For many people, the changing of the calendar year brings about a chance for a fresh start. Whether it be saving money, eating healthier, or exercising more, everyone’s guilty of trying to improve in some way or another, beginning on Jan. 1. Sometimes a brand new 12 months can be just the signal people need to try and make a change to help better themselves.
But New Year’s Resolutions aren’t just for individuals. For many NBA franchises, setting up a few team resolutions may be needed to play to the best of their abilities.
For the Minnesota Timberwolves, the 2021-portion of this NBA season has been nothing short of a white-knuckle journey. With a season packed with unexpected defensive highs and offensive lows, how the team will finish is still up in the air like an NYE firework.
So what goals should the Timberwolves set for themselves for the 2022 part of the season?
Consistency From Deep
To put it modestly, Minnesota has sucked when it comes to making 3s. They’ve converted only 34.2% of their 42 3-point attempts per night, a significant issue for a team many believed would carry one of the highest-scoring offenses this season. But, in all fairness, teams’ percentages of made threes have been down across most of the league this year. Whether it is from the changing of the brand of basketball or something else, this isn’t exclusively a problem in Minnesota. Still, it’s been anything but pretty for the Wolves this far.
The Timberwolves lead all teams in 3-point attempts per game, second to only the third-seeded Utah Jazz. The difference between the ninth-seeded Wolves and the third-seeded Jazz? The Jazz knock down an above league-average percentage of their shot attempts from deep (34.8% this season). And Utah isn’t the only team hitting from three at a high rate this year.
Below are the top four teams in three-point attempts per game, along with where they rank in terms of their three-point percentages:
- Jazz: 1st in 3PA/4th in 3P%
- Wolves: 2nd in 3PA/19th in 3P%
- Golden State Warriors: 3rd in 3PA/5th in 3P%
- Milwaukee Bucks: 4th in 3PA/12th in 3P%
The Wolves are the only team within the top four in 3-point attempts per contest and the league’s bottom half in three-point percentage. And for a team built around three young players who like to light it up from the outside, these numbers have to hurt their holiday joy.
Karl-Anthony Towns is currently the only player shooting above 40% on more than one attempt per contest from beyond the arc. (Apologies to all of the McKinley Wright IV stans). Following KAT in percentage are Naz Reid and Jaylen Nowell, two players who haven’t exactly proven to head coach Chris Finch that they are his most reliable options offensively.
It’s understandable for a team with Jarred Vanderbilt in the starting lineup not to lead the league in the percentage of 3s made. But Finch and Co. cannot continue to have a team shooting under 35% take the second-most shots from beyond the arc for an entire season, either.
Beating The Teams They Should
Minnesota’s schedule couldn’t possibly be more favorable in the new year. With four of their first six games coming against the bottom three teams out West, the Timberwolves should be able to add a few tally marks in the win column. Any team would sign up to play the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, and New Orleans Pelicans.
But as many Wolves fans know, the games this team should win do not always go according to plan. Just think back to earlier this season when Minnesota was on the receiving end of an 18-point beatdown by none other than the Orlando Magic. For the record, Orlando is currently the 14th seed in the East.
If Minnesota wants to win more games than they lose, they’ve got to pounce on every opportunity they get to pick up easy wins. The team’s schedule from Jan. 2-11 is seemingly one of the easiest six-game stretches throughout the league after the new year. However, Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was just named NBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week. If they’re not careful, the Wolves and their plans for 2022 may get caught up in a few thunderstorms.
Focusing On Getting and Staying Healthy
COVID-19 is battering the league right now. With tweets from NBA Insiders like Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania seemingly every few minutes about a new player entering the league’s health and safety protocols, it was only a matter of time before the virus spread throughout Minnesota’s roster. It doesn’t sting any less that the Wolves haven’t been as lucky as some other teams. Some teams have only lost players towards the end of their rotation.
With all four of their starters besides Anthony Edwards currently in the league’s Health and Safety Protocols, along with the majority of their bench unit, scratching and clawing away for wins and praying for league-wide health is all anyone can do.
Before the chaos over the past few weeks, this team was finally proving that they could be competent when close to full strength. KAT reminded the league why he was once placed in the same category as elite centers like Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. Edwards hushed all who doubted his jump shot by shooting 10-of-14 from three. And D’Angelo Russell showed that same leadership prowess we saw back during his lone All-Star season back in Brooklyn.
This team has the right pieces to put together a season that sees them finish somewhere between the fifth and 10th seed out West. It’s just a matter of returning to game action and maintaining relative health for the remainder of the season.
Unless something goes wrong, the Timberwolves will exceed last year’s win total (23) by a wide margin. But the team is also currently on track to finish this season in the play-in tournament. If this franchise wants to make sure that they have a better 2022 than 2021, it wouldn’t hurt for president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta to maybe jot down a few of these New Year’s resolutions for this depleted Wolves squad.