The Minnesota Timberwolves are a team of potential. With so many variables going into their success, here are the key things to watch this season.
Minnesota Timberwolves fans have an interesting season in front of them. Tom Thibodeau and Karl-Anthony Towns are sure prospects. Practically everything else can fall in a variety of different ways.
Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine Offensive Progression
The Bounce Brothers are an exciting tandem to watch. Both have a knack for highlight plays. Wiggins has a few posterizers to his name while Lavine thrives on the elevated breakaway jam.
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Despite the athletic awe these two have inspired, the offense last year completely lacked a plan. Former head coach Sam Mitchell’s Wolves seemed to rest in a weird limbo between tanking and player development.
The extremely elementary offense revolved around isolation, force-feeding Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins backing defenders down. Mix in a couple of Gorgui Dieng hook shots and Zach Lavine pull up jumpers and that’s the offense in a nut shell.
This year, the Wolves finally have identity in a coach. While head coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t primarily viewed for his offense, he did just take a year off of basketball. To think a brilliant coach like Thibs didn’t pick up a couple of tricks would be a bold thought.
In a way, this is the first time fans will actually get to see if the bounce brothers can live up to the hype. There are no more excuses. They have a great coach, a great, young starting roster and most likely some form of an offensive strategy. Watching these two wingers move in space with real team ball movement might finally give fans a picture of who these two players are.
Watch for Zach Lavine’s court vision to improve. Also watch to see if he can nail open jump shots off the pass at a good percentage. Wiggins needs to hit more open jump shots, win one on one battles, improve his ball handling in isolation and improve his court vision and passing.
If these two players step up this season on offense, get ready for even more big three talk in the league.
Kris Dunn’s usage
Ricky Rubio has inspired trade speculation throughout the offseason. If that trade is even in the conversation, Tom Thibodeau will likely wait until Kris Dunn has proven himself ready to make such a move.
It’s easy to assume Kris Dunn will see decent minutes early in the season due to his length and defensive prowess. Such attributes are ideal in Thibodeau’s defense. Still, Rubio is also an excellent defender and a reliable play maker on offense.
Watch to see if Kris Dunn can steal minutes from Rubio by playing Thibs’ brand of defense and scoring efficiently on offense. If Dunn can play well on offense in the opener against the Grizzlies, don’t be surprised if he emerges as a starter by December.
In 2015-16, the Minnesota Timberwolves were the seventh worst in points per game allowed and third worst in opponent field goal percentage. Tom Thibodeau, on the other hand, led the Bulls to first place in points per game allowed in 2013-14 and top three in points per game allowed and opponent field goal percentage in 2014-15. The Minnesota Timberwolves are not short on long, talented players. Tom Thibodeau is sure to turn this aloof defense into a stingy, effort-driven team this season.
The bench of the Minnesota Timberwolves may prove to be their Achilles heal this season. There are so many questions. Will Brandon Rush provide consistent outside scoring in limited minutes? Can Shabazz Muhammad play to his ceiling more consistently? Can Cole Aldrich and Jordan Hill contribute meaningful offense? Will Tyus Jones transfer his icy-vein summer league performance to the true NBA? Is Kris Dunn ready to be a pro?
Everyone knows Tom Thibodeau likes to play his starters in high minutes. It will be interesting to see if the bench can make any impact in the limited time they see.