This is the worst Timberwolves offseason in history.

Rant ahead. You’ve been warned.

Remember when the offseason was fun? Sometimes, more so than the regular season? Especially if you’re a Wolves fan? There was nothing like tracking the progress of rookies over the summer, even though their careers never panned out. I miss getting excited about signing a player that was not concerned about location or winning, but getting paid and maybe even extending their career.

Don’t believe huh? Remember when the Wolves signed Cole Aldrich? Wolves fans were going crazy! He had toughness. Size. Rim protecting ability. And was from Minnesota!

Lets take it back further. Remember when we drafted Tyus Jones? Wolves fandom was split on rooting for the hometown kid and if he would be productive. We followed him into the Summer League and eventually him earning MVP.

Back even further huh? Wolves fans were at one point excited when we traded for Martell Webster. A pioneer of the 3 and D. Yeah, he couldn’t stay healthy and we weren’t competitive, but there was a glimmer of hope.

I could go on and on. I used to love the offseason. Fast forward to the summer of 2018. The Wolves make decent in the draft by getting Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop. I love both guys and think they fit well. We re-sign Derrick Rose to the minimum. Not mad. We replace Bjelica with Anthony Tolliver. Tolliver may actually fit this team a little better than Belly and was actually a better 3-pt shooter. We sign guys like CJ Williams and James Nunnally to fill out the roster. Guys who provide some nice wing depth. Williams is on a two-way contract even though he started a few games for the Clippers. Nunnally seems like a hungry player who can shoot the ball. We add this to a team that made the playoffs last season. Doesn’t seem like regression, right?

Last season left a bad taste in most Wolves fans’ mouth. We thought making the playoffs would taste much better after 14 years. Instead, it was a second half of the season that included a lot of regression. Dropping from the 3rd seed to making the playoffs with the 8th seed and a scary win in game 82.

So why is this the worst offseason ever?

Because every single push notification I have received this summer has been about someone in the Wolves organization making a fuss about nothing. And instead of intellectual discourse amongst Wolves fans about advanced stats and roster gaps, fans have argued back and forth about what and who to believe and which rumor. It feels like a really bad sports drama on Netflix.

It starts with Glen Taylor shutting out the media and refusing to talk about Wolves related topics. Then Jamal Crawford declining his player option and saying there are huge issues in the locker room. Then there is the drama with Wiggins not wanting to be a 3rd option. KAT saying he has things to say or that there are things to talk about but never talks about anything. Then queue Jimmy Butler and every possible rumor from wanting to play for any NBA team essentially and that he doesn’t like to lead others. Or something. I understand Jimmy declining the extension. He did the right thing. But KAT has a max extension on the table and for better or worse, is holding out on signing while his peers are getting paid.

This offseason has not been about basketball. At all. Tom Thibodeau has terrible PR skills. Mix that with a bunch of disgruntled millennials who are paid millions and love attention. And you get the Wolves 2018 offseason. I probably took that last statement too far, but whatever.

If all this extra drama was not involved, I would be crazy about this offseason. I think chemistry is the single most important thing on a basketball court. If it is non-existent, the team will suck. Analytics at its finest. The Wolves had the opportunity to build off of a tremendous season in terms of accomplishments. They could carry forward a team that is mostly the same but with a year of experience together. Continuity. Something that KAT and Wiggins haven’t really seen since high school really. It could potentially make all the difference for an even more stacked Western Conference. Instead we have spent the summer imploding.

How awkward are the training camp photos going to be this season? There is obvious beef. No one seems to want to be the bigger man.

I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. KAT, Wiggins and Butler could love each other. Butler could be trolling the world. That said, it is not fun from a Wolves fan perspective. And horrible for a team that is betting on player development and team continuity as the way they improve from one season to the next.

/ end rant

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First Round Preview: Rockets vs Timberwolves

For the first time ever, we have ourselves a Playoff Preview! It is weird to do this, that is for certain. Your Minnesota Timberwolves, the 8th seed, will take on the Houston Rockets, who had the best record in the NBA finishing 65-17. They didn’t lose often. The Wolves have an uphill task trying to contain James Harden, the guy who should be this season’s MVP. Before we start talking about Harden, lets look at the schedule.

Game 1: MIN @ HOU Sun 4/15 8:00pm CT

Game 2: MIN @ HOU Wed 4/18 8:30pm CT

Game 3: HOU.@ MIN Sat 4/21 6:30pm CT

Game 4: HOU @ MIN Mon 4/23 7:00pm CT

*Game 5: MIN @ HOU Wes 4/25 – TBD

*Game 6: HOU @ MIN Fri 4/27 – TBD

*Game 7: MIN @ HOU Sun 4/29 – TBD

A quick refresher on the playoff format, since it has been 14 years. First team to win four games proceeds to the next round. The * above indicates if necessary.

So first, the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are led by James Harden and an aging Chris Paul. They are filled with a bunch of shooters along the perimeter and a great defensive center in Clint Capela. They are led by coach Mike D’Antoni, who is known for being the Mastermind behind the high-powered Suns offense back when the Wolves used to be competitive. This Rockets team has ultra-adapted to the modern NBA by shooting a ton of 3s. They are the first team ever in NBA history to attempt and make more 3pt field goals than 2pt field goals. Let that sink in. They shoot and make a lot of 3 pointers to keep things simple. If the Wolves want any chance in this series, it will be to take the 3 pointer away. No one has really figured out how to do that quite yet.

How have the Wolves performed against the Rockets this season?

Game 1: 1/8/18 L Wolves 98 @ 116 Rockets

Game 2: 2/13/18 L Rockets 126 @ Wolves 108

Game 3: 2/23/18 L Wolves 102 @ 120 Rockets

Game 4: 3/18/18 L Rockets 129 @ 120 Wolves

Wolves have lost all 4 games against the Rockets this season, the only team in the Western Conference they were unable to beat this season. Many people remember the 3rd Game as the game Jimmy Butler was injured in. The 4th game the Wolves played without Jimmy Butler and were down by over 20 points before making a late comeback in the 4th only to fall short.

How do the teams match up?

Well for starters, the Rockets lead the league in 3pt attempts with 42.3 attempts per game and the Wolves attempt the least in the league at 22.5. The Rockets average making 15.2 a game while the Wolves average 8 made 3’s. That puts the Wolves at a 21-point deficit just from a 3-pointers made differential. This is the biggest matchup gap for the two teams and it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Great teams typically do something great, and for the Rockets it is their 3-point shooting.

The interesting thing to watch will be pace and transition. In the regular season the Rockets were 14th in pace while the Wolves were 22nd, despite their youth. The Rockets, while not necessarily known for their defense, do have four players who average over a steal a game, with Harden and Paul averaging 1.8 and 1.7, respectively. The Rockets are a middle of the pack transition team though, so they won’t mind slowing things down and meeting the Wolves pace. Luckily for the Wolves, they are amongst the best in terms of turnovers committed and will need to keep them down to win.

For the Wolves, their 47 win season came in part of Jimmy butler missing 28 games this season, so they aren’t a traditional 8 seed. While many expect the Rockets to sweep the Wolves, I do expect the Wolves to put up the fight of a 4 or 5 seed. The Wolves don’t lack experience outside of Towns and Wiggins. Even in the experience of the young pack leaders, they gained a lot of on the job experience playing for their playoff lives over the last few months.

If the Wolves want a chance in this series, they will have to push the pace. Pushing the pace will help expose the Rockets poor defense and forces the Rockets to speed up the pace, in turn potentially lowering the number of 3-point attempts and potentially getting the Rockets out of their groove. The Wolves defense will have to step up in a big way as well. Thibodeau’s defensive genius will have to come out in this series to give the Wolves a chance. Throwing out different looks each game and not being predictable will be huge. Switching on screens and containing penetration will be something the Wolves will need to get comfortable doing quickly.

The Rockets run a smaller lineup with a SF usually playing PF so that they can stretch the floor. The Wolves will need to take advantage of this. Bjelica and Gibson will benefit from this situation since Belly struggles in guarding SF’s and Gibson is versatile enough to guard bigger SF’s. It will stretch the floor for the Rockets but also gives the Wolves an opportunity to play small as well, which is probably a bad idea. But due to lack of depth, Thibodeau has been seen playing a lot more 3-guard lineups which shouldn’t give the Wolves an advantage or a disadvantage against the Rockets, since they do the same usually. The main difference is when the Wolves have KAT and Gibson on the floor together in which it should be a good thing for the Wolves.

There is also a guy the Wolves need involved in order to succeed in this series…

Player Spotlights

Perfect Transition. Karl-Anthony Towns. Key to the Wolves success, whether it is the regular season or the playoffs. Not sure why this isn’t obvious either. Run the offense through KAT. Simple. Get him involved. As previously stated, they have an advantage inside. Capela is a great defender, but then that means a Small Forward like PJ Tucker will need to guard the crafty low-post vet in Taj Gibson. If the Wolves can establish offense through KAT, it will certainly open of the floor for Gibson and the wings.

It will be interesting to see how the Wiggins and Butler match up against Harden and Ariza. Wiggins has a good amount of length over Harden if the Rockets choose to but the longer Ariza on Butler. The Wolves will likely have both Wiggins and Butler guarding Harden throughout the series, but Harden will get his.

The Rockets bench is what will likely cause most of the problems for the Wolves. While Luc Mbah a Moute is out for the series, there is plenty of firepower (pun intended) off the Rockets bench that have killed the Wolves in the past. Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Gerald Green have all murdered the Wolves in the past. If the Wolves can try to play some defense and Thibs doesn’t have Jamal Crawford guarding Gerald Green and Derrick Rose guarding Ryan Anderson, we might be able to survive.

Final Thoughts

The Wolves are finally in the playoffs. Many of us are just happy to be here. That said, the Wolves are heavy underdogs coming into the series. It will be an uphill battle. The Wolves can’t afford to make mistakes and need to actually run something semi-sophisticated on offense. They will need to also throw different defensive looks at the Rockets. I don’t think either happen which is why I expect the Wolves to be happy if they can take one game from the Rockets. The experience will be paramount regardless for Towns and Wiggins. They need a taste of the playoffs. There will be some shock factor starting the playoffs but when nervous, just look at this recent photo of James Harden…

The Timber Rebuilder.

The Wolves make the playoffs: A reflection

I sit here just an hour removed from attending arguably the most important game in Timberwolves franchise history. The Wolves spent the last 14 years outside of the playoffs. For many Wolves fans, it is fun to subtract 14 from their ages to help non-Wolves fans understand the struggle. We have seen a lot of nothing. And while it wasn’t pretty, it is crazy to think that the Wolves made it by the difference of 6 points in an Overtime game in Game 82 of the Season.

The purpose of writing this now is to try to capture the real emotions of a fan. To have it documented. The truth is, I am in shock. I am worn out from cheering. I can’t believe the Timberwolves hardwood is going to have a 2018 Playoffs logo on it. I can’t believe the Wolves went through two iterations of jerseys that never saw the playoffs.

I was in Los Angeles on Friday and got to see the Wolves play the Lakers and win. I was also fortunate enough to see tonight’s game. The game was summarized as I walked out with my wife and saw one of the Target Center hosts holding back tears of joy. It was quite the moment.

I saw 14 years flash by. I saw the multitude of missed draft picks, from Wes Johnson to Derrick Williams to Johnny Flynn. I saw the myriad of veterans ending their careers here, from Brad Miller to Tayshaun Prince to Brandon Roy to guys that I would have to question actually played here. I saw the glimmers of hope, from Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio to landing back to back number 1 picks. It all flashed before my eyes.

There were certainly good times though. The previous happiest moments in the last 14 years are captured beautifully by Kevin Garnett below.

https://twitter.com/KGArea21/status/984268738341101569

I remembered the happiness I had when the Wolves traded for KG. I remembered Flip. I remembered the 2004 playoffs and that amazing team.

I spent a lot of time watching highlights of KG in Game 7 of the 2004 Playoffs against the Kings. Thinking tonight would be similar. It did end up being just as dramatic.

The crazy part is that this blog is a product of the 14 year drought. The name comes from the years of rebuilding. The years of looking forward to the draft. The only thing we were really good at.

The season wasn’t pretty. Just like our offense and defense. But I am so happy Towns and Wiggins will finally get some playoff experience. I am happier Teague can continue his steak of always making the playoffs (sarcasm). The old Timberwolves fan in me is going to miss the draft pick we lost (joke with a little bit of truth). The hope is that regardless what happens, the Wolves get some playoff experience finally. And then gear up for the future. If I remember correctly, the playoffs are a different game (see what I did there).

I am rambling now – mainly because I am panicking at how early I have to wake up and how difficult it will be to focus on anything else tomorrow. I will sleep with a smile on my face for certain.

Congratulations to all of the Timberwolves fans who have stood by the team through thick and well, thick. The Timberwolves fanbase is an amazing one. It has been a pleasure sharing this experience and the last 14 years with you all. Looking forward to more meaningful basketball in the future, something we aren’t really used to.

Howl.

The Timber Rebuilder.

A Season-defining 7-game stretch

The Wolves hold the 3rd seed currently with 18 games left to go in the 2017-18 season, sitting at 38-26. That said, they only hold a 4 game lead over the 9th place team, which means they could easily not make the playoffs.

After losing Jimmy Butler for what should be considered the rest of the regular season, the Wolves need someone to step up for the rest of the season and get the Wolves into the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. Naturally, the expectations are that KAT and Andrew Wiggins step in and make a difference. But there will be the need for Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague to leverage their experience as well as the bench needing to be productive. The Wolves just need to play mistake free basketball.

That said, the next seven games look brutal.

@Portland (On TNT)

@ Utah (On ESPN)

vs Boston (On TNT)

vs Golden State (On ABC, and essentially a home game for the Warriors)

@Washington DC (On NBA TV)

@ San Antonio (On NBA TV)

vs Houston (On NBA TV)

To hold on to their 3rd place position, the Wolves will need to go at least 5-2. To hold on to their comfortable playoff hopes, they will need to go 3-4. The Wolves either play an elite team at the top of either conference or a team that is trying just as hard to make the playoffs.

The bad news in all of this is that it is likely that by the time the Wolves play the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard could return. The Wolves haven’t played well against these top tier teams all season. On top of that, the teams that seem winnable on this stretch are playing better than normal.

The Wolves are up for what should be an incredible test of what this team is capable of without Jimmy Butler. The stretch should certainly prepare the Wolves for the final stretch of 11 games after that as the race for the 3rd through 8th seeds in the West heats up.

Your long-lost blog,

The Timber Rebuilder

The Andrew Wiggins Game Winner, revisited.

Oh, the glory that was the Andrew Wiggins game winner. First off, enjoy below through a slow-motion, infinite loop of the game winner.

 https://twitter.com/timberrebuilder/status/922307063644131328

Here is it full speed. 

This game was crazy. The amount of big shots hit felt like a video-game version of a playoff game. The hype for seeing these two new-look teams was exceeded by leaps, bounds, and buzzer-beaters. The fact that Russell Westbrook’s multiple big 3s, KAT’s floater to take the lead, and Melo’s three with 4 seconds left to take back the lead, will all be overlooked. Andrew Wiggins, aka Cornrow Andy (shout out Augie 5000), bka Maple Jordan, took the ball full court in 4 seconds and hits a contested three from between the half-court and three-point line. There is no better chemistry builder than a buzzer beater on the road.

So taking a turn, I wanted to ask a couple questions, to really understand how great this was. I’ve been reading the Shea Serrano book, Basketball (and Other Things), and it has inspired me to ask questions to analyze things.

Is Andrew Wiggins ‘clutch’?

I think we can say he is now. Right? He hit a game winner against the Suns as he was draped in the, twice his size, PJ Tucker. 

As mentioned here, that was only the third time the Wolves hit a shot to win as time expired and would’ve lost had they missed.

 https://twitter.com/twolves_pr/status/922288654214627329

Wiggins shoes up twice here. That’s pretty significant I’d say. Wiggins had practiced this shot he just made though. Not long ago either. Just a few days before this game winner actually. 

That all said, being clutch is all about opportunity. You have to play in close games. You have to get the nod from the coach to take the shot. And clutch doesn’t mean you hit 100% of the buzzer beaters but that you are at or above your regular shooting percentage when the pressure is on. So, I do think now that Wiggins has hit a good amount of these buzzer beaters, we can label him clutch. 

Who had the best responses on twitter?

Obviously Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio. I mean, even though LaVine technically called Wiggins an old lady apparently.

 https://twitter.com/rickyrubio9/status/922286243504832512

I wanted to burst into tears seeing that LaVine and Rubio were happy for Wiggins. Especially after Rubio just lost at the Target Center. Good to know they are still watching. Definitely miss those guys.

Folks on the National scene were taking notice as well.

 https://twitter.com/chris_broussard/status/922273055082029057

But the best is the humble brag by Wiggins himself. 

Who is better, Green Shoe Andrew or Cornrow Andy?

Cornrow Andy has a smaller sample size so we will have to see what else comes out of it but he is off to a strong start. Wiggins hit the halftime buzzer beater in the home opener on Friday and then managed to hit this game winner as well. CRA has also been scoring at will this season, all while filling the box score (something his haters love to call out). His jump shot looks great as well. This alone indicate that Cornrow Andy is trending up.

Green Shoe Andrew was pretty impressive though. GSA was slamming on all of the league’s biggest and best shot blockers while averaging 26.1 points when wearing green shoes.


This is still an open debate but what I really hope is that Cornrows and Green Shoes meet this season.

Was this the best buzzer beater in Wolves history?

I think so. Time will tell. The iconic Malik Sealy buzzer beater, where the entire team piles on him, is unforgettable. The Kevin Love buzzer beater against the Clippers on ESPN where he walked away with his hands out and a youthful Ricky Rubio (we still miss you) jumping on his shoulders. The celebration alone makes it among the best and that shot captured what the hopes and dreams were for that rebuild around Love and Rubio.

But those were both plays from half court and they came off of timeouts. Andrew Wiggins took the ball full court in 4 seconds after the devastation of losing a 2-point cushion to a 3-pointer by Carmelo Anthony. Wiggins had to free up to get the ball, use Karl-Anthony Towns’ potentially illegal screen to shed Paul George, and pull up from the OKC logo with a few tenths of a second left to spare, just so the celebration would not be interrupted by an official review. ALL OF THIS, WITHOUT TAKING A TIMEOUT. Are you kidding me? I take my ‘I think so’ statement back. Yes, this was the best buzzer beater in Wolves history. How many others have their own blog post?

Oh, and because Wiggins does lack in the celebration department, Aaron Brooks helped here:

Where do we go from here?

First off, stop questioning his contract. The man deserved it.

Secondly, enjoy it. The Wolves have not looked perfect out there but this will certainly help. I can’t wait to see the rematch on Friday. We will likely see Angry Russell, which is the worst beast you want to see in the league.

Lastly, Sam Mitchell was right. Something I don’t like to say. But Mitchell was absolutely right. He snapped back at Doogie Wolfson when he tried to question Wiggins’ drive and ability.
 

2017-2018 Timberwolves Season Preview

Four years ago, the Wolves kicked off their third rebuild since 2004. The Wolves have held onto the longest playoff drought since then. But this rebuild really started with the decision that Ricky Rubio would be the guy to hold onto long-term over Kevin Love. Love was the face of rebuild-phase two. Because of that decision, the Wolves dealt Kevin Love that brought in Andrew Wiggins. The Wolves paired Wiggins with their own pick, a flyer (literally and in the department of potential) pick in Zach LaVine.
 
That picture brought me back to that kick off. It was a fun ride. The current roster is the fruit of that rebuild. Andrew Wiggins has sky high expectations and Zach LaVine has netted the Wolves Jimmy Butler.
The Wolves head into this 2017-2018 with the highest expectations since the Wolves made the Western Conference Finals. That season, the Wolves had an MVP and two All-Stars on the roster. The same can’t be said about this season. The Western Conference was since competitive back then, the last time the Wolves made the playoffs, but not as stacked as it is today. Big 3’s didn’t really exist and the 3-pointer was not as prevalent.
The current Wolves roster as it stands is much improved but also doesn’t really fit in with the trend of the league. 3-point shooting and team defense are still huge question marks. Jimmy Butler provides the Wolves with a lot of defense and leadership. The bridge has been built for Tom Thibodeau to reach his, now two, young stars.
I went into last season with super high expectations because of Tom Thibodeau but was still expecting less than what most fans and experts thought of the Wolves. I find myself in the same camp again. I break down the Wolves below and will make further predictions for the season in our Annual Season Preview.
The Givens
Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns is the Wolves’ greatest assets. He is going into the 3rd year of his career and is already arguably the best big man in the league. His inside-outside offensive game allows for him to simply take advantage of the defender’s weakness and take what opposing teams want to give him. His attitude is also what makes him amazing. He is extraordinarily competitive, poised in the face of the media and has fun playing the game. Regardless of the Wolves’ outcome this upcoming season, the Wolves still have Karl-Anthony Towns. On his rookie contract at that. He is an amazing basketball and fun to watch. So if the season implodes and the Wolves continues the longest playoff-drought in the league, the Wolves still have KAT.
What to watch with KAT this season though will be his defense. With Dieng moving to the bench, KAT will likely spend most of his time guarding centers. This could be good or this could be bad. The biggest concern though is that Towns will be relied on as the primary rim protector and shot contester. This will mean that KAT could end up in foul trouble more often. The next given will hopefully help KAT in this part of his game, but defense is certainly the part of his game that will define his next level.
Veteran Presence
This offseason brought in Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, and Jamal Crawford. All of these guys are no strangers to the playoffs. Each of these four guys have played significant, if not leading, roles on playoff teams in the last five years. The Wolves, historically, haven’t been a team to rock the boat in a way they did this past summer. The last time they did this, they made the Western Conference Finals.
As the Wolves’ marketing department runs away with the theme of ‘New Era’, the adding of these veterans is a major culture change regardless of the new jerseys and Target Center renovations. These guys will not have the patience to lose games as the Wolves have done in past years. This is a double-edge sword. The veterans will certainly be leading by example. They will be playing hard. If the young Wolves don’t follow or the combination of roster pieces don’t work, it is very possible the Wolves will have another, more unfortunate, ‘New Era’ if Jimmy Butler decides to leave in two years.
Our hope is that having the veterans around will help positively. We saw the impact Kevin Garnett had on KAT. The rest of the young pups is where the veteran presence should help more. It was clear that the Wolves struggled in implementing Thibs’ defensive schemes early on. Luckily, Thibodeau has brought in mostly veterans that have played for him or have familiarity with his system.
Things to watch
Andrew Wiggins
The newly-minted max contract (well $146.5M) Andrew Wiggins has probably the biggest question mark going into the season. Andrew Wiggins has proven that he can score like crazy. His shot has improved and he can get to the line with the best of ‘um. Wiggins showed flashes of greatness (yes, greatness) for stretches last season from going on scoring tears to game-winners to posterizing seven-footers.
The questions are around the rest of his game. Can Wiggins contribute to other parts of the box score? Can Wiggins finally learn to play defense? How will Wiggins react to potentially being the third-scorer? Let’s answer these questions.
Will Wiggins finally start rebounding and distributing the ball? I really hope so. And I think so. Wiggins will have two more scorers (Butler and Teague) on the floor with him and one less rebounder  (Dieng to the bench) so naturally, he will have more opportunities to get rebounds and assists. That said, Wiggins will always look for his shot first. If he doesn’t, he is Harrison Barnes. No one wants that to change. He has, however, shown flashes of penetrating and dishing. I think as he draws the defense’s attention more, he will be more comfortable dishing the ball out to able-shooters all around him now.
His defensive effort will determine if he can start getting steals and blocks in the box score, which leads to the next question. Can Wiggins finally defend? One of Wiggins’ biggest factors that led him to be the number one pick was his defensive potential. It is all physically there. So what is the problem? Not really sure. But he has another year to really understand Thibs’ system and the perfect example in Jimmy Butler now. It will truly come down to his desire to defend. He will have less of a load offensively which should allow for more energy to go towards the defensive end.
Leading again into the next point, can Wiggins be a third-option? I don’t think Wiggins wants to be the third option and it is very possible he is actually the second leading scorer on the team this season. That said, I think Wiggins is perfect to be the third-option on offense. If the Wolves just ask that Wiggins be an average defender and just score, it would be a role Wiggins could fill fairly easily. Wiggins is a good enough shooter to be the third-option and then also take over the offense when Towns and/ or Butler are on the bench (will likely happen for a 1 minute a game).
The Point Guard Situation
The point guard position could very well be what makes or breaks the Wolves. First, Jeff Teague is probably the biggest wild card. The backup PG situation is probably even more iffy.
Jeff Teague has the biggest hole to fill on the court and in the heart of Wolves’ fans as he replaces Ricky Rubio. Many forget Teague was a former All-Star when the Hawks had the best record in the Eastern Conference a few years ago. He was eventually traded because the Hawks believed more in Dennis Schroader and didn’t want to extend Teague. The Pacers brought in Teague for a year rental before he ended up with the Wolves. The Wolves essentially gave Teague the contract the Hawks didn’t want to give him.
I still have to be convinced on Teague but in the pre-season, he has proven to fill a lot of voids that Rubio had in his game. The most obvious is the ability to shoot. Secondly, Teague can score and finish around the rim consistently. Teague doesn’t have Rubio’s length, but is an able-defender as well. He isn’t the playmaker that Rubio was, but his play-style might fit better with the current roster.
The biggest concern is defense. The point guard position is the deepest in the league and I am not convinced Teague will be able to consistently lock down the number of elite guards day-in and day-out in the Western Conference. There is no Kris Dunn either to come in off the bench to play defense either.
The Wolves backup point guard will be Tyus Jones. Finally, right? I have some anxiety around this. Tyus Jones is the type of player who is always an extension of the coach on the court and plays mistake free basketball. He is an underrated shooter and tries hard on both sides of the ball. But again, I don’t know if Jones has the strength, athleticism, or length to defend at a positive-level.
I don’t think the Wolves’ PG situation will look the same by the end of the year. There will be a team that will be interested in selling a defensive-minded guard that hopefully the Wolves can swoop in and grab.
Defense
This has to be the year right? The Wolves have been one of the worst defensive teams for the last four years, even with adding Thibodeau. Adding veterans, especially a defensive-minded Jimmy Butler, should help this. But this will be a major area to watch. The firepower in the Western conference will definitely test the Wolves’ defensive ability as well. But the hope when the Wolves hired Thibs was that the Wolves would be close to the defensive nightmare that his Bulls teams were.
The Rotation
What does concern me this season is Thibs’ rotation. I hate the heavy minutes his starters play and I hate the platoon substitution method. The Wolves have certainly added depth this season, which we will get to, but there should be no reason why five of the bench players should be playing at once. My hope is that Thibodeau is not only to improve the team defensively but to adopt a rotation that other teams with ‘big threes’ use. There should be at least one of the big three on the floor at all times. I would imagine that Wiggins will get time as the only one of the ‘big three’ on the floor so he can meet his shot volume.
I am also interested in seeing what the Wolves could have as their ‘death’ lineup, i.e. the lineup they use to kill teams or their clutch time lineup. I don’t believe that Gibson will be in that lineup. I would love to see a lineup of Teague-Crawford-Wiggins-Butler-Towns. Will it happen? Will it be effective? We shall see!
The Bench
The resurrection of the Zoo Crew! If you know what the Zoo Crew is, you’re in the right place.
I am most excited to see the Wolves have a bench presence. While we will get into the signings and re-signings, the biggest improvement to the bench is having Gorgui Dieng again. Dieng was great off the bench early in his career but now with his experience as a starter and improved game, he gives the Wolves a starting-caliber player off the bench. Dieng’s toughness and hustle also bodes well as a bench player. The Wolves now don’t have to rely on Cole Aldrich being the first big man off the bench this season. That is a huge improvement.
The Wolves have then added the ageless Jamal Crawford. He isn’t incredibly efficient, but he gets buckets. He brings great experience too. My expectations aren’t super high for J-Crossover, but he will be a difference maker in at least a couple games this season.
Bringing in Crawford most likely impacts Shabazz Muhammad more than anyone. As many hope that Wiggins learns from Butler, I am praying that Shabazz learns from Crawford. Bazz has the potential to be the offensive sparkplug that Crawford was his entire career. Shabazz has the most to prove and lose this season if he isn’t able to put his game together because he will not get a better contract. I expect that Bazz will be playing harder than anyone on the team this season as he has the most the prove. As always, I have high expectations for him.
Bjelica has probably the biggest range in terms of role on the team. It is very possible that Belly could play well enough that he warrants a starting position by the time the year ends. He would perfectly space the floor and is tougher than what meets the eye. He showed flashes of thriving under Thibs. That said, Belly could completely fall out of the rotation this season too. Between KAT, Gibson, Dieng, someone playing small ball-4, and Thibs overplaying starters, Bjelica would be most expendable. If he can’t prove to be a better option than any of those other options, he could rack up a lot of ‘DNP-Coach’s Decisions’ this season.
Utilization of the G-League
The Iowa Wolves are here! And the Wolves draft Justin Patton who will likely play less than any other new T-Puppy due to injury and inexperience. Thibs was high on Patton and he was apparently a Wolves fan growing up. I still disagree with the pick but I hope I am wrong. That said, Patton will have the opportunity to be the first case study for the Wolves’ development practices in the G-League.
The truth is, the Wolves will need to be good at player development if they want to succeed long term. The G-League will be huge in developing young players but also filling in times when there are major injuries. The Wolves don’t have a good pick next season so developing what they have will be essential if they want to continue to be good once the sudden boost of free agents wears off.
The Wolves have a lot of questions going into the season and will be tested each night against a stacked Western Conference. The Wolves have the talent to make the playoffs this season but they could very well not make it if they don’t adapt early. There isn’t much time for the team to ‘build chemistry’ this season. That said, lets get into predictions.
Bold Predictions
– The Wolves will go 44-38 and make the 7th spot in the Western Conference.
– Karl-Anthony Towns will be an All-Star this season, finally.
– Andrew Wiggins will average more than Jimmy Butler
– The point guard situation will be the biggest question when the season ends
– Jimmy Butler makes an All-Defense team
– Taj Gibson will not be the starting power forward when the season ends

Timber Rebuilder Jerseys in NBA 2K18

Yes, this happened. 

Big shout out to Mohamed Elabbady for creating these in MyTeam in NBA2K18. Our very own, Timber Rebuilder jerseys. To add them on Xbox, just search m0swagger

If you don’t know, we love playing 2K. We typically spend time on MyTeam collecting our favorite old and new Timberwolves. We will also spend time winning rings for the Wolves in MyLeague or MyCareer. If you play 2K as well, tweet us and we can run online. 

Enjoy! 

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