2016-17 Minnesota Timberwolves: 32 Hot Wolves Takes that can’t go wrong for the upcoming season
It’s hard to have “hot takes” when it comes to a really bad team. What can you possibly proclaim about them? “This team won’t be 29th in defense!” There isn’t a lot of interest in predicting the mediocre of the NBA.
However, throw in an up-and-coming team with a T-1000 for a franchise big man and a maniacal coach who is there to transform an organization from punch line to contender in the coming years, and now we’ve got the oven preheated, the oven mitts on, and a kitchen getting warmer. THAT is a team you want to throw hot takes toward.
I did this before the 2013-14 season when the Minnesota Timberwolves were supposed vie for a playoff berth. They ended up going 40-42, which was their best non-Kevin Garnett season in franchise history. What a weird accomplishment. Because Kevin Love was the team’s best player at the time, I went with 42 hot takes. Thankfully this time around, Karl-Anthony Towns is the Wolves’ best player and his number is 32. That means less work for me.
Back when I did this in 2013, I ended up getting 22 of the 42 predictions correct and I was just off on a handful of predictions (offensive rank, Kevin Martin scoring average, Ricky Rubio assists). There were also several that I was completely wrong about (Kevin Martin free throw rate, Wolves making the playoffs, mother of god I picked JJ Barea as a fan favorite). Overall, I’ll take being above .500 when it comes to predictive hot takes. How will I fare this coming season?
Here are 32 Hot Wolves Takes that will undoubtedly look prescient and brilliant in six months:
1. Karl-Anthony Towns starts the All-Star Game
Let’s start off with a bang here. This isn’t proclaiming that Towns will make his first All-Star Game two years into his career. Well, technically it is, but we’re not stopping there. I say he gets voted in as a starter in the West, even when there is no longer an incentive or a system that warrants voting centers into the starting lineup. Everybody seems to be picking this season as our first of many All-Star Game appearances for KAT and Giannis Antetokounmpo, but Towns will be the one voted in by the fans.
It may seem a bit crazy that this is the case, especially considering the conference employs Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol, and Anthony Davis. Those are some pretty solid frontcourt options and it doesn’t even include all of the great forwards who could be voted in. However, we’ve seen the fans reward Kevin Love in 2014 when he was on the Wolves (Towns is much more well liked nationally now than Love was back then), Marc Gasol in 2015, and Kobe Bryant last season (listed as a forward).
Towns already has the buzz, hype, and recognition from the basketball fandom world. As long as the Wolves don’t completely wet the bed and ruin the attention around them early in the season, KAT will be good enough to get their votes.
2. Karl-Anthony Towns brings back the SkyHook
Alright now I don’t actually have much evidence of Towns attempting skyhooks and we didn’t see this as a thing in preseason action. We did see Cole Aldrich literally throw some running hook shots in the general direction of a basketball hoop in the preseason, but they didn’t come close to going in. With Towns though, he seems ahead of the game and respectful enough of the past to make this a part of his game.
How big a part of his game? We’re not talking one each night or one each quarter or him doing this from 18 feet with defenders draped all over him. The reason I think the skyhook is making an appearance from KAT this season is because I was going through some old Getty Images from late last season and I came across these two photos I’ll put in .gif form:
A couple years ago, Gorgui Dieng was taking corner 3-pointers before a game toward the end of another playoff-less season. It was a weird surprise for everybody watching the warm-ups. “Why is Gorgui taking 3’s?” He didn’t all of a sudden become Ryan Anderson the next season but we eventually saw it sprinkle into his game. Last year, he hit six 3-pointers the whole season. I think his 3-point shot will become Towns’ skyhook.
We’re getting five skyhook shots going in this season from Karl.
3. KAT and Joel Embiid drop 30 on each other in TNT match-up
November 17th is the Wolves’ first nationally televised game of the season. They face the Philadelphia 76ers on TNT. This is an incredible pairing for a national game, simply because these teams have been so bad the past couple of years. Obviously, this looked like a sexier match-up before Ben Simmons broke his foot, but we’re still getting the big man showdown between Karl-Anthony Towns — the best young big man in the NBA and closing in as the best big in the NBA, period — and Joel Embiid, who if he can stay healthy will challenge Towns for those respective honors.
Even with the minutes limit for Embiid (should be around 24 minutes per game), I think both guys are going to go off against each other. Towns had a bad showdown against Jahlil Okafor, which in hindsight looks hilarious. Okafor is fine but Towns is clearly leagues ahead of him currently and as a prospect. If anything, it probably taught him to come with a little more determination in these individual battles within the context of winning a game. The Wolves should end up winning this home game but the battle between Towns and Embiid is up in the air.
I think Embiid puts up 30 points — mostly against Towns — in this game. Maybe a lot of it is free throws. I also think Towns shows off his jumper against the slower but solid perimeter defender in Embiid. A lack of experience with Embiid could make that jab step of Towns a nightmare for him defending. We saw Towns blow by Marc Gasol a week ago in preseason and Embiid isn’t quite as quick as the Memphis Grizzlies’ center. This is going to be a fun showdown and both big men should shine under the national TV spotlight.
4. Ricky Rubio does not get traded this season
I know the rumors are out there but I’m not buying them… yet. I know we’re getting reports about the Wolves rebuffing trade talks and you have to wonder why those are getting leaked to reporters. Does it benefit the Wolves to drive up the trade asking price? Maybe. Does it benefit a player’s agent to start trying to get him to a better situation when his eventual replacement has been drafted? Most likely.
I don’t think that has anything to do with Rubio right now. I think he wants to play and he wants to help this team get to the playoffs this year, even if he’s not in the long-term plans. That’s just who he is. Rubio probably gets dealt on draft night or the first week of free agency, but I don’t buy him getting moved before March.
5. Ricky Rubio plays at least 75 games
The Spanish point guard has played in 70.5% of his possible career games. Due to ACL injuries and a vicious ankle problem two seasons ago, Rubio has played in 278 of a possible 394 games. His first season was cut short by an ACL tear when the Wolves were battling for the 8-seed in the lockout-truncated season. The next season, he missed a couple months as he rehabbed from that same knee injury. Then in his third season, Rubio played in all 82 games.
Two seasons ago, Rubio was off to a tear under Flip Saunders before badly spraining his ankle and suffering some real ligament damage that limited him to 22 games. There may have been a little tanking involved as well that kept him out, but his ankle was in very bad shape. Last season, Arnie Kander’s warlockian ways kept him out of six of the first 17 games, which made some people wonder if Rubio would be healthy enough to play a significant number of games. Ricky finished the season playing the final 65 games and totaling 76 games all up. It was the second healthiest season of his career.
I think we’re getting close to that, if not better in 2016-17. The tricky part of this is Kander is no longer a part of the team. He’s retired to Colorado and wasn’t going to be a full-time employee even if he hadn’t. With Tom Thibodeau’s reputation for running players into the ground (which John Lucas III refutes) and Rubio’s injury history, Kander’s absence seems like the final ingredient to a significantly absent season for Rubio. I don’t think that recipe ends up making anything in 2016-17.
6. Adreian Payne has a 20-point game for the Wolves this season
I know you’re scoffing at this out of muscle memory but I feel very strongly about this. This one is definitely happening.
7. I mistakenly write “Adreian Payne” when I mean to write “Cole Aldrich” this season
I definitely meant Cole Aldrich will have a 20-point game this season. If you set the over/under at 20 points on the season for Adreian Payne, I’d take the over, but I’d really have a long think about it before I did (he scored 132 points last season). As for Aldrich, he’s had two 20-point games in his career, both coming at the end of the respective seasons. Last season, Doc Rivers was resting all of the important players for the Los Angeles Clippers, essentially gifting a win in a playoff race for the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City, and the Clippers won behind a game-winner from Jamal Crawford and Aldrich dropping 21 points, 18 rebounds, and five steals in 40 minutes for the upset.
I know what you’re thinking. Cole isn’t getting a 40-minute game this season. You’re probably right. HOWEVER:
The other one came 51 weeks earlier when Aldrich scored 24 points in just 27 minutes of action in a meaningless game for the New York Knicks. Two straight seasons, Aldrich has dropped 20-plus in an April game. It’s happening for a third straight season, except I’ll say it happens before April.
8. Nemanja Bjelica starts 30 or more games
Part of me really wants Nemanja Bjelica to be the starting power forward for this team. I keep going back to that meaningless preseason game against the Miami Heat a couple weeks ago when Erik Spoelstra was steadfast on Hassan Whiteside not guarding Karl-Anthony Towns so he could help his power forward teammate around the rim. Then Tom Thibodeau threw up two blazing middle fingers to that strategy by removing Gorgui Dieng and putting Bjelica in there. Spoelstra kept Whiteside off of Towns and Bjelica drew him away from the basket.
It’s not a foreign idea to have this work by any means, but it just showed the match-up problems Towns and a stretch-4 can throw at the opponent. Risk your star big man getting into foul trouble defending KAT or risk a Fancy Feast for Towns at the rim by keeping a power forward on him. The problem with this is the potential for bad defense is higher than normal because Bjelica isn’t exactly known for that end of the floor. And we know Thibs loves him some defense.
The other problem with this is what you do with the rotation. You can very much live with a few minutes each half of Aldrich at center and Bjelica at the 4. But if you start Bjelica at the 4 and bring Gorgui off the bench, can you play Dieng and Aldrich together and expect the team to have any spacing on offense? That seems like a very real rotational hurdle for the Wolves to clear.
Still, I think Thibodeau is enamored with the prospect of playing Bjelica and Towns together as much as possible, even if it compromises the defense a bit more than he’d normally be comfortable doing. Because of that, I think we’ll go through a real long stretch of the season (either the middle or the last half of it) in which Bjelica starts a lot of games at the 4. Maybe this ends up being true due to injury, but mostly I think the Wolves will blitz teams offensively with this strategy.
9. Shabazz Muhammad returns to being a good 3-point shooter
The Shabazz Muhammad 3-point shot has been a roller coaster in his first three seasons. His rookie year, he took just 11 3-pointers in 290 minutes (made three of them). It wasn’t really part of his game. Then in his second season, Muhammad found his shooting stroke before injuries shortened his campaign. He took 51 attempts in 866 minutes. The key for Bazz in shooting 39.3% from deep that season was the corner 3-point shot. He went 9-of-22 (40.9%) from the corners and 11-of-29 (37.9%) from above-the-break.
Last season was a disaster for Bazz above-the-break. He shot just 16-of-84 (19%) from above-the-break 3-point attempts. He couldn’t buy anything in that range. Left wing. Right wing. Top of the arc. None of it worked for him. But the corners? Wooooooooooweeeeeee did he shoot the ball well from corner 3-point attempts. He went 38.1% from the left corner and 48% from the right corner as he attempted 67 of his 152 3-point attempts from the corners. But it wasn’t enough to make up for the self-inflicted massacre that was occurring from above-the-break.
Under Sam Mitchell, the Wolves were the only team not to attempt at least 300 3-pointers from the corners. They were 110-of-286 (38.4%) and the league’s prolific volume corner 3-point shooter Trevor Ariza was 89-of-211 (42.2%) from the corners. Under Thibodeau, I think we’re going to see a lot more corner 3-point attempts. I’d expect Zach LaVine and Brandon Rush to get the higher volume of those, but the Wolves really seem to have something early on with the pick-and-roll action in the middle of the floor setting up a corner shooter on the weak side.
Muhammad needs to remain healthy, but he should benefit greatly there. Having him stationed in the corner also positions him to be a sneaky offensive board crasher, and we know he loves to do that. Wolves need to put Bazz in the corner and dance dirty on the defense by making them pay with those shots.
10. The Wolves will have a player drop 50 points in a game
We all remember the drunkenly saturated scoring binges of Mo Williams in January of 2015 and Corey Brewer in April of 2014. Brewer tied Kevin Love’s franchise record of 51 points and nine months later Williams broke it with 52. Those three scoring displays were the only time in franchise history a Wolves player has cracked 50 in a game. A 50-point outburst has happened 31 times over the last five seasons and the Wolves own three of them.
They’re getting another one this season even though Thibodeau has never had a player go for 50 in a game before.
11. That 50-point scorer? Zach LaVine
Karl-Anthony Towns seems to be the easiest guess for this, right? I could predict that he’s going to end world hunger while inventing a new kind of way to grill cow meat that will revolutionize the restaurant industry and many of you would nod in agreement. Andrew Wiggins could be an easy guess for this as well because even though we’re not sold on his outside shot, you can envision a game in which he gets to the free throw line 25 times and feasts on a weaker defender.
But I’m going with Zach LaVine as the team’s 50-point scoring binge this season because he’s probably the most natural scorer they have. If I said LaVine was going to drop 50 in a game he hits 9 or 10 3-pointers, it sounds believable. He’s an unreal shooter and he gets hotter than anybody else on that team. He’s broken 35 only twice in his career (high of 37) and he’s made six 3-pointers in a game twice. Some people wonder if his reputation as a poor defender will ruin his chance at big minutes, but I’m not worried about that at all. There isn’t wing depth to force Thibodeau’s hand here.
LaVine the shooting guard gets out ahead in transition, attacks the rim like they stole his daughter and he changed his name to Liam Neeson, and gravitates toward the 3-point line where he unleashes a lethal barrage of 3-pointers. I don’t know if LaVine will set the franchise record for points in a game, but he’s getting a 50-piece.
12. Wolves will have the best free throw rate in the NBA
Your Minnesota Timberwolves had the second highest free throw rate (free throw attempts divided by field goal attempts) in the NBA last season behind the Houston Rockets. We know Wiggins lives at the line and Rubio’s 53.6% free throw rate is a big boost to how often the Wolves gets to the line. Part of that was helped last season by the 834 minutes Kevin Martin played for the organization, so there may be a slight drop-off in how easily those trips to the charity stripe occur, but the Wolves are still set up to draw contact by overwhelming with their athleticism.
The main reason I think the Wolves lead the NBA in free throw rate is because they should maintain while we see the Rockets drop significantly. Now that Dwight Howard is gone to Atlanta, the combination of Howard and James Harden won’t turn their contests into three-hour YouTube tutorials of how to shoot free throws and not shoot free throws. Harden will still get to the line a ton, but I think we’ll see his rate drop a bit too as he accepts the role of being even more of a distributor and a quick distributor at that.
Clint Capela can’t shoot free throws and is Howard levels of bad, but he’s not going to get Hack-a strategies nearly as often as Howard did. Capela is expected to split time evenly with Nene and the small changes to the intentional foul parameters should lessen that a bit. Wolves didn’t make their trips due to Hack-a attempts. This sets them up to be the best at getting to the line in 2016-17.
13. Wolves will be a top-8 offense in the NBA
We covered this a bit in our over/under predictions for this coming season, so I won’t go too deep into it. Wolves finished 11th in offensive rating this past season, mostly because they abandoned defense in hopes of honing their offensive talent in the second half of the season and because of that free throw rate I just talked about. Of the teams that finished behind the Wolves last season, the Boston Celtics, New Orleans Pelicans (health pending), Utah Jazz, and Atlanta Hawks could be a threat to jump them. I’d have thrown the Detroit Pistons in there too but Reggie Jackson will miss significant time.
The Celtics are the biggest threat there. But for the 10 teams that finished ahead of the Wolves, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks, and Charlotte Hornets could all drop below the Wolves. The Thunder without Kevin Durant is a wild card, Rick Carlisle will work some voodoo to help the Mavs but we just don’t know with them yet, and the Hornets’ injury concerns are the main reason I’d doubt them. Assuming the Wolves can be better in transition with more stops and will embrace the 3-point shot much more, I think top-8 in offensive rating is a real likelihood.
14. Wolves will not be in the top half of the league in defense
Also covered this enough in the over/under predictions to keep this brief, but I think the Wolves cracking the top 20 in defensive rating is a healthy, appropriate jump for this first season under Thibodeau. Getting into the top half of the league seems crazy ambitious for a team that will have a starting lineup of an average age of 23 years old and 13 total years of experience in the NBA heading into this season.
15. KAT drops 40 in a game three times
Towns only cracked 30 points in a game four times as a rookie and topped out at 35. So how is he going to score 40 points three times in a game in Year 2? Despite being a focal point of the offense last season, he’s going to be even more of a focal point this season under Thibodeau. The only thing that could possibly keep him from doing this is his unselfishness. He was the best shooting big man in the NBA last season. He was the best mid-range shooter in all of basketball and he’s doing stuff like this now:
I mean pic.twitter.com/T386iMlpHM
— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) October 22, 2016
It’s pretty rare for guys in their second year to drop 40 in a game once, let alone multiple times. But you know what season it is. Yarn Getting SZN.
16. KAT gets multiple 20-20 games
This one is admittedly a much easier sell here. Towns getting a couple of 20-20 games seems very doable and likely. He had 21 rebounds in a game last season but it came with only 11 points next to it (also 9 assists holy crap he’s good). He had over 20 points with 17 rebounds twice. I didn’t specify a number here outside of multiple. So I probably need to throw one out there. Let’s say four 20-20 games. Is that insane? I don’t know but it’s KAT so whatever.
17. Andrew Wiggins delivers the Poster of the Year in the NBA
We know Wiggins has put it on Rudy Gobert. We know Wiggins tried to put something vicious on Hassan Whiteside last season and just barely missed it.
Wiggins, despite being soft-spoken and generally a quiet guy, seems to seek out these shot blockers to dunk on. After that game against the Heat, Wiggins told me this when asked about the dunk attempt:
“I’ll try to dunk on anybody,” Wiggins said before he laughed. “If I’m in the key and I’ve got the right footing, I’ll try to dunk on anybody. It doesn’t matter who it is.”
Towns can do some ridiculous stuff for a big man and LaVine is the best contest dunker in the NBA. But Wiggins goes for the throat — or should I say the chin — when it comes to in-game dunks. He’s going to put it on somebody this season and that poster/YouTube/Vine will be the best the league has to offer in 2016-17.
18. Andrew Wiggins cracks 600 free throws made
It’s hard to imagine Wiggins getting to the free throw line more often than he did last season. He took 565 free throw attempts — good for 7 attempts per game — and finished with the fourth highest total in Wolves history. Even with Towns and LaVine being even bigger parts of the offense this coming season, I expect Wiggins to build on those attempt numbers and become the second player in franchise history to crack 600 in a season (Love — 633).
The reason is pretty simple too. While his 3-point shot may not be a thing quite yet, his improved handle certainly is. After all that work with Drew Hanlen, he looks to be much more comfortable with the ball. So not only is Wiggins going to be able to get to spots he wants much easier, he’s going to get to them much quicker too. And when a guy is quicker and more athletic than you, you usually don’t have much of an option other than fouling him before he can get off a clean shot. If you thought that spin move into the middle of the lane was deadly before, watch it develop with better control of the ball.
19. Zach LaVine comes just short of setting the Wolves’ single-season 3-pointers made record
Again the over/under predictions post (marketing!) covered some of this. I set the over/under at 174.5 made 3-pointers for LaVine this season after knocking down 123 last season. I think we see a huge jump in how he uses the 3-point line under Thibodeau. We’ll still see some of those one step inside the 3-point line jumpers, but mostly I think we’ll see LaVine pepper defenses from outside. I’m guessing he hits about 180 3-pointers next season. That’s a little over two makes per game for 82 games. Franchise record is 190 by Love. That will stand… for now…
20. Wolves are bottom 10 in turnover rate
Wolves were 23rd last season in turnover rate, but I’m not convinced we see much of an improvement in that this coming season. Some of that is the youth but I also don’t quite know what to make out of Thibodeau style offenses (especially updated ones) and his coaching’s effect on taking care of the ball. When he was in Chicago, they were all over the place in his five years. They were top 10 sometimes and 18th or 24th other times. I think a lot of those low turnover rate seasons happened due to injuries on the roster (see: Rose, Derrick).
Because their personnel was always in flux, Thibodeau seemed to adjust how aggressive the offense was. Assuming health with the Wolves (which by now pretty much all of these depend upon), I think they’re going to be loose with the ball and finish somewhere between 21-30th in the NBA in turnover rate. Most likely they’ll be around 21st-23rd.
21. Andrew Wiggins won’t come close to 3,000 minutes played this season
The league has become much more aware of the effect heavy minutes can have on the health of a player. Since Wiggins joined the league in 2014, only James Harden last season played at least 3,000 minutes in a season. Prior to Wiggins joining the NBA in 2014, the previous two seasons saw seven players break the 3,000-minute barrier. Loading up a player with minutes like that just isn’t commonplace anymore.
So the big question becomes does notorious minutes giver Tom Thibodeau throw Wiggins back into danger of crossing that threshold? Wiggins played 2,969 in 82 games as a rookie. In his second season, that decreased to 2,845 minutes in 81 games. Are we going to see another decrease in minutes with such a thing group of wings? Has Thibodeau learned his lesson like he claims? Or will Wiggins load up on minutes like he’s Jimmy Butler or Luol Deng? If Wiggins plays 80 games this season, I’ll say he finishes with fewer than 2,800 minutes. This is the hot take I’m least confident in.
22. Wolves will have five players with at least 100 3-pointers attempted AND above league average accuracy
League average in 3-point percentage is typically around 35%. Assuming a league average of 35% this season, I think LaVine, Brandon Rush, Towns, Bjelica, and Muhammad all take at least 100 3-pointers while exceeding league average in 3-point accuracy.
23. KAT goes 20-10-3.5 for the season
Since the rule changes in 2004-05, we’ve seen only seven times in 12 seasons in which someone has averaged at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Predictably, Kevin Garnett did it three of those seven times. Blake Griffin did it. David Lee did it. Kevin Love did it. And DeMarcus Cousins just did it. Towns will do it this year.
24. Ricky Rubio ends up the first guard left off of All-Defensive Second Team
Last season, Rubio finished with six first place votes for All-Defensive team, but was the fifth guard left on the second team behind Klay Thompson, Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, and Russell Westbrook. I’m not going to be bold enough to pick Rubio to make First or Second team this season (although under Thibodeau is his best chance yet), but I do think he finishes with the most votes outside of the guards who actually make the teams.
Part of his problem will always be the stigma of European defenders for those who just don’t pay attention to that side of the floor. They see a Spanish point guard and assume he can’t defend. That will be less of a problem under Thibodeau and he may even lead the NBA in steals this season, which would help his case for those basic stat-driven voters. However, with guys like Avery Bradley, Chris Paul, Mike Conley, and Tony Allen always in the mix (among others), that’s just too crowded of a backcourt for Rubio to break through. He’ll be deserving though.
25. Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine finish top 7 in Most Improved voting
I don’t think either player will win the award. I think Giannis Antetokounmpo is pretty much a lock to win Most Improved Player. But LaVine will probably finish top 3 in voting and I think Wiggins gets enough votes to finish top 7, as well.
26. Kris Dunn puts a defender on his tail feathers with a crossover
I have high hopes for Kris Dunn under Tom Thibodeau over the coming years, but a poor scoring preseason (important not to say poor overall preseason) has helped recalibrate what many people think of his readiness to be an NBA impact player. Like I’ve said, I don’t believe Rubio will be traded this season, so I think Dunn is firmly in the backup point guard position unless we see a huge breakthrough from him.
You know what that means though? He’s going to be attacking against lesser players this season. You know what else that means? The chances of him sweeping the leg of the opponent on a crossover are much higher than they’d normally be. Remember what he did to JaKarr Sampson in Las Vegas?
He didn’t make the shot but he let everybody know that ankle-hunting season is open. He’ll catch someone with a vicious move this year that makes it look like the defender tried to put left foot on the red circle in Twister and died.
27. Wolves take down the Warriors in one of their match-ups
The infamous win over the Warriors late in their historic 73-win regular season was a lot of fun. While this looks a little easier as we overreact to Game 1 of the 2016-17 season (San Antonio Spurs blitzed them), the Wolves are going to win at least one of the games against the Warriors. To make this even bolder, I’m calling my shot!
Let’s make it another late season triumph. They’re definitely winning the April 4th game in Oakland.
28. Wolves go 6-10 against the Northwest Division
My predictions against their division:
Utah Jazz 1-3
Denver Nuggets 3-1
Portland Trail Blazers 1-3
Oklahoma City Thunder 1-3
29. Towns comes in third again in clutch attempts for the Wolves
This is the clutch field goal table for the Wolves from Inpredictable.com for last season. KAT was third in both clutch field goal attempts for the Wolves last season and clutch usage (19.3%) among the players who received significant run. Part of this could be due to the fact that he was a rookie. Even though the Wolves were running a lot of their offense through Towns, you’re more likely to trust a more veteran presence, even if it’s just an extra year of experience like Wiggins or LaVine.
Also, it’s easier to get off a good shot in most situations with a wing player who can create his own shot than a big man. It’s why you often saw the ball in the hands of Manu Ginobili in San Antonio at the end of tight games to start plays more often than you did with Tim Duncan. Despite Towns clearly being THE GUY for the Wolves now and moving forward, I think we’ll see a similar distribution of clutch opportunities this coming season. I actually trust Wiggins quite a bit in these situations and I have no problem with trusting LaVine to make shots with the game on the line.
But it’s hard to look at the effective field goal percentage of both compared to Towns and not wonder if KAT should just be the guy to buck that NBA trend of how you create clutch offense, especially with his skill set.
Towns could end up being the facilitator in a lot of these shot-creating situations though.
30. Karl-Anthony Towns makes All-NBA Second Team
There was some serious chatter for the Wolves rookie making an All-NBA team last season. That’s how good Towns was/is. We know he had a historic season for a rookie — putting up numbers only Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal have done in the modern era. And I don’t think we’re in any danger of him going Tyreke Evans on us and not coming through on building upon a historic rookie campaign.
In the end, Towns finished as the second center left off the All-NBA Third Team. His 44 voting points were significantly behind Al Horford (76) and All-NBA Third Team center Andre Drummond (173). But the fact that he garnered votes in the first place is pretty ridiculous (in a valid, good way). This season? He’s leapfrogging the Third Team and finishing on the Second Team. Maybe we even see DeMarcus Cousins on the First Team as the only center ahead of him.
31. Wolves tie the most successful non-KG season in franchise history
Remember that 40-win “debacle” at the top of this post? That was the most wins in franchise history when Kevin Garnett wasn’t on the team. It was also wildly disappointing for them and their point differential that season. Maybe a 40-win season this time for the Wolves will be disappointing to many. Lots of fans and pundits are wondering if we’ll see an Oklahoma City Thunder-type of leap like when they went from 23 victories to 50 wins in a year.
That seems… ambitious to me, to say the least. Their over/under on most sports books is 41.5 wins and I’m just not ready to call this team with such a young core an above .500 squad. 40-42 is just fine for me and my expectations for them, and I think they’ll go through exactly what they need to experience in order to make that the last losing record for a very long time.
32. The hype is fun but this season won’t end in a playoff appearance
If I’m picking 40 wins, then I’m also picking a 13th straight year of no postseason appearance, although KAT went to Finals games last season so maybe that counts? I also think starting next season, we’re getting at least a decade of consecutive postseason berths, if not more than that.
The best part about this prediction? If I’m wrong, the Wolves are in the playoffs. If I’m right, my vanity of getting at least one of these predictions is bolstered. This is how this works, right?