Timberwolves ‘Measuring Stick’ Teams

The 2016-17 Season is right around the corner!! As the season progresses, it will be important for the Wolves to get an idea of how good they really are. One way to see how you are doing through the season outside of stats and standings is seeing how you perform against another team, typically around the same caliber as you. In the West, there are a handful of teams that are locks for the playoffs and there are about 8 teams competing for 3 spots in the West. There will be broken hearts. If the Wolves do make the playoffs, they have to serve the role of heart breaker.

But what teams can the Wolves use as measuring sticks this season? How can they tell if they are going to break hearts by the end of the year? First, lets define what a ‘measuring stick’ team is. A measuring stick team can come in many forms. First, they are likely a team that is on the bubble of the playoffs. They are a team that you probably performed poorly against the previous season. They are a team that you could potentially jump ahead of in the standings this season. They match up well against you and can be a test at things you think you improved on over the off-season.

New Orleans Pelicans

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While the Pelicans won 30 games last season, they made the playoffs the season before with 45 wins. The ‘Brow hype has died down due to injuries, but I still believe Anthony Davis is one of the most talented players in the league. I also believe they added some solid pieces this offseason. I don’t know if the Pels make the playoffs, but they could serve as the ‘floor’ measuring stick this season. A team the Timberwolves have to outplay will be the Pelicans, and it may be harder than it sounds. Buddy Hield is probably one of the more NBA-ready rookies who can shoot the lights out. Solomon Hill signed with New Orleans this summer and I believe he could be a real difference maker. They also managed to steal away Langston Galloway and Terrance Jones. If health is on the Pelicans’ side, it may be hard for the Wolves to win 3 out of 4 meetings. They split the season series last year.

Regardless of team outcomes, this will also be a measuring stick for Karl-Anthony Towns. There is much debate around who is the best big man in the league. Davis and Towns are the future of that discussion. There is also the Kentucky rivalry to throw in there. It could turn into a Garnett/ Duncan-like rivalry in the future.

Dallas Mavericks

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The Dallas Mavericks are looking to hold on to their playoff position with the acquisition of Harrison Barnes this offseason. The Mavericks finished 6th in the West with a 42-40 record. As Dirk is nearing the end of his career, it will be interesting to see how they hold on to playoff hopes. The reason they are a good measuring stick is because this is a team with experience and high-expectations. This is also a team that would likely need to fall out of the playoffs in order for the Wolves to make it in. The Wolves also lost all four matchups with the Mavs last season. In all the games, the Mavs wings found ways to torch the Wolves. Although Chandler Parsons is no longer with the Mavericks, it will be a good test to see if the Wolves perimeter defense improved against a team that has no shortage of scorers and shooters.

Denver Nuggets

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets are a team still looking for an identity. They relied on the incredibly inefficient rookie Emmanual Mudiay at point guard last season. After winning 33 games, the Nuggets will try to improve through the development of their international big men. Jusuf Nurkic made a late push for Rookie of the Year, so it will be interesting to see how he responds in year two. Some how though, the Nuggets managed to win 3 of 4 meetings with the Timberwolves last season. Not underestimating the Nuggets, but if the Wolves are planning on having a successful season, they will need to out-win the Nuggets. The Wolves should be aiming to win 2-3 meetings this year.

To do that, the Wolves will need to figure out how to guard Danilo Gallinari. The Wolves haven’t been successful guarding stretch-4s who can shoot and operate out of the triple-threat. While coaching should help this, Gallinari was guarded by someone who had no business guarding him in OT last year, which really pointed out the Wolves gaps on the perimeter defensively. Can Wiggins guard him this season? We shall see.

 

Utah Jazz

Zach LaVine, Rodney Hood

The Utah Jazz are the ultimate measuring stick team for the Timberwolves. Not only are they divisional rivals, but they have a good amount of hype and barely didn’t make the playoffs last season. The Jazz are about as hungry, if not hungrier, for a playoff spot this season. According to @PaulDeVos7, the Wolves were only 5 wins behind the Jazz in the final 40 games last year. The Jazz did take the season series 3-1 with all of the games happening after December 30th. But what makes the Jazz incredibly intriguing is that they have players at each position that will not only challenge the Wolves, but are almost a toss up when discussing who is better.

Ricky Rubio is better than George Hill and that might be the biggest advantage the Wolves have. Derrick Favors is not better than Towns, but I do think Favors is fairly underrated. On the perimeter, Hayward is better than Wiggins and Hood edges out LaVine simply because he is a great two-way player. If the Wolves want to outplay the Jazz this season, Wiggins will have to outperform Gordon Hayward. The Jazz also have added a significant amount of depth by signing Boris Diaw, Joe Johnson, and Daunte Exum returning from injury.

The Wolves will have an advantage early in the season against the Jazz with Hayward injured. The Jazz won 40 games last year and could get closer to 50 this year. If the Wolves jump into the 40-win range, it will be important to win two games against the Jazz. Regardless, this could be a good rivalry this season. Especially if we see Andrew Wiggins continue his efforts in posterizing Rudy Gobert.


While an argument could be made for all the ‘bubble’ teams, we felt like this was a diverse group and could test out different things against the Wolves. Agree? Disagree? Have other ‘measuring stick’ teams? Let us know!

The Timber Rebuilder.

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Start a Team with Davis or Towns?

For Karl-Anthony Towns, the present is absolutely a gift. When Towns was drafted, he was picked mostly on his IQ and potential instead of what he could immediately bring to a team. Many didn’t expect Towns to start, let alone be a front runner in the Rookie of the Year race. Now the internet is making arguments that Towns should maybe even be an All-Star.

KAT is producing at levels that puts him in line with Hall of Famers. Towns has a PER that should end up in the top 10 all time for a rookie here. Towns is doing this despite playing only a year in college whilst many others on this list played at least a couple years of college basketball before entering the NBA. To add to that, Towns is playing less than 30 minutes, much less than most of those on the previous Rookie PER list. Towns’ combination of potential due to his age and production is uncanny to what the league has seen before.

While it may not be saying much, Towns in a short time-span has been the most productive player on the Wolves’ young team. All advanced statistics point towards him being the most valuable player on the floor for the Timberwolves. He has been consistent for the most part in this young season. He is second on the Wolves in scoring and leads the team in rebounds, blocks, and field goal %.

The cremé de la cremé of NBA prospects though happens to be Anthony Davis. Davis was in contention of the MVP award last season in only his third season. Davis put up monstrous numbers, putting up 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks a game while leading the Pelicans to the playoffs. The unibrow has been more exposed though this season as the team has struggled to gain traction and improve any. Davis is still managing to put up similar numbers nonetheless. Davis is an outstanding defender, incredible rim protector, and can score in multiple ways. Both guys are products of the University of Kentucky, in which their head coach John Calipari prepared both of them to carry NBA franchises.

So, if you had to build a team around one of these guys, Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns, who do you take?

A couple of things immediately. There isn’t a right answer to this question. Both are incredible assets. There are many variables to the ‘starting a franchise’ question. What is your team’s strategy? When do you want to win? Who are the players around this specific player? Many more. Just have fun with the debate.

The obvious choice is Davis. Anthony Davis has a few things that edge Towns right away. Davis is a better player now. He is a better scorer. Better rebounder. Better shot blocker. He is a sure thing. To mitigate risk, the easy choice is Davis. He is still very young at only 22 years old. He has tons of potential still. He is developing a jump shot and can safely put the ball on the floor for a big man. He is also a freak athlete, which can be a gift and a curse as his career progresses.

Towns has a couple things going for him, but nothing that truly gives him a great advantage over Davis today. The case for Towns is heavily dependent on his potential on both ends of the floor. Towns could be about as good a defensive anchor as Davis. Towns’ offense game though is more versatile as he could be better at creating his own shot already. Towns also has a jump shot that demands respect and extends over the 3-point line. Towns being a defensive presence that can shoot is one of the most unique combinations a player at his position can possibly be.

While many would end the debate there, there should be a case made for Towns even over simply his potential. As mentioned before, the dependence on Davis’ athleticism can sometimes be a hinderance later in his career. Seeing the drastic drop off in athletic big men’s games like Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire, or even Kevin Garnett, can be alarming. Towns have less dependence on his athletic ability and more so on his basketball IQ suggests that his game could have the longevity in his career similar to that of Tim Duncan and Dirk. A lot of times athletic players are forced to reinvent their games midway through their careers while more IQ reliant players seem to have more consistency in the long run.

Most GM’s in the NBA would probably take Davis because it is safe. But a more bold, forward-thinking GM would probably build around Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns is a more high risk, high reward choice. I would imagine that more than 1/4 of General Managers by next season will want to start a franchise with Towns over Davis.