The Minnesota Timberwolves are getting noticed. Although they are unlikely to pass the 30-win mark this season and haven’t made the playoffs since Kevin Garnett left for Boston, they are making waves nationally.
Chris Mannix (Yahoo!) and Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney have been seen around practice, and now ESPN’s Zach Lowe is giving the team’s starting five a shout out in his most recent column.
“For what feels like the fourth straight season, the Timberwolves win the award for Best Lottery Team Worth An April Watch — edging out the Bucks, who are going through a bit of a Point Giannis hangover,” he writes. “The team’s all-youth starting five has poured in nearly 117 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would lead the league, and they are a bouncy, fast-paced delight when they get rolling.”
He is impressed by the Rubio-LaVine backcourt.
“To the shock of literally no one, Zach LaVine is thriving next to Ricky Rubio,” he writes. “LaVine has drained 47 percent of his triples since emerging as a full-time starter, and all that time masquerading as a point guard gave him the dribbling oomph to attack scrambling defenses when Rubio whips him the ball.”
He also noted that Rubio is shooting with confidence, hustling on defense and throwing “one-step-ahead-of-everyone” passes. “He just makes people better,” Lowe states.
As far as the frontcourt goes, he loves the Dieng-Towns combination.
“Gorgui Dieng has done enough alongside Karl-Anthony Towns to at least make the Wolves think about his long-term place with the franchise, and what sort of front-court partner would suit Towns best,” he writes.
“They are both really centers, and playing together means one of them needs to chase stretchy power forwards around the perimeter. That can get awkward. Ditto for the spacing on offense, especially given the limitations of both Rubio and Andrew Wiggins.”
High praise for a team that has the longest active playoff drought in the NBA, which dates back to 2004 — 12 seasons ago.[ESPN]