Why are the young Wolves struggling early?

Election day. Wolves game day. The Wolves, 1-4, are going to play the Nets, desperately looking for a win. I am an election judge, so no live tweeting the game, but some thoughts five games into the season.
The young Wolves are not off to a discouraging start. I want to attribute most of it to them being young and inexperienced. Most of the reasons I outline below is because they are young and inexperienced. The Wolves can make the playoffs still, but they can’t keep playing the way they are playing.

Wolves are not playing like a team. On offense. And on defense. I was expecting growing pains. The Wolves are still young and have a coach who they are unfamiliar with. Turbulence early in the season is typically easier to overcome than later in the season, just ask the Vikings. So what has gone wrong thus far?

Then there is the 3rd quarter. This tweet by Zach Harper summarizes everything.

Wolves are not playing to their strengths. The ball needs to go through Towns on the offensive end. The Wolves have one of the most talented players in the league offensively in Towns and are not leveraging him enough, especially in the post. The Wolves lead the league in points per possession in post-plays (1.13 PPP), but post up offense only makes up 10.1% of their offense.
The Wolves need to get in transition and actually convert. They currently average 12.4 points in transition, in the lower half of the league. With the Wolves young and athletic personnel, you would think this is their bread and butter. The Wolves are definitely not getting out in transition enough. The Wolves are averaging 0.94 points per possession in transition, even though it makes up 15.1% of their offense.
Andrew Wiggins assist percentage and rebound percentage is still bad. While through the ‘eye test’ Wiggins is rebounding better, Wiggins is a black hole on offense that leads to somewhere far, far away in Canada. When Wiggins is passing, he is usually not setting someone up to score. Wiggy is averaging a 6.7% Assist Percentage thus far. Which, again, is really bad.
The Wolves need to start running their offense through Karl-Anthony Towns. And when they do run the offense through KAT, he needs to get going early and do it consistently. Once he does that, it is essential that Towns contributes in the involvement of either LaVine or Wiggins.
On offense, the Wolves are in desperate need of ball movement. Too often the Wolves are watching someone create offense for themselves. Or too often, the Wolves make one pass before a shot is taken. This needs to change. They need to learn how to take the shot that the defense gives them.

The Wolves bench has also struggled early in the season. I still expect Shabazz Muhammad to come around. He needs to be able to score and get involved immediately. But Thibodeau will need to consider not using the ‘all-bench’ lineups in games. The Wolves bench has not been effective thus far and lacks a consistent scoring threat on the court. Being that the Wolves have Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine, it will make sense to stagger the three so that one to two of the three are on the court at all times during the game. LaVine is usually the first one to sit, but it might be helpful to have him entering the game when Towns is headed to the bench for his first break.

Defensively, the Wolves front court has gotten bullied by opposing teams’ front courts. We have always perceived Towns and Dieng to be elite defenders, but both have been suspect in their post defense. Dieng has spent his time guarding the opposing team’s best offensive threat down low. Still, teams are taking advantage of the Wolves in the paint. There has been a lack of rim protection.
Kris Dunn has been impressive defensively, but not able to add too much offensively. That is something the Wolves will need to live with. He needs the bumps and bruises to learn the game still. Him getting significant minutes is a benefit for the Wolves long-term. I am happy with Dunn’s defense already. It outweighs his inabilities offensively thus far. He is the Wolves’ best perimeter defender already.
So what do we do? I still give it a few more games. It will be interesting to see what happens with Rubio and how he impacts the team whenever he returns. I would start also by running the offense through KAT and staggering the lineups a little bit more. If the losing continues, it might make sense to maybe even shake up the starting lineup.
The Timber Rebuilder. @timberrebuilder

4 thoughts on “Why are the young Wolves struggling early?

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