, and it was assumed he would bring that stinginess to Minnesota. They played fairly well defensively in the preseason, but unfortunately it hasn’t carried over into the regular season. Individually you can see how they look on this TPA chart from NBA Math.
It’s not a very good sign when two of your three best players are statistically your worst defenders. Keep in mind the TPA chart takes into account how well you rebound defensively, and neither Wiggins nor LaVine rebound the ball very well. Either way even if they did rebound the ball they’d still be the worst defenders on the team.
According to Basketball-Reference Wiggins is just the sixth player since 1973 to average a box plus/minus (BPM) of -2.0 or worse in their first three season. BPM measures a player’s quality and contribution to the team with 0 being league average. Wiggins is at replacement level. Obviously you’re not going to replace Wiggins, but it would be great if he improved defensively.
One player I want to point out is Kris Dunn. I don’t think he gets enough minutes at all. Coming into the season after Summer League he was voted by the players as most likely to win Rookie of the Year, obviously Embiid had other plans. He’s only playing 17 minutes a game, but his per 36 numbers are essentially the same as Ricky Rubio’s. The only stat that Rubio really has him trumped is assists; which is to be expected because Rubio is a pass first point guard and can’t shoot to save his life. The Wolves have been shopping the six year point guard, and reportedly discussed a Rubio for Reggie Jackson trade with the Pistons. In my opinion I don’t think they need to trade for another point guard when they have one in waiting in Kris Dunn. If I were the Wolves I would trade for an established sixth man, and possibly get a decent draft pick out of him as well.
Offensively I’m not the least bit concerned. With the talent they have they can score with just about anyone in the league. They’re young and the biggest learning curve for all young guys is on the defensive end. They’re a real Western Conference team, all offense little defense, and for now they’re going to have to rely on their offense to get them to the playoffs. The Wolves are already a scary talented team, if they start to pick it up on the defensive end then the sky’s the limit for this team.