AWAW Mailbag: Late Offseason Edition
It’s September. The doldrums of the late offseason are upon us, but, alas, they’re almost past! The Timberwolves will likely be finalizing the roster in the coming days and/or weeks and the first preseason game is slated for September 30th against the Los Angeles Lakers in Anaheim. I figured now would be a good time to answer a few fan questions to help pass the time.
I've been a long-time Grizz fan, but decided to become a Twolves fan this summer.Im all in.Is this acceptable?What's a new fan need to know?
— Mark Harris (@TweetsByHarris) September 4, 2017
First off, absolutely that’s acceptable; welcome! I’ve never been one to get annoyed with quote-unquote bandwagon fans and the way the Wolves have fared for the last decade plus, their fanbase is in no position to turn away quote-unquote bandwagon fans. Also, who says you can’t be a fan of multiple teams, ya know?
Anyway, the list is near endless for what you need to know (the leader for nearly every statistic in team history is Kevin Garnett, D’OH ED MALLOY, the Joe Smith debacle, etcetera etcetera), so I’ll just stick to 5 Things Any New Wolves’ Fan Should Know Heading Into the 2017-18 Season.
Number 1: The Wolves traded away fan favorite Ricky Rubio this past summer, therefore, you should be sad.
Rubio was drafted by the squad in 2009, but didn’t come state side until 2011. From the day he was picked until the day he left, Rubio was arguably the most beloved Timberwolf. He was a passing wizard, ran the offense like how a maestro conducts an orchestra, and was annually one of the most under-rated defenders, not only at his position but in the NBA in general. He was good-to-great at everything…except shooting.
Wolves’ fans loved to defend him 1. because he is legitimately really good (he always made the team better despite not being an advanced statistics darling) and many in the national media/fanbase failed to recognize it and 2. because he did stuff like this all the time:
Very few people in the recent history of the Minnesota Timberwolves wanted to (and deserved to) win as badly as Ricky Rubio. And the Wolves traded him away to the Utah Jazz for a lottery protected first-round pick (via Oklahoma City) so they could sign Jeff Teague. Now, there is a legitimate argument to be made that moving on from Rubio was the smart choice (by the end, reports were surfacing that Rubio was ready to and wanted to move on and Teague, who is a better shooter, may just be better suited to be successful in Tom Thibodeau’s system), but seeing Rubio in a Jazz’ jersey on October 20th is going to sting. So be sad! But also be happy and cheer the guy on because he deserves success.
2. The Wolves traded away Zach LaVine this summer, therefore, you should be sad…BUT…they picked up Jimmy Butler as a result, so you should be very, very happy.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. LaVine was selected 13th overall in the 2014 draft and nobody really knew what to expect from him. He floundered for much of his rookie season while playing out of position as a point guard, but took off over the last two seasons. His points per game rose from 10.1 to 14.0 to 18.9. His three-point attempts per game from 2.2 to 3.9 to 6.6 (while his three-point percentage rose from 34.1% to 38.9%). His effective field goal percentage from 46.5% to 51.6% to 54.4%. His minutes per game from 24.7 to 28.0 to 37.2. He could also dunk!
Zach LaVine transformed from unknown commodity to legitimate offensive force in the span of 2.5 seasons before tearing his ACL in March (about the only aspect he didn’t really improve all that much at was defense).
Because of his ascent, the Wolves were able to ship him, Kris Dunn, and the number 7 pick (which turned into Lauri Markkanen) to the Bulls for Jimmy freakin’ Butler and the number 16 pick (which turned into Justin Patton, a big man with upside, who will most likely spend most of his time with the Iowa Wolves).
Butler is a no-contest top 15 (maybe top 10) player in the league and is the second best player in franchise history behind Garnett. He can do it all and do it all very well. Barring anything catastrophic, the acquisition of Butler puts the Wolves in prime position to make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years and will undoubtedly take pressure off the likes of Teague, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns, which will help free them up on both sides of the ball. Speaking of…
3. The Wolves have Karl-Anthony Towns.
He’s really good. Like, REALLY good. He, along with many others on the team, struggle on defense from time to time (but that figures to be cleaned up a bit with the acquisitions of Butler and another Thibs’ protege, Taj Gibson, who figure to help improve the communication on that side of the ball and provide examples for Wiggins and Towns on how to play defense “the right way”), but he can also do this:
There aren’t many people in the NBA who can do what Towns can. He’s a franchise corner stone player and is only 21-years-old. Get hype.
4. That odd low-pitched, groveling sound you hear coming from your TV? That’s not something that needs to be fixed. That’s Tom Thibodeau.
I couldn’t find a great video, so I’ll let Ty Lue cover this one.
5. Did I mention? The Wolves haven’t made the playoffs IN 13 YEARS.
That may very well change this year. Welcome aboard and I hope you enjoy the ride.
Who are two under the radar guys who could have a big impact on games this season? #AWAWBag
— Bryce (@freetyus) September 4, 2017
Well, as it stands as of writing this, with a roster composed of 12 players, I’m not sure anyone can be considered under the radar. However, I’ll give one name who may be more obvious and one who is a complete shot in the dark.
The first is Tyus Jones. Jones is the Wolves’ backup point guard and absolutely deserves a real shot at being the primary backup full-time, however, whether he’s really ready for it or not is up for debate. Jones is one of those players who doesn’t do anything great, but isn’t really terrible at anything either. He’s just kind of average all-around right now and there is nothing wrong with that. Last year, Jones shot 35.6% from 3 on 1.2 attempts per game and was in the 65th and 63 percentile as the pick-and-roll ball-handler and in spot up situations, respectively (that equates to 0.85 PPP and 1.01 PPP, for those wondering). He’s a better team defender than on-ball defender and doesn’t really possess the athleticism, size, or speed necessary to make huge strides on defense all that realistic.
However, Jones’ one above average skill is his basketball IQ. Basketball IQ is a fairly nebulous term (and one that is often thrown around for players who lack what Jones does), but whatever you consider it to be or mean, Jones has it. He plays the passing lanes on defense, always makes the correct (if unflashy) pass, and seemingly only takes a shot if it’s “good” and within the flow of the offense. Jones’ play may not win the Wolves any games, but it may prevent them from losing a game or two (if that makes sense? It does in my head, anyway.). If Jones takes another stride forward in his development this season and is able to contribute solid minutes consistently off the bench, the point guard position may just be a position of strength for the Wolves. If not, the team may have to rely on an Aaron Brooks-type to carry the second unit, which wouldn’t exactly be great.
The other is Marcus Georges-Hunt. As I said before, this is a complete shot in the dark. Georges-Hunt is a 6’6″, 23-year-old guard who appeared in 5 games with the Orlando Magic last year and averaged 2.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 0.6 assists per game on 28.6% shooting from 3. However, in 45 games in the G-League, Georges-Hunt put up 15.8/6.2/4.5 on 39.2% from deep on 4.2 attempts per game. Is it possible that he remains with the team for the entire season after signing a partially guaranteed deal this summer? Well, until the roster fills out, I can’t say it’s impossible. Georges-Hunt has the profile of a 3-and-possibly D type player, a profile the Wolves have desperately needed for years, so it wouldn’t shock me if he sticks around if the team strikes out on Shabazz Muhammad, Dante Cunningham, and the field.
If he sticks around and is able to shoot the three at a high clip (say 37ish%), it may be difficult for Thibs to keep him on the bench. I wouldn’t expect him to play much more than 10-15 minutes per game if he sticks around, but the Wolves desperately need shooters and Georges-Hunt may be able to provide just that.