Wolves Fans: Don’t Buy into the Hype

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Mar 30, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) blocks Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) in the second quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-188444 ORIG FILE ID: 20150330_mta_ai9_073.JPG

Hey Wolves fans – long time no talk! Its been an exciting offseason in which the amount of hype for the Timberwolves has be inconceivable . Why you may ask? Well, the Wolves have one of the most talented rosters in the league with one of the best coaches in league making a return after a year sabbatical. The Wolves have back-to-back Rookies of the year, a two-time dunk champion and a few other former first-round picks all acquired in the last three years. Their talent-level and potential are amongst the best in the league and they are all incredibly fun to watch.

Die-hard Wolves fans have followed Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine develop a nice chemistry over the summer while working out. Fans have enjoyed watching Andrew Wiggins workout videos in which he is adding to his game and having interviews where he says the Wolves will make the playoffs.  Wolves fans saw Kris Dunn dominate in the summer league and then Tyus Jones lead the team to the finals with a Summer League MVP. Wolves fans followed Coach Thibodeau win a gold medal and Ricky Rubio win a bronze medal. Wolves fans were also encouraged that most of the team did not participate in International play this summer to improve their games, namely Wiggins, Dieng and Bjelica.

There is a lot of reason to get excited. The Wolves are finally getting noticed. There will be 19 nationally televised games this upcoming season and the Wolves will finally play on Christmas! Gambling experts in Vegas also have set the Wolves as having the fourth best odds to winning the Western Conference! How can you NOT buy into the hype, right?

Kevin Pelton ran his RPM Forecast though and put the Wolves 11th in West with 37 wins on the season. The forecast doesn’t account for coaching changes, which should probably get the Wolves a few more wins in general. This may be the other end of the spectrum with the forecast, having the Wolves behind the Nuggets and Thunder this season. Although the forecast is fairly accurate most seasons, it is just that, a forecast. The forecast had some ridiculous predictions like the Jazz being the 3rd best in the West, Thunder at 6th and Nuggets at 8th.

There is no question, this is the most excited I have been in a while for a season as a Timberwolves fan. I also understand that it is a process. A question I think all fans will need to ask themselves is ‘Will I be disappointed if the Timberwolves don’t make the playoffs?’ If you answered yes, then you may need to check your hype-o-meter. Take a step back and understand that the road to success is typically a bumpy one. Here are some factors to take into consideration:

The Wolves are still young and inexperienced.

The Timberwolves are putting all of their hope in a bunch of guys who can’t rent a car without an underage fee. The talent and potential is there. The issue lay in the mental game. The pup-pack (nickname I am now using instead of saying KAT, Wiggy, LaVine, Dunn, and rest of the young wolf pack) have their heads held high making playoff predictions because they don’t know better. They haven’t face calamity yet. They haven’t played regular season games that had real meaning yet. In all likelihood, the Wolves will end the season with a starting lineup that has 5 guys who have never played a playoff game. I don’t have the research, but history would likely prove that teams like that don’t make it too far. The logical progression in my head is that the Wolves compete for a playoff first, before making it officially. Ideally, this season plays out similar to how the Jazz’s season played out last year.

There were no major acquisitions.

Cole Aldrich. Jordan Hill. Brandon Rush. In a summer where money was more available than tech help in India, the Wolves couldn’t get a major free agent to sign. All three players will add value and depth to the team and they are all low-risk contracts. That is an absolute win. The Wolves didn’t ‘overpay’ anyone, which is good. But the Wolves also didn’t add any talent that would help the Wolves win more games. They struck out multiple times with guys that could’ve come in and help at least make a significant improvement to the roster. Because of this, the Wolves improvement really relies on what Coach Thibs can do in his first year and the progression of the young guys.

Thibs needs time to teach his system.

A good segway. I think there is good certainty in that the Wolves young guys are going to improve. There isn’t the same certainty in that the team picks up on Thibs’ scheme in the first season. The experience factor kicks in again here where it may not be the easiest to just pick up a new coach’s schemes and run it flawlessly in game situations. There will certainly be growing pains. Literally and figuratively with Thibodeau. Especially with the pup-pack. It may feel like a rookie year all over again for guys who don’t have a high basketball IQ. Thibodeau does not have an active veteran who understands his system that can help implement it like a Jimmy Butler or Luol Deng would’ve been able to do. It is going to take some time to learn. Luckily for the Timberwolves, they have time.

The only major change has been some media hype.

Man – the bandwagon is starting to feel like a freight train. Fans from all over are loving the Timberwolves, including the National Media. As OG Wolves fans, we are welcoming them all with open arms. But the anticipation to see KAT and Wiggins play for Tom Thibodeau is beginning to make people become a little over-ambitious. This Wolves roster is much more of a journey than it is a destination right now.

Injuries could be a problem.

Prior to last season, the Wolves were constantly having injury problems. Insert Arnie Kander. In his one season, he helped Ricky Rubio stay fairly healthy for a season and we even saw some run from a Nikola Pekovic, who should probably be retired. Now, exit Arnie Kander. Insert Tom Thibodeau. Thibs is known to make his guys work. Not a criticism. But it is something I think most Wolves fans will monitor this season. Injuries can set any team back. So just something to point out.

Other teams in the west got better too

The Wolves got better but there are other teams that really got better. The Jazz got a consistent starting point guard in George Hill who fits in perfectly there. The Blazers and Pelicans added some nice talent. I expected the Grizzlies to fall off but they ended up keeping Mike Conley and adding Chandler Parsons. If they can stay healthy with Marc Gasol, they could be pretty good. There are going to be 8 spots for probably 11 teams that have a legitimate shot at competing at them.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know! Get in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook!

The Timber Rebuilder

2016 NBA Draft: Timberwolves Final Thoughts

Draft day!

It is finally here. Four days after the NBA Finals. It is like the season never ended. It has been stressful to say the least. Not too many moving parts so far and yet we have debated for months.

One thing is for sure, whoever is picked by the Timberwolves tonight will forever be remembered as the 5th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft. Most fans remember their feelings towards a player from when the Wolves drafted Ndudi Ebi 26th overall in the 2003 draft to when the Wolves took Karl-Anthony Towns as the 1st Number 1 pick in franchise history.

One thing that I am reminded of at this time in the year is Flip Saunders. I came across this tweet of just Flip enjoying life right before the 2013 draft.

As the Wolves approach the draft, which is hours away, the rumors are swirling. The Wolves have just added Andy Greer to their coaching staff per Woj. There were rumors of the Wolves being interested in Kenneth Faried, which reminds me of how Thad Young fit in with the Wolves last year. I do think Faried would be an ideal energy guy for Thibs, but if the trade includes moving the 5th pick, I don’t think it is worth it.

Thibs has enlightened us by letting us know that the Wolves value shooting in this draft. To many, this eliminated the idea that Kris Dunn could be the pick, while I believe that isn’t the case. The entire league values shooting right now. It is absolutely a valid concern and the Wolves do need shooting, but I don’t think it eliminates Kris Dunn from being the Wolves pick.

There is a decent chance the Wolves trade the pick today. I don’t feel prepared for that scenario since #WolvesNation has been debating between four guys for the last month. Who is better? Why? Just hours before the draft, I feel like the top four is fairly clear, in the form of personal preference. Here it is:

  1. Dragan Bender

If Bender is available, you have to take him. There are rumors he could fall to 7, which is mind blowing. Bender is certainly a project. But he is a project worth taking on. The Wolves are in a position where they can swing for the fences. If Bender doesn’t work out, the Wolves future is not dependent on his development. They don’t lose much. They also have a significant need for someone to play along Towns long-term. The reason Bender is the most intriguing is because of the skill set he holds. Bender has a solid stroke from outside already. Pairing that alongside Towns and Wiggins will spread the floor and allow the Wolves to penetrate & dish. He can defend and protect the rim as well. How terrorizing would it be to have two big men who can defend and shoot? Bender has also shown that he can pass and handle the ball decently for his size.

Bender happens to also be the youngest player in the draft. If Bender is groomed under Thibs and can be given time to grow with the young Wolves, he can be in the perfect setting to develop. It helps that the Wolves have a decent amount of international players who can help mentor Bender. I don’t believe Bender is that far away from being able to contribute. He needs some experience, weight and confidence. But if he can build those three things up until the Wolves make the playoffs, I think they add a prospect who, I believe, becomes more valuable that Zach LaVine for this team.

Often times the youngest player in the draft usually has success in the league. It is something to keep in mind. The last few off the top of my mind are Devin Booker, Aaron Gordon, Giannis, and Andre Drummond.

2. Kris Dunn

After Bender, I don’t think any of the remaining players are absolute future starters for the Wolves. More than likely, they all end up being solid players off the bench and can step in as starters in the future. The reason I prefer Kris Dunn is because I believe he can come in and compliment Rubio from the beginning. Dunn can play behind or next to Rubio for short stints. Dunn also has a skill set in which he could eventually challenge Rubio for his spot a year or two down the road. It is still an unknown as to how Rubio fits in the grand scheme of things. In the event that Rubio gets hurt or wants out of Minnesota, I would feel comfortable with Dunn as the starting point guard of this team after this season.

The reason I also like Dunn is that I believe he is simply better than Murray and Hield. Dunn possesses an all-around skill set that inevitably translates great to the NBA. His ability to score, play-make and defend makes him a net positive player to have on the floor. If he develops a 3-point shot, he could end up being one of the best players in this draft. If you want to read our thoughts more on Dunn, we had an article here about him last month that was well received.

3. Jamal Murray

The Murray and Hield debate is something I run every day in my head and finally feel comfortable sharing it. I take Murray over Hield as someone who, I believe can become a solid scorer in the league. I think the McCollum comparisons are disrespectful to CJ, but if Murray becomes a poor man’s version of him, I will be happy. I worry about his ability to ever defend in the NBA, which is why I like Dunn more. We also talked about why we like him here. I won’t be upset if the Wolves take Jamal Murray.

4. Buddy Hield

#WolvesNation is crazy about Buddy Hield. I am not as convinced still. Buddy also can’t defend and don’t think he can thrive as a bench player, which is inevitably what is role would be with the Wolves. He requires a high usage and I don’t see him getting it with guys like Towns, Wiggins, LaVine and Shabazz who require the ball to be effective. The only positive of taking Hield for me is that my expectations would be much lower than anyone else we could take.


If the Wolves keep their pick, it will be one of those four. Otherwise I will be shocked. I think there is a 40% chance that the Wolves trade the pick on draft night. The Wolves clearly have goals of making the playoffs this coming season. We mentioned earlier in the offseason that the Wolves should just trade the pick and think that it still makes sense. The Wolves could acquire a veteran who could speed up the process as well as maybe a mid-1st round pick. The Jimmy Butler rumors were just a smokescreen that was probably done to raise the value of the pick in a draft where everyone is trying to trade out.

There are four teams to watch on draft night that have three 1st round picks: the Sixers, Suns, Celtics, and Nuggets. The Wolves may be able to work out a deal that allows the Wolves to acquire a veteran and a later pick. If somehow the Wolves end up moving down, I still love Timothe Luwawu and Wade Baldwin. I don’t know if either worked out for the Wolves, but I will dream. The Wolves do happen to love Ben Bentil, which will be something to watch for in the late 1st round and 2nd round.

For the next few hours, I will be watching for #WojBombs and hoping something crazy happens. As a life-long Wolves fan, especially during the rebuilding phase, the draft is our playoffs. Let’s add another brick to the Rebuild!

The Timber Rebuilder.

PS – I will be at the Wolves draft party. Tweet us if you are going! @timberrebuilder

Passing the Torch from Flip to Thibs

Tom Thibodeau. Tom Thibodeau. Tom Thibodeau.

The sad thing Wolves fans will have to come to terms with, in the near future, is that this is no longer Flip’s team. Tom Thibodeau just to the same position that was previously filled by Flip Saunders. Head coach and President of Basketball Operations. He will direct the team on the hardwood and have final say in all personnel decisions.

We will constantly ask ‘What would Flip do?’ or say ‘that was Flip’s guy!’ That no longer will carry as much weight. Last season, Sam Mitchell and Milt Newton took on bigger roles in unfortunate circumstances in which they were asked to carry out Flip’s vision. In ways, it was how the organization and fans dealt with the untimely passing of Flip Saunders. While his legacy will forever live on and the core of what made this team attractive was architected by Flip, the decisions made from this day forward will be a reflection of Tom Thibodeau and his era with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It’s a scary thought and I am probably way too early in publishing something like this. I, like many other fans, am not ready to detach Flip Saunders from what happens with this team. I haven’t been able to really come to terms with Flip Saunders’ passing. Flip Saunders deserves all the credit for the construction of this team. It was remarkable. But it will not be fair to compare what Thibodeau will do moving forward with what Flip would do. The reason being is, we don’t know what Flip would do. Sometimes I get caught up in thinking Flip’s doings would be exactly in alignment with what I am most hopeful of for the team. But realistically, Flip, like everyone else, didn’t always make the perfect move.

The torch has officially been passed from Flip to Thibs. Flip was always looking for a new coach and the team has finally found one. It may be time to change jerseys because there hasn’t been a bigger shift in Wolves history since when Kevin Garnett left. Tom Thibodeau will become the face of the Timberwolves franchise and the Wolves typically like to switch up jerseys in era shifts. Thibodeau will leave his stamp on the development of the young players, what the team’s identity will be, which players are drafted, and who joins the coaching staff.

The Wolves franchise has always been a ‘country club’, like it or not. Rick Adleman’s son is still hanging around after two different coaches. Ryan Saunders will likely stay. Flip found his way back home after stints with the Pistons and Wizards. Garnett came back to reitre in a Timberwolves jersey. Thibodeau is also no stranger, being a former Wolves assistant in 1989. But it almost feels like the country club mentality is at stake this go-around. The stakes are higher. The potential of what ‘could be’ is greater. The Thibs era will define what the Wolves franchise post-2016 will look like. A franchise that has not made the playoffs in 12 seasons and only advanced out of the first round once. A franchise that has the worst winning percentage in the league. The culture needs to shift if the Wolves want to be taken seriously.

With all sensitivity, it is time to hand the keys over to Thibodeau mentally, but respect Flip Saunders’ impact on the organization. Still seems weird that Tom Thibodeau will take over the reigns. But Flip will forever be amongst the most influential figures in Minnesota Timberwolves Franchise history.

Thibodeau has inherited an absolute plethora of young talent and assets. It will be interesting to see what the Wolves do with their lottery pick and cap space. Do the Wolves go all in on competing now by using the cap space and trading away the pick? Or does Thibs take the slow and steady approach to the top by developing the young assets that are on the team? This is what the Thibs era faces…

BREAKING: Tom Thibodeau To Be Hired. Now What?

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Time to learn to spell it folks. T-H-I-B-O-D-E-A-U. He will be the next Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The deal is said to be worth $10M per year for five years. Attached in the deal is Spurs Assistant GM Scott Layden who will become the Wolves General Manager. So that means, good bye Milt Newton. The Wolves were interested in Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson as alternatives. Rumors swirled around Scott Brooks and Dave Jourger as well.

After the immediate dismisal of Sam Mitchell, Glen Taylor and the search firm Korn Ferry interviewed and now have hired a head coach just a week after the final game. Tom Thibodeau, known for being the defensive guru with the Boston Celtics when Garnett and co. won the championship, comes over in full control after being fired by the Chicago Bulls a year ago. The Bulls made it to the playoffs every year under Thibs, while this season they didn’t under coach Fred Hoiberg.

Thibodeau’s name was thrown around quite a bit in the middle of the season when a potential minority ownership group was looking to make a deal with Glen Taylor. Nothing came from it and folks moved on. As the Wolves finished the season strong under coach Sam Mitchell by beating the Warriors and the Blazers on the road, ESPN and others began hyping the heck out of this Wolves job. Its been said to be the most sought after job in the league. Thibodeau has been one of the most sought after head coaches that doesn’t have a job. Thibs also helped Derrick Rose become an MVP and Jimmy Butler an All-Star. It will be interesting to see what Thobodeau can do with the likes of Towns, Wiggins, LaVine, and the rest of the young Wolves.

In his previous life, Thibodeau was a long time assistant coach. He started his career ironically with the Timberwolves in their inaugural season (see pic above). He then was an assistant with the Rockets and Knicks under Jeff Van Gundy.

The main concern around Thibs has been his nature of driving players into the ground and overworking them. I am sure it has been brought up in interviews and if the Wolves have decided this quickly on Thibodeau, then (I hope!) the topic has probably been cleared. Glen Taylor does not want to see Towns or Wiggins’ careers ended early because of this move.

Now that the process is over, we will likely look back on this move as the inflection point of the Wiggins/ Towns saga. The Franchise will now begin to concave up or down. The slope positive or negative. Calculus talk for anyone who gets it. If Sam Mitchell was tasked with remaining the head coach, the franchise would’ve likely continued floating in the realms of mediocrity. Bringing in Tom Thibodeau for the priced that has been finalized means one thing. Championships. Taylor, Thibodeau, and the players that are a part of the core will begin building and fighting for a championship one day. The first step will be making the playoffs and ending the longest active streak of not making the playoffs in the NBA.

The immediate next steps are a few things. First, the draft. The Wolves will need to see what players are of interest and what the value around the league will be for the position in which the Wolves pick. Then, a roster evaluation will likely  be done. On the chopping block will likely be the likes of Shabazz Muhammad, Ricky Rubio and Adriean Payne. How does Thibs feel about these guys? Thibodeau will also have to hire a staff. Listening to Sam Mitchell this morning, it sounded like he was open to returning. What about Ryan Saunders? Ernie Kander? Then will be development and free agency. How will these guys improve through next season? What will be done with the cap space?

All this says is, it is going to be an awesome offseason and 2016-17 season. Keep following for more Wolves t-logs!

The Timber Rebuilder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015-16 Season Review and Takeaways

usa-today-8956594.0Its done. Another season over. It probably won’t hit us until the finals are over. But now, we wait until another season kicks off next October. Our young pups one year older and hopefully a storied head coach to lead the pack. I will say, it was one of the most exciting seasons for the Wolves, maybe ever. But to look back, we will look at what we learned and what we can look forward to. Please support by sharing, retweeting and liking this. It will mean the world!

Another season wraps up and it is again another season the Wolves don’t make the playoffs, hence the blog name. It is now 12 consecutive seasons without making the playoffs. The Wolves finish the season at 29 -53. While many saw Sam Mitchell‘s magic number as 27 wins, he was immediately relieved of his interim coaching duties just an hour after the game. A portion of this review would’ve been to understand what happens with coach Mitchell, but that has been decided already.

A review is not a review unless it has something to measure against, thus, we used our Season Preview Here as the basis of our analysis. How did the Wolves perform against expectations that we personally had when the season started? Here were the keys to success and the bold predictions.

Keys to Success:

  • Get the Young Pups Minutes, together.
  • You have Veterans, Use them. (Unofficial mentors, change Martin’s role, Pek rough up guys)
  • Compete!
  • Develop Roles Now
  • Find a Diamond in the Rough

Get the Young Pups Minutes, together. It was a long season. It wasn’t until X amount of games into the season did we see the starting lineup of Rubio/ LaVine/ Wiggins/ Dieng/ Towns. It remains incomplete of seeing how Shabazz looks as a small ball four. Earlier in the season as well, there was no logic around the limited minutes that Towns was receiving. All that said, Wiggins and Towns got a majority of their minutes together as the top two scorers on the team. LaVine had been up and down, but mainly up since the All-Star break. Especially in the last stretch of games on the final road trip, the Wolves strung together 3-straight encouraging wins. One over the Warriors, another for the season sweep of the Kings, and the final one on a buzzer beater by Towns against Portland. I won’t say the Wolves did as good as they could’ve done in this aspect, it definitely wasn’t a failure. I hate when opportunities are lost. There were many games in which Kevin Martin or Tayshaun Prince were starting and it didn’t make sense for this season or next. But its finally coming together.. The Wolves get a Pass grade here.

You have Veterans, Use them. I think the Wolves re-engineered how rebuilds should work in this aspect. While Andre Miller ripped the Wolves as an organization, the Wolves leveraged the abilities and experiences the veterans on the roster had until they could literally take the training wheels off (releasing K-Mart and Andre Miller) and let the young pups roam freely. Garnett can be partially credited for the emergence of KAT as their personalities seem to mesh. I look forward to the day that Towns begins to talk trash and can make references to Honey Nut Cheerios in an offensive manner to discourage his opponents. While Pek didn’t get the opportunity to play much, I am sure he roughed up a few of the kids this season. Tayshaun Prince has also been a class act. While it will probably be his only season here, he played his role to the fullest, whether it was starting or off the bench. He was an absolute professional. All in all, I believe this was a huge bright spot this season. I am sure it will pay dividends in the future.

Compete! The Wolves started and ended the season competing. The Wolves were at one point 8-8 and ended the season 4-1. The team is capable of competing. Something happened in the middle of the season and it wasn’t pretty. The Wolves just kept on losing. That said, they weren’t getting blown out as often as they had in previous seasons. They would make a lot of come backs and blow a lot of leads. That is understandable for  a young team. The learning curve is still there in pulling out tight games. Had they done that, the Wolves could’ve probably won 10 more games.

Develop Roles Now. The only roles that were truly developed were that of Towns, Wiggins, and maybe LaVine. Rubio is still on the fringe of ‘am I a part of this thing?’ or not. LaVine looks to be fitting into the starting 2-guard spot but its highly dependent upon Rubio playing alongside him and then being able to play more consistently in the future. Shabazz and Dieng’s roles are still in flux. Bjelica is still a question mark. Unfortunately the questions going into the season were answered with questions going out.

Find a Diamond in the Rough. My hope is Bjelica or Jones would surprise this season. Maybe even Payne. But they didn’t. There is still hope for Bjelica and Jones though. More so for Jones. They weren’t able to get lucky. My hope is the Wolves dig deep this offseason and find a free agent that can provide some value off the bench next season. I am a personal fan of James Ennis, but thats a random suggestion.

 

Bold Predictions:

  • Wolves don’t make the playoffs. End season 39-43. Will probably laugh at this in April.
  • Zach LaVine becomes starting SG by the end of the year
  • Dieng becomes a starter by the end of the year
  • Muhammad get consideration for 6th Man of the Year
  • Wiggins is an All-Star (More so due to All-Star game being in Toronto)
  • Sam Mitchell will last this season
  • Karl Towns will be a top three consideration for ROY

I got a few of these right. The Wolves didn’t make the playoffs but also over predicted the wins. I do believe had the Wolves played like they have at the end of the season, in the middle of the season, there is no reason why they couldn’t have won 10 more games. They lost over 20 within 5 points. But to win 29 games this season is above their Vegas odds which is alright. The expectations grew nonetheless as the Wolves finished the season strong. A lot more eyes will be on what happens next season.

Just tracking Zach LaVine this season would be a good indication of how the season went. LaVine entered the pre-season as the starting shooting guard and then started the season as the backup point guard. Rubio would get injured early on which pushed LaVine into the starting lineup again as the Point Guard. Rubio would come back and then LaVine went back to the bench. The Wolves then went on a long stretch of the season struggling with coach Mitchell juggling Kevin Martin and Tayshaun Prince in the starting lineup alongside LaVine. It became evident that for LaVine to be successful, he needed to play alongside Rubio. Time went on and dunk contests were won, then LaVine found and cemented his role as the starting shooting guard. LaVine did this by adding a lot of scoring, an impressive 3-point shot, and flashes of decent defense. His shot selection remains questionable but these were huge strides for Zach. He heads into next season as the likely starter again.

Gorgui Dieng also found his way into the starting lineup. It was partially deserved and partially opportune. Garnett rested for a majority of the second half of the season with a knee injury, which left an incredible hole at the power forward position. Bjelica would’ve been the guy to step in but he also suffered a mysterious leg injury around the All-Star break and probably a serious breakup with how shot his confidence was. While Dieng didn’t necessarily come out and prove that he is the starting power forward of the future, he did show just how versatile he can be. Dieng finally has a more defined role. He is the glue guy in the front court. He fills in and does what is needed. You need rim protection and rebounds? This is your guy. Sprinkle in a couple threes? Why not. Most importantly, Dieng proved that he can co-exist with Karl-Anthony Towns. This will prove his value and likely earn him a contract extension next season. The interesting thing about Dieng is his numbers are down from last season but seems like he has improved greatly over the course of this year. He still has some questionable moments on the court, but I think he can be a long-term fit here in Minnesota.

Shabazz Muhammad. I was wrong on this one. No consideration for 6th man of the year. Although Shabazz was amongst the top bench scorers this season (6th best in the league), he couldn’t find a consistent role on the team. He struggled with sharing the ball and his body language always indicated he was off. Maybe it was Sam Mitchell? Who knows. Shabazz played a key role in a few games nonetheless, especially in the win over the Warriors where he scored 35 points. But going into next season, it is contract extension or free agency for Bazz so I am sure his name will be on the hot stove this summer. Regardless, I still believe he has significant talent. But his potential may not be realized in Minnesota. #FreeShabazz

Wiggins wasn’t an All Star either. Strike 2. I was swinging for the fences. But I expected a breakout season and some home court advantage. Wiggins improved on his scoring but not much else. Wiggins will at some point need to fill in the void of not having a ‘3 and D’ guy on the team. Once Wiggins can prove he can be amongst the best defensively, it will be hard to call him an All-Star. A few wins might help as well.

‘Sam Mitchell will last this season.’ Has a prediction ever been more accurate? I was off by one hour. Sam Mitchell lasted this season and an hour of the offseason. Sam Mitchell had an up and down season. Mitchell started the season belittling any external opinion about the team and getting angry at anyone who asked him a question. Then there was the stretch in which the Wolves couldn’t buy a win and the questions began to swirl as to would he complete the season. Completing the season made sense, why fire a guy where it could rock the boat with the young core at such a crucial stage in their careers? Sam then began to prove himself, it seemed like after the Milwaukee Bucks loss in which he sat the starters for a majority of the second half to prove a point. I was a skeptic about this game for sure.  But the team turned it around after that and ended the season winning four of their last five. Mitchell will likely move on and be an assistant coach somewhere. He did what he could and I believe he truly helped the young guys grow this season. But when the pool of available coaches is as good as it is and the team is as attractive of a job as it is right now, a change on the bench was necessary. It will be interesting to see what happens with the external firm that will look to fill the positions of head coach and POBO.

The final prediction. Karl Towns being in the top 3 of the ROY candidates. This was like dropping a pen from eye-level and predicting it would hit the ground. Towns blew the ROY competition out of the water and made his way into history this season. The only comparable rookies to Towns in history are Shaq and Tim Duncan. The numbers don’t lie. Towns finished the season averaging 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.7 blocks, 54% field goal, 34% 3-point, 81% free throws, and 51 double-doubles on the year. Towns broke almost every record imaginable for a rookie in franchise history. The best part though? His attitude. Karl-Anthony Towns is a culture changer. And to do that for a franchise that has not made the playoffs for 12 consecutive seasons is special. Watching KAT play this season alongside the other young pups made the losing bearable. It was a joy to watch him play this season. He was absolutely versatile and played like a seasoned-veteran. There are no words to describe how good he played, but it was beautiful to see it happen over the span of 82 games. Towns will go on to win Rookie of the Year but I also believe he should receive consideration for All-NBA 3rd team.

Takeaways:

While it was another losing season, it was far from disappointing. What did we learn? What can we take away?

Towns and Wiggins are going to be special. For a long time. Towns may be the perfect compliment to Wiggins and vice versa. Both still have holes in their games but its nothing some hard work over the summer and a few more seasons of experience can’t fix. Towns will need to learn to defend better on pick-and-rolls and on the perimeter. He has shown that he can do it but hasn’t shown he can do it consistently. Wiggins also needs to improve defensively. Wiggins also has a major need to improve his 3-point shot. Both guys did things great in creating their own shots. Wiggins also got to the line at will. Moving forward, both guys will need to be more consistent and take their games to the next level. Easy to say from my perspective. Regardless, these two should be something special with the right team and right coach around them.

LaVine, the sky’s the limit. In terms of his potential and his ability to leap, his only limitation is the sky. LaVine has improved tremendously over this season and should be the starting shooting guard for this team long term. His three point shot and defense improved, things that were necessarily for him to see consistent minutes. He can score at will when the opportunity it there. The hope is next season, he gets stronger and smarter. Also hope that he can shoot at the rate he did in the second half of this season. Defensively, he is growing into a non-liability. If LaVine can figure out how to be a net positive player on the defensive end, I will put him up there with Towns and Wiggins.

Rubio is healthy and necessary. Rubio can’t shoot. And the team should proceed with the assumption that he may never be able to shoot. But he does provide a positive impact on the floor. The Wolves are +18 when he is on the floor for the season. He is a great defender, great facilitator, and creates points for his team. He can hit the occasional three. The concern is floor stretching when he is out there, but he will keep teams honest in the clutch. Plus, Rubio is a winner. I am sure there will be Rubio trade rumors swirling this summer, but I think he just provides more value than can be received for him via trade. Lastly, and most importantly, Rubio was healthy. He seemed to miss more games than expected because Ernie Kander is a genius at what he does. The ‘injury-prone’ tag is on pause for now with Rubio. Next season will be a true test for Ricky. He put up numbers that were mainly consistent to what he has done every year, but if he can improve those numbers next season while staying healthy, he will have earned his paycheck.

There’s a huge hole at the 4. We knew Anthony Bennett was garbage. But turns out Payne is as well. Payne likely won’t work out here and probably needs to play elsewhere where he can develop a role. Bjelica didn’t perform to expectations, although the final five games he began to turn things around. I think Bjelica still can be the four on this team, but it would be a huge risk. Garnett is being a paid mentor at this point. The issue is there are four power forwards on the roster and none are capable, consistent starters. My guess is Rudez and Payne will be gone and replaced by a fringe starter that can help stretch the floor.

Shabazz has value. Don’t waste it. Something needs to be done with Shabazz. He either needs to be dealt this summer or has a role carved out for him in which he can thrive in. I still have hope that he can be an asset off of the bench and an energy guy. But he needs to be in a situation in which he can make mistakes and the team can live with his style of play. If those are not things that can be compromised, Shabazz should be traded in which he still has trade value around the league. Shabazz could be packaged with the 1st rounder in which it could really bring back some value to a fringe-playoff team that is looking to get a head start on rebuilding (OKC, Houston, Washington DC, Dallas).

The Wolves still need shooters. This seems like a problem for the Wolves since Fred Hoiberg retired. Maybe re-sign Anthony Peeler this summer? I am sure he can still shoot. Regardless how this void is filled, it needs to be addressed because the league is moving at a faster pace that the Wolves are moving. A practical solution to this would make this an incredible focus for the core guys on the roster. Rubio, Wiggins and Muhammad were bad this season. If two of them can be average shooters, that can be step one. Then a continuation of LaVine and Towns’ shooting improvements is more progress. Bjelica can be the 3-point specialist needed if he has the confidence. Then of course there is the draft and free agency, which is filled with 3-point shooters. Hield and Murray make sense in the draft and then Teletovic can make sense in free agency.

Tyus can still fit. I was very critical early on of Tyus Jones. He isn’t fast or athletic enough to hang with point guards at this level. But he proved that he could stay afloat in the second half of the season when Andre Miller was released. I think he still needs time to develop but he showed this season he can play. The hope is he can be the backup point guard next season. There will likely need to be a solid insurance policy in the 3rd string spot in case Rubio is hurt. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with Tyus starting but think if LaVine filled in, it could still potentially work. More to come with Tyus.

Time to swing for the fences. Sam Mitchell was capable of remaining the coach for the Wolves. He was at least worthy of remaining in the conversation for who would be next. But there is clearly more to the story we don’t know, and at the first opportunity he had, Glen Taylor parted ways with Mitchell. Tom Thibodeau seems like the right fit for the job moving forward from the Wolves perspective. He will likely require a nice paycheck, but it may be time to take the risk. Thibs has a good relationship with KG and was a big reason the Celtics won their championship. Thibs also helped develop some nice players in his time in Chicago. Having a blank defensive canvas to work with in Andrew Wiggins and Karl Towns could be scary for the league. It just makes too much sense to actually happen.

Before we leave…

It was a historic season. The Warriors broke the Bulls record with a record of 73-9 this season. Steph Curry hit a record breaking 402 three pointers. Kobe Bryant has retired. On his way out, he dropped 60 points in his last game. Then quietly, the Spurs had their best record in franchise history with 67 wins. On the Wolves end, the season started with the untimely passing of the late Flip Saunders. The Wolves got lucky to land Karl-Anthony Towns and the future has never been brighter. It will be a season to be remembered.

Lastly, thanks for following this season. We have successfully completed our first season covering the Wolves. If you have suggestions or feedback that can help us improve the site, let us know! It has been a great deal of fun and we look forward to being a part of the Wolves community for the foreseeable future!

10th NBA Arena: Bradley Center. Bucks v. Wolves

In a continuous journey to pay a visit to every NBA arena, there is the occasional low hanging fruit. Milwaukee isn’t far. I’ve also only been to Milwaukee a handful of times. But I finally got a chance to visit the Bradley center.

There are also the special occasions in which I can be the annoying fan cheering on my favorite team on the road. You cheer when no one else is cheering and you remain quiet when the crowd goes wild. You also get the pleasure of acknowledging your fellow wolves fans scattered around the arena with a head nod that translates to, “respect”.

Anyways, I always made it a point to only visit the Bradley Center if the Wolves were playing. And if finally happened. My wife and I drove out for 5 hours straight just to get crushed by the Bucks. If you’ve been following the blog, you may have seen this bucket list post about the NBA arenas that I have been. I also had the chance to visit the Verizon Center. As I visit more, I will categorize these together as ‘NBA Arena Visits’

Arena 10: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Timberwolves vs Bucks, 2016, Milwaukee, WI ✔️

The theme was 90’s night which was part of the Bucks’ flashback Friday campaign. I thought it was brilliant. It would’ve helped if the Bucks wore throwbacks to go with it, but everything else was nostalgic for any late 80’s baby. Kel was the in-arena host, they played double dare at half time, every player was associated with a 90s movie, and even Warren G performed a couple times. From a sports marketing perspective, it was lively and fun. The crowd was into it. I also got to wear my Wolves throwback jacket which was fitting for the theme.


Apart from the in-game experience, the fans were much different than what I encountered when cheering on the Wolves in Boston. Most people were really nice. A couple fans would ask me questions about the wolves. When the wolves got within 7 points in the 4th, I was being annoying. So when the Bucks pulled back away with the lead, one guy said something that I didn’t make out. It seemed like he was angry. But then he came and talked to me after the game and hoped I would enjoy Milwaukee.

Then to the game. It was crazy to see Towns score the first 11 points for the Wolves. But it was typical Towns fashion I thought, score a bunch right away and then spread it out the rest of the game. And if you looked at the box score you’d think that’s what happened. But the game was a waste of a 5 hour drive (not really, I loved the experience). Towns, Wiggins, and Rubio were benched early in the third quarter for the remainder of the game as a ‘message’ from Sam Mitchell.

Now, I get it. The Wolves defense was horrid. Hands would go up only after the shooter had completed his follow-through. There were times it was clear Middleton or Parker were going to shoot and Wiggins or Towns would just watch it happen. I get that. Sit them early in the third and send a message. But you have to eventually get them back in the game. It wasn’t over. The bench got the team into the game again but get your starters in at that point. Your bench is tired and can’t continue to compete at a high level.

Wiggins, Rubio, and Towns never got back into the game after they were taken out in the early 3rd. The funny thing was that LaVine would’ve been a casuality of this had he started the second half. LaVine got benched to start the second half but helped lead the charge back late in the 4th quarter.

I do not recall the Bucks’ biggest lead in the second half but it was well over 20. The Wolves got back within 7 after a three by Rudez. The bench showed good energy led by Shabazz and Zach but it wasn’t enough. Khris Middleton had his way with the Wolves. Greek Freak also was very impressive. It was crazy to see him run the point and be guarded by Rubio (lord help him) and then come back and guard Dieng or Towns in the first quarter. He is as versatile as they come. He nearly had another triple double after having one earlier this week. Jabari Parker and Plumlee were nice too.

As I mentioned on Twitter, this seemed like the beginning of the end for Sam Mitchell. I can’t imagine the starters playing their hardest for him anymore or vouching for him to be the coach next season.

Overall, a wonderful experience even though it was a loss. The Bucks have an exciting team once they figure it out. And I am 1/3 of the way to visiting every NBA arena. Visiting another next week. Which will it be?


The Timber Rebuilder.

A Loss of Experience

The Wolves have been one of the most active teams post-trade deadline. Seems like an oxymoron almost.

If you have stopped paying attention to transactions because the trade deadline is over, you’ve missed out on buyout season. The Wolves have been parting ways with the highly touted veterans that have groomed the young pups for a majority of the season.

First, the Wolves waived the oldest player in the NBA Andre Miller who ended up signing with the oldest team in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs.

Miller played sparingly and showed signs of life, but it was difficult to watch him at times. The Wolves gave Miller the opportunity to go play for a contender going into the playoffs, which seems confusing as he signed with the team that had the worst record last season.

 

Next, the Wolves bought out the contract of veteran guard Kevin Martin.

Martin couldn’t get traded for a Q-tip this trade deadline and had a player option of around $7M for next season. It seems like ownership valued Kevin Martin’s request to play for a playoff team this season over what value he may provide the team next season. I personally believed that a $7M expiring contract this summer that could still add value to a team would be a valuable trade asset. The Wolves disagreed. Regardless, this means more minutes for LaVine and Wiggins for the rest of the season at the shooting guard position. It will be interesting to see if LaVine remains in the starting lineup or if Tayshaun Prince starts again. I would imagine it becomes matchup-based.

 

Also – you might’ve noticed Kevin Garnett on the bench, still talking smack.

Well it looks like Wolves fans may see more of this. It is looking like Garnett not playing again this season is actually a possibility.

This means a couple things. It means it seems possible KG will come back next season. Under what capacity, who knows. I can’t imagine Garnett retiring after shutting it down for a season.

The Wolves also managed to sign big man Greg Smith to a 10-day contract.

Greg Smith showed some promised with the Houston Rockets but has played in the D-league this season. This signing shows that the Bjelica injury is probably pretty serious and that the coaching staff just doesn’t trust Adreian Payne with minutes. It will be interesting to see what happens to Payne this summer. The Wolves traded a first round pick for him.

All in all, the Wolves added two years of NBA experience in Greg Smith and cut 29 years of experience in Andre Miller and Kevin Martin. Luckily the Wolves still have the 21 years of NBA experience on the bench in Garnett, but it would be great to have that on the floor.

The Timber Rebuilder

Side note: Planning to see the Bucks and Wolves face off in Milwaukee. Look forward to a review of the arena as I visit my 10th NBA Arena.

The Stakes Have Never Been Higher

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As the Wolves enter the All-Star break with 17 wins, one more win than last season’s total, they find themselves in flux of where this season is going. The Wolves are all but out of the playoff hunt and tanking looks attractive in order to get another high lottery pick to add to the young and talented core. But the Wolves know that, eventually, they will have to start winning. And starting to win going into the end of the season, isn’t such a bad idea. Britt Robson mentioned at the end of his article in the MinnPost that ‘The Stakes Have Never Been Higher’ and it couldn’t be any more true. As displayed in the final game before the all-star break, the Wolves have arguably the brightest future in the NBA. Karl-Anthony Towns impressed again by posting a career-high 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Towns broke Kevin Love’s franchise record for double-doubles by a rookie in this game. Fellow future star Andrew Wiggins ,aka Maple Jordan, posted 26 points by coming through in the fourth quarter with a lot of important scores. They showed just how good they could potentially be by beating a very good Toronto Raptors team.

As my favorite movie is Hitch with Will Smith, there is a line in that movie that resonates well with the Wolves situation. While I don’t have time to directly quote the movie, Hitch tells his client in a taxi cab something along the lines of “It no longer your job to make her like you. Its your job not to mess it up.” This couldn’t be any more true for the Wolves. The Wolves have two of the top prospects in the NBA in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, and they arrived on a platter.

The job is now is to develop them and surround them with talent. It should be pretty easy. Right?

Towns and Wiggins will ultimately develop into good individual players even if you set them in an incubator for the next five years. The jury is still out on Andrew Wiggins as to if he will ACTUALLY live up to his potential. Bill Simmons mentioned that Wiggins could be the next ‘Rudy Gay’ in the league where their reputation around the league is that they are a great player but the local fans know just how bad they really are. Many complain that Wiggins isn’t rebounding or adding much else outside of scoring, which is valid. The Wolves could use more effort on the court from Wiggins. The Wolves could also use a reliable, consistent, 3-point shot from Wiggins. As of right now, Rubio has a better 3pt% than Wiggins. Matter of fact, I believe every starting guard in the NBA has a better 3pt% than Wiggins.

With that said, if Wiggins didn’t develop those things, he wouldn’t be a bad starter. He can absolutely score the ball. He can also absolutely defend for the most part. If he doesn’t develop those things, he likely will never be an all-star and will likely see his minutes cut as there will be some 3 and D wing who can be more efficient with their time on the floor. Chances are though, Wiggins will develop some of these skills. The kid is only 20. Be patient.

I’ve wanted to write an article about Karl-Anthony Towns but fear I may be too homerish. So I will stick to this paragraph. If Towns doesn’t develop anymore, he is an All-Star next season. Currently the only thing holding Towns back is Sam Mitchell and maybe foul trouble. But Towns is an absolute joy to watch. What is mind blowing to me the most though is that he has an incredible FG% (54% from the field) and shoots almost 50% in the midrange! So when Towns learns to take higher percentage shots and can take/ make more threes later in his career, what happens? *Insert head exploding hand motion here* The other thing I love about Towns is his attitude. He is smart, savvy, passionate, competitive, humble, and hilarious. I can’t wait until he wants to dominate his opponents like KG. Then what happens? *Again, mind blown* Shot chart below:

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So how to develop these guys? That is one of the major keys.

First, it is to take the rest of this season seriously. I know, the Wolves risk improving their record and getting a worse pick. But to me, I actually like the picks later in the top 10 better than 4-6 range, which I will talk about later when I talk about the surround portion of the t-log. The Wolves need to play the second half of the season as if they have a chance at the playoffs. Their young guys have to play together and pull out team wins similar to the recent games against the Raptors and Clippers. The momentum needs to be carried into next season in which the Wolves can truly make a playoff run. The Wolves have all the necessary pieces to be competitive this season. Health hasn’t been an issue for the first time in years. The veterans on the team seem to be rubbing off on the young guys. And there is already quite a bit of talent in Towns and Wiggins that can compete against many teams.

Next, the Wolves need to get in a new coaching staff this summer. There are horror stories about coaches who can’t connect with younger players because they are yelling at them too much. Sam Mitchell’s ‘old-school’ mentality is just not something that is going to work long term here. The Wolves need a coach that will grow with the team and focus on player development. There is a good amount of coaches that are available that fit that mold much better than Mitchell.

Lastly, the Wolves will have a crucial summer for their young guys. Kobe Bryant mentioned that he would love to work with Wiggins and LaVine this summer. I remain skeptical because I remember Wes Johnson spent his summers with Kobe and it didn’t seem to pay dividends, but I am not opposed to it. Regardless, Towns, Wiggins, & LaVine should be in the gym daily together trying to get better. They all need a consistent 3-pointer. They all need to become better defenders. And they all need to do this together. They likely will not be playing in the summer league this summer which is a blessing. It will give them an opportunity to hopefully expand their games to another level instead of trying to get used to the NBA-style of play.

Now on to surrounding Wiggins and Towns with talent. How does that happen?

Well, first keep the talent you have. Rubio, Bjelica, and Dieng are three younger guys that likely won’t get much better than they already are. And that is fine. As hard as Wolves fans are on Rubio, he is probably the single player that helps the team even be competitive outside of Towns at this point. Rubio has the second best Win Share on the team with 3.7, behind Towns’ 5.6 and right above Dieng’s 3.4. He makes the players around him better and is solid on defense. Dieng on the other hand is looking like the perfect role player. A guy who is effective off of the bench and can start when needed. He is also pairing well with Towns which is great for the future. Bjelica has struggled this season. But I believe he is just adjusting to the NBA still. I think his ability to shoot is too good to give up on right now. He is also an amazing playmaker which is valuable at his position.

The Wolves need to also develop and assess their current assets. Once they are assessed, they can turn them into talent or to trade bait. LaVine is on the fringe of this category in which I have mentioned him in the same category as Towns and Wiggins. Its hard to tell still if LaVine is that caliber of a prospect or will have a role player type of career. I will say he is a develop and keep type of asset. Then there is Muhammed, Jones, and Payne. Muhammed is in a situation where he maybe peaking in terms of value and the Wolves need to determine if they want to hold or sell this summer. Muhammed is approaching the point where the Wolves will need to decide if they want to extend him next season (along with Dieng). Once Muhammed is locked into that contract, his value will begin to diminish as he will be expected to produce to the level of that contract. Today, he is being paid for what he could be and the Wolves are enjoying that. But it will be decision time for Muhammed and Dieng this summer before they get big boy contracts.

Jones and Payne are still in ‘assess’ mode but their values are dropping dramatically. They aren’t able to contribute on a young team which makes them look bad. And they’ve looked bad in games too. To me, Payne is already a liability on the team and should be moved at any cost. Power Forward remains a big question for the Wolves and Payne will not be the answer. Jones could be something still, but will need time to play this season if there is room for him on the team. There is the need for a back up point guard on the roster now. The Wolves will address that need this summer whether its internally or externally.

What happens to the veterans? Prince and Miller will likely be gone next season. I would not be surprised if Garnett was gone but the hope is he is back next season in some sort of capacity. In an ideal world, Garnett moves into minority ownership and/ or begins to make personnel decisions. I have to begin to wonder if Pekovic will retire due to his inability to be healthy. If not, the Wolves are likely stuck with him for a very long time unless someone wants to take a chance on him. Kevin Martin is an interesting piece of the puzzle. I am opposed to trading Martin at the trade deadline and more inclined to trading him this summer or during the season next year. He will be a $7M expiring contract at the end of next season. Martin then becomes an asset to someone as he expires and can still actually play. Packaging him with Muhammed could score the Wolves a decent power forward for next year.

Then on to the 1st-round pick. The NBA draft is easily my favorite part of the season. As a Wolves fan, its what I have become. And when the Wolves are in the bottom 5 teams in the league, its hard for me to not say ‘tank!’. But the Wolves have to get better and the 5th pick is almost no-mans land in this draft. The best talent is in the top 2 picks. And while I am intrigued by Dragan Bender, he isn’t the next Porzingis. I would rather get a guy like Ivan Rabb, Diamond Stone, or even Buddy Hield. This is a draft where I would rather pick 7 to 12 than from 4-6. It sounds crazy but the Wolves need a sure-thing role player and not a high-upside, high-bust potential prospect. Bender, Murray, and Dunn all fit that bill. Its early to tell where a lot of these guys will go now though. But I will definitely cover more this summer when we know where we are picking and the players have declared for the draft.

Coming back out of the weeds, this should be pretty simple. Start winning now. Start building around Towns and Wiggins. Surround them with good players. Based on Towns and Wiggins’ performances this season, this team is capable of making a playoff push next season. And if they don’t next season, at least in the future. And if they don’t then, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization really, really messed up.

Just a friendly reminder, even though I maybe mention this in every other t-log, the Wolves hold the longest-active playoff drought in the NBA at 11 seasons, soon to be 12.

The Timber Rebuilder.

It Takes More Than Talent

First off, I am back. I was traveling for a month’s time and finally back in my groove. School is going to be intensified this semester, but will always look to continue contributing.

In my time away, the Wolves have struggled. I have followed from a distance. Excuses can’t be made like years past. The team is healthy, heck – even Nikola Pekovic is playing. A lot of the players have gotten minutes. And while a lot of guys have been able to showcase their talents, the Wolves have underwhelmed over half way through the season. The Wolves showed promise early on, starting the season 8-8 and the West has been weaker than most seasons. Somehow, the Wolves find themselves at 13-30 without many excuses.

Before Flip Saunders passed, he made an emphasis on building a winning culture. Flip wanted to bring in guys who wanted to win and change the identity of the franchise. He was very intentional about every guy he brought in to surround the young core. While it looked like the Wolves were headed in the right direction early, somewhere there was a collapse in that vision. There was a pivotal point in the season where the Wolves decided to have a ‘moment of truth’ type of meeting instead of practice. The veterans seemed to be blaming the young guys and the young guys pointed fingers at the head coach. The Wolves fan base has found an easy-out in blaming Sam Mitchell, and while it can be valid, the issue is bigger than that.

The Wolves have the talent. The Wolves have the assets. Yes, they are inexperienced, but this team can compete. But the culture hasn’t been established. And a valid concern is that the right personnel is not that to establish that culture. As learned in business school, ‘Culture eats Talent’. The Wolves are going through the necessary bumps and bruised to build a winning culture. But it will truly be how the Wolves franchise react to the adversity that defines the culture. The culture is in jeopardy as the Wolves now have the worst franchise winning percentage in the league.  Will the Wolves let that define them?

To get away from that, the Wolves need to leverage this experience this season. They need to get the most out of their talent now. The front office also needs to make decisions on who is a part of the future here and what part do they play in it? Once that is decided, the coaching staff needs to implement that vision in developing the players to get them in that role. From the looks of it, the coaching staff has failed at this or the front office has yet to determine these roles. Shabazz Muhammed is the best example of this as of late. Shabazz’s future may be as a 6th man, but isn’t a 6th man in the future more valuable if he has starting experience? The opportunity is there for him to start. Even if he doesn’t succeed as a starter, although it did last season, he will gain the necessary experience to become a player off the bench who plays like a starter while the first five are resting. The mishandling of Shabazz has been frustrating in that sense. But the same can be said about how most of the young players have been handled.

The Wolves need to also develop an identity. A brand of basketball. What will opponents think of the Wolves when they play them? It shouldn’t be automatic win or young players. The Wolves need to be good at something and be better than their opponents at it. Whether it be in the fast break or on the defensive end. It seems like the talent is there to be good at those things, but yet the Wolves still haven’t been able to be consistently good at them. There is plenty of time in the season to develop this, but it needs to be intentionally done.

The Wolves lost a big lead last night against the Pelicans and it just screamed to me that ‘it takes more than talent.’ The Wolves let Anthony Davis do what he wanted whenever he wanted. They didn’t play defense. And when the lead was gone, there was no question that the Wolves wouldn’t come back to reclaim it.

These are just my thoughts after a month of observing and not writing. The summer will likely bring in another young talented player, but it may mean nothing if that player is brought into talent. The Wolves need more guys with character. They need an identity. They need chemistry. Teams that try to win fast by acquiring talent really fast never win immediately. It takes more than talent.

Kevin Garnett’s Farewell Mini-Tour

The 2015-2016 season has been overshadowed by the ‘Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour’ after announcing his retirement. While Kobe is all-deserving, there are many other players that don’t require the attention for their egos. The end is looming for future Hall-of-Famers like Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Garnett, as they represent the end of the Golden Age of the power forward position. Each player has revolutionized the position in their own ways and leaving their own legacies. Kevin Garnett’s road to the end is unique compared to the roads taken by Kobe, Duncan, and Dirk. Garnett is the only one of the four to play for more than one franchise.

While NBA team’s marketing departments capitalize on Kobe Bryant’s arrivals in their respective cities, Garnett’s unofficial tour is seemingly shorter and more intimate. Even though Garnett has  another year on his contract after this season and hasn’t made any indications of retiring, the number of games he has remaining seem more limited than that. Garnett also isn’t putting up the numbers that would infer that he could play beyond this season. KG isn’t going to advertise that the end is near, but seems like he would prefer his retirement party to be amongst those that are near and dear to him. We are calling it the Mini-tour not only because Mini-tour has ‘Minny’ in it (cue the drums), but because Garnett is visiting, maybe for the last time, the cities he spent time in that led him back home.

Garnett is going out of the league the way that he has led his entire career, selfless. KG is spending his final games investing in the future of the games’ of the young Timberwolves core. It’s clear the Wolves are not chasing a championship and Garnett seems fine with that. He isn’t spending the end of his career chasing rings like many other veterans. He is teaching, selflessly. He still plays with the same passion and grit that he always has played with. He still talks smack better than anyone. But what Garnett’s farewell tour represents is more romantic than cinematic.

The Masterminds in the NBA Front Office snuck in back-to-back games against Garnett’s former teams as the Wolves take a quick road trip out East. It didn’t make sense that the Wolves would play in New York one day, come back home, just to fly back to Brooklyn for their next game. There is deep wisdom in it all. The Wolves take on the Brooklyn Nets in an early matchup Sunday at 12pm CT. Then the Wolves take on the Celtics on Monday at 6:30pm. We all know KG rests on the backend of back-to-backs, but the way this is configured, we may see an exception.

First, most back-t0-back games occur with a start time about 24 hours within each other. This one has an added six hours for what it’s worth. The next thing to point out is the Wolves play the Nets first and then the Celtics. KG’s legacy with the Nets isn’t necessarily as historic as his with the Celtics, being that KG won his championship with the Celtics. So it would be odd if Garnett missed the backend game against the Celtics since he accomplished arguably more as a Celtic than as a Wolf, depending on how you measure accomplishments.

Regardless how you measure accomplishments, Garnett has definitely accomplished a lot. Garnett has become the all-time leader in defensive rebounds, a recent accomplishment. To KG’s versatility, he is the only player to ever have 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 blocks and 1,500 steals in their career. He is tied with the making the most NBA First Team All-Defense, being on that team 9 times. Looking at how consistent Garnett has been through his career, he is also the all-time leader in seasons played with 20.

Garnett playing 20 seasons is quite incredible. For many ’80’s babies’, especially Timberwolves fans, Garnett was one of the most influential players to play the game in their generations. Garnett continues to make an deep impact today, regardless of his age and regardless of the stage in his career. While a return to Brooklyn doesn’t seem to be too crazy for Garnett being that he spent a year and a half there, his impact anywhere is something that demands respect. The Wolves still present Garnett last in player introductions, usually reserved for the team’s best player. And while KG doesn’t have the knees to goal-tend shots that come after a whistle from opposing teams, his pre-game rituals have lasted the test of time and are nostalgic.

So will Garnett play both games in the back-to-back? Although we are proclaiming this to be the ‘Kevin Garnett Farewell Mini-Tour’, we have to believe Garnett is thinking about this stretch of games just as much. Well maybe not. But the game to consider the most is definitely the Celtics game. Boston fans love Garnett almost as much as Wolves fans do. There sure will be a lot of encouragement for him to play under the circumstances that Wolves only visit Eastern Conference teams once.

While we want to use Garnett’s quote “Anything is Possible!’ to say he could play the two games on Sunday and Monday, he has missed meaningful games before. Many Wolves fans remember Garnett missing his first game against Minnesota with the Celtics due to an abdominal strain. The game was a sellout and the Timberwolves Organization was forced to send tickets to the fans in attendance to compensate for the disappointment. Garnett isn’t married to the idea that he needs to play in what could be his last time in Brooklyn or Boston. He does what he wants and probably could retire knowing he missed this game for his health.

We will definitely be watching closely. Both cities will likely host tributes for Garnett when they play the Wolves. If he doesn’t play in Boston, it is at least a reminder to appreciate the last few games Garnett will play, in light of all the craziness surrounding this season. It’s a good idea to step back and think what the game may look like without Garnett suiting up again and hitting his head against the basket pads. The game will likely never be the same, so enjoy.

News & Notes

  • While the Wolves have gone 2-8 over the last 10 games, one thing we haven’t discussed in a while is Ricky Rubio’s health. Rubio has played 20 games this season while only playing 22 last year. That is a positive. So Wolves fans, as Ricky says: Change your face, be happy. Enjoy!
  • Andrew Wiggins had 32 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists in the win over the Kings. Wiggins is the youngest player in Timberwolves history to have 30 points, 10 boards, and 5 assists. Yes he did it younger than Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, and even Ndudi Ebi.
  • Wolves fans voted that the Kings would beat the Wolves in our Twitter poll ( @Timberrebuilder), a first where the homer-Wolves fans didn’t believe we would win.
  • Couple of tweets we liked from other people that are worth sharing:

Big fan of Brad Stevens, head coach of the Celtics. Will take that compliment.

Karl-Anthony Towns is amazing. #NBAvote

The Timber (re)Builder