WolvesRebuild

It’s safe to say the Minnesota Timberwolves won’t be making the playoffs for the 11th straight season.

With a record of 5-29, the Wolves sit just 2.5 games ahead of the New York Knicks and are tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for the second worst record in the NBA. The Knicks have played four more games than the Wolves and have one-upped the Wolves for the longest current losing streak at 14 games (Wolves are at 13 losses in a row).

The injuries have taken their toll on the Wolves this season, which is the main reason for their record being as abysmal as it appears. Ricky Rubio’s high ankle injury, Nikola Pekovic’s sprained wrist and ankle, and Kevin Martin’s broken wrist have decimated the veteran leadership on the court and the organization needed to remain competitive most nights. NBA.com has the Wolves with the worst defense in the NBA at a rating of 110.2 points per 100 possessions allowed. The Los Angeles Lakers are the second worst at 109.8 per 100. They have the fifth worst offense at 99.2 points per 100 possessions scored. Only the Sixers have a worse net rating (minus-12.9 points per 100) than the Wolves (minus-11.0).

I never thought the Wolves would be good this season and hopes of them approaching what they did last season with a deeper team seemed foolish and too Disney story for my liking. But expecting them to be this bad would also have been crazy, if you assumed this team was going to be healthy. Since they are currently this bad and looking like they’re officially focused more on the future than the present (we’ll see how it goes when the veterans get healthy), I thought we could take a look as we approach the mid point of the season and look at the long-term, rebuilding prospects of each player on this team.  Continue Reading…

ILLMATIC

Down two points with 5.5 seconds to go, Thad Young rebounded a missed Isaiah Thomas free throw, pushed the ball up the floor, passed it to Chase Budinger, who darted diagonally across center court from left to right, ultimately finding Andrew Wiggins for a good look from the right wing with the clock winding down to zero.

It didn’t go in.

If you have been following the Wolves closely lately, you probably know how often Flip Saunders has repeated something to the effect of “Developing and seeing signs from the young players is nice, but it’s important to have positive reinforcement and win every once in awhile.” So while everyone was ready to talk about Andrew Wiggins’ terrific night – 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and several big plays down the stretch – Saunders was clearly frustrated with the loss, offering only measured praise for outstanding individual performances and commenting that he’ll spend time going over the events of the night, particularly the final 30 seconds, in his head. The loss stung him. Continue Reading…

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Last night was tough.

It wasn’t just basketball, either. On my way into the Target Center to see the Wolves play the Denver Nuggets, I came to find that the already-freezing outdoors had added some precipitation to the equation, making the drive into downtown that much slower and less enjoyable. Considering the Wolves’ 11-game losing streak coming into last night’s game, the weather/traffic combination made my personal entrance to the Target Center a bit more angsty than usual.

Continue Reading…

Jazz 101, Wolves 89: Energy

Tim Faklis —  January 3, 2015 — 11 Comments

timberwolves-vs-jazz-preview-3599460702

Through the Wolves’ current 11-game losing streak, we’ve heard stuff like this from head coach Flip Saunders. A lot.

Considering the number of injuries the Wolves have compiled (and who, specifically, got injured), it would be easy to dismiss this season as a wash. But when a young team like the Wolves can’t even properly use what may be their biggest tool (young, fresh legs) to their advantage on a nightly basis, things are going to get bad. Losing streaks like this are going to happen. It’s what happened tonight.

Continue Reading…

JANUS

Contrary to popular belief, the month of January is not named after the Roman deity Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions, who is often depicted with two faces because he’s able to see both the past and the future. It’s a shame, too, because it’d be so poetic. New Year’s Eve and Day, the passage from one year to the next, provides everyone with a chance to look back and look ahead, to evaluate the past year and make resolutions for the next one.

No, January is named after Juno, who was the patron goddess of mouthy, pregnant teenagers or something. Perhaps inspired by this, the Wolves and Kings had plenty of mouthy moments in their New Year’s Day battle at the Target Center. Or it could have been the delicious blend of a Timberwolves team desperate for a win, crappy officiating, a somewhat salty home crowd fighting off the remnants of their hangovers by shouting mean things at the crappy officials, and the beautiful disaster of meddlesome ownership also known as the Sacramento Kings. Continue Reading…

WhosTheBazz

With 4:22 remaining in the fourth quarter, last night’s game was looking like a good road win for a Timberwolves team sorely in need of some positive reinforcement after dropping eight straight. Up to that point, Shabazz Muhammad and Andrew Wiggins had been the standouts, combining to score 49 points on 19-for-34 shooting, including 5-for-6 for Muhammad from 3-point range. Roughly a month ago, I wrote about how no two of Zach Lavine, Wiggins and Muhammad seemed to be able to have a good game at the same time, but this game showed how Wiggins and Muhammad could feed off each other’s games — sometimes literally in the case of an early alley-oop from the former to the latter.

Wiggins also did this: Continue Reading…

RADU

Yesterday, Shams Charania of RealGM.com reported that the Wolves are in the process of giving Serbian big man Miroslav Raduljica a guaranteed contract for the remainder of the season. While the team’s primary beat writers (Jerry Zgoda and Jon Krawczynski, to name a couple) have yet to confirm the report, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN said via Twitter that signs were “pointing to it happening.” Continue Reading…

If you’re a fan of any one team in the NBA, there are players on other teams that strike fear in your heart. These can be particular to your team — the Trail Blazers’ Wes Matthews has attempted more 3-pointers against the Wolves (125) than any other team and has his best true shooting percentage (.643) against them — but there’s also that more general sense of unease that comes with watching Kevin Durant, LeBron James or James Harden handle the ball against your team in a close game. Anthony Davis is beginning to develop some of that, although the Pelicans’ general inability to consistently get him the ball is tempering it for the time being. These players are, in a word, threats, and that kind of threat is precisely what the Wolves do not have right now and haven’t for quite some time.

At their best, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love together had some of this, but they had to do it together. Rubio with the ball in his hands is a threat only so long as the players around him can consistently make shots and Love with the ball in his hands is a direct threat only so long as he’s catching it with space to shoot. Neither is capable of engendering that feeling that they could take a defense apart at any moment all by themselves. While it might be dangerous to build your whole offense around the kind of iso-heavy, hero-ball type game implied by this idea of being an offensive threat (viz. Knicks, New York), used correctly, this kind of threat can distort defenses and force them into mistakes.

In his last two games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets, though, Andrew Wiggins has shown the promise of developing into that kind of threat. Continue Reading…

wiggins-love-bennett

Before anything else happens, watch this Vine of Andrew Wiggins dunking on a drive from the perimeter tonight. Get lost in a moment of pure basketball joy, observe this talented young man sky above the floor for two points in the most stylish way you can, levitating for half an eternity before slamming the ball through the rack:

Continue Reading…

UCLA v Arizona State

The trade of Corey Brewer to the Houston Rockets wasn’t just a signal that the Timberwolves are ready to go young, sacrificing a veteran player in the name of draft picks and a young shooter with upside (Troy Daniels). While that type of deal is the one rebuilding teams often make, and while this one made sense for Minnesota’s long-term plan, there was something else motivating the Wolves to move Brewer: freeing up playing time for second-year man Shabazz Muhammad. Continue Reading…