Timberwolves

Could the Wolves Become A Better-Shooting Team Without KAT?

Photo Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the season, I had hopes for the Minnesota Timberwolves to be one of the better three-point shooting teams in the league. Last season, the Wolves tallied the most made threes by any team (1,211) and collectively shot just shy of 36% from deep (35.8%). They were ranked in the top half of the league (12th) in terms of three-point shooting percentage.

Considering the moves the Wolves made this past offseason, especially adding prolific three-point shooting guard Bryn Forbes, I thought the Wolves would only get better from beyond the arc. Also, despite being anything but a three-point shooter, Rudy Gobert displayed the potential to create second-chance three-point scoring opportunities. Through his effective screen setting and off-ball action, he helped the Utah Jazz become one of the better three-point shooting teams in the last couple of years.

Unfortunately, the opposite has become the reality for the Wolves so far this season. They are currently one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league. Through their first 21 games, Minnesota has shot 32.7% from three, ranking them toward the bottom of the league in three-point shooting efficiency (27th).

Multiple players aren’t shooting as well from deep as they should – D’Angelo Russell and Jaylen Nowell, in particular. However, Karl-Anthony Towns’ struggles from beyond the arc is the most surprising development.

Typically a three-point marksman, Towns is shooting 32.5% from three on 5.6 three-point attempts per game. That’s KAT’s lowest shooting percentage from three in his 8-year career. The closest that KAT has come to shooting this poorly from three came during his rookie season, where he hit 34% from deep. However, he only shot 1.1 three-point attempts per game during his rookie year. That was back when Towns was just coming out of Kentucky, and the Wolves were led by 20-year-old Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

Otherwise, Towns has been an excellent three-point shooter throughout his career. He has shot 40% or higher from three-point range in four of his last five seasons. He also won the three-point shooting contest during last year’s All-Star weekend, and many pundits consider him one of the best big-men shooters of all time.

While this season may just be an anomaly for KAT and his three-point shooting, his accuracy from deep has been nonetheless subpar, and that has contributed to the team’s overall poor performance shooting from three this year.

After straining his calf against the Washington Wizards, KAT will miss the next 4-6 weeks. The Wolves now have a unique opportunity to possibly heal their three-point shooting wounds by making a valiant effort to move the ball and create effective three-point scoring opportunities. Suppose a couple of guys can just maintain their shooting efficiency while increasing their three-point attempts. In that case, the Wolves can begin to generate more consistency in their three-point shooting and up their current shooting percentage to get back to where they shot from deep last year. Not only would this help the Wolves become a more versatile and effective team offensively, but it could also create a good collective shooting rhythm by the time Towns is back in the mix.

With Towns out, Jaden McDaniels, Taurean Prince, and Naz Reid will likely increase their playing time and have to make up for Towns’ absence.

McDaniels is shooting 35.7% from three on 2.9 attempts per game this season. Many fans have high hopes for McDaniels as a core piece moving forward. Therefore, these next few weeks without Towns will be a key moment for him to shine and showcase his ability to stretch the floor. He can also continue to do what he does well in terms of cutting to the rim and playing hard-nosed defense.

Prince has been the Wolves’ best three-point shooter this year. Prince is technically second to Kyle Anderson on the team in three-point shooting percentage (41%). But Slo-Mo is only attempting 1.1 attempts per game compared to Prince’s 3 attempts per game. Therefore, it is fair to argue that Taurean has been the best 3-point shooter this year, shooting 38.9% from deep.

He has always been a good shooter from beyond the arc. For his career, Prince has shot 37.1% from three on 4.5 attempts per game – a really efficient shooting split for any player. Now with added minutes and likely more three-point shooting opportunities, Prince can continue to demonstrate that he is one of the better three-point shooters in this league.

Reid is likely the most interesting player to assess during this period of time without KAT. As Minnesota’s backup big man, Reid will probably now have a crucial role as the center that takes the floor when Gobert is out of the game. Unlike Gobert, though, Naz has shown he can stretch the floor as a 5, but only to a certain extent.

This season, Reid is shooting 35.5% from three on 2.1 attempts per game. While it’s a small number of attempts, Naz has consistently been in that 34 to 35% range shooting from three in four seasons in Minnesota. If Reid can continue building on his spacing abilities, he can help the Wolves have a five-man out lineup that can help make them an excellent three-point shooting team again.

Guys like Anthony Edwards, Nowell, and DLo will have to ultimately get back in line with their three-point shooting for the Wolves to realistically have a chance at improving their percentage from three. However, the role that the rest of these key rotational players have while Towns is out will be crucial in trying to make this team what it was just last season: a high-volume and efficient three-point shooting team.

Obviously, with Gobert now in the mix, the Wolves really have to emphasize the importance of having four reliable shooters on the perimeter when he is in the game. Unfortunately, Towns has not been too reliable this year. However, in his absence, this team can make a conscious and deliberate effort to have an in-season turnaround. To do so, they’ll need to have better shooting beyond the arc during this next month. Fortunately, they have a few players who can step up and with an opportunity to prove that they can be consistent three-point threats.

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