Timberwolves

The Fully-Healthy Wolves Still Have A Lot Of Room for Adjustment

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ form in the last month has been impressive when you consider the vital players that have been in and out of the lineup. The past month has been rocky. They had a three-game win streak, won one of their next six, and finally finished it off by winning four straight games through Tuesday’s action. With moving parts within the lineup, things can become difficult. And that can be even more exaggerated when star players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards are hampered. KAT had a calf injury that held him out from November 28th until March 13th, and Ant had an ankle injury that held him out of four games from March 17th through March 26th.

All teams must be able to overcome the adversity they face happens with a long season full of back-to-backs and 82 games. No team is invincible. Ultimately, the play that continues when those bumps in the road are presented is what’s important. Minnesota’s box scores speak for themselves over this stretch. Their scoring has been disbursed throughout, and they’ve had multiple different leading scorers. The Wolves have had multiple players step up, whether it’s Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley, Jaden McDaniels or Naz Reid. Minnesota’s scoring has come from multiple areas with no true reliance on a specific individual.

Over the last month, Conley is averaging 15.7 PPG, Jaden 15.5, Rudy 15.4, and Naz 15.2. That adds up to 61.8 total points from the tertiary pieces alone. Kyle Anderson has also added 12.2 himself and with 7.8 assists alongside it. That gives KAT and Ant more than enough space to get back in form after their injuries because of the scoring gravity that others can still produce, making teams think twice about heavily guarding the two stars.

Some specific games of players standing out have boosted the Wolves to victory. For example, Taurean Prince’s 35-point March 20th performance at Madison Square Garden on 12 of 13 FG and 8 of 8 3P. Conley added 24 points in Sacramento during the March 4th matchup. And Jaden tied his career-high with 25 his highest shot volume of the season in a March 22nd win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Look at how vital TP’s shot making was in this shootout.

This bodes well moving later into the season. Teams will have more of a game plan for who to stop and knowing where the majority of their production is going to come from. With how tight the West is, expect games to be as similar to a playoff game as possible. The Wolves had to heavily rely upon Anthony Edwards during the post-D’Angelo Russell trade era leading into KAT’s return. Edwards put up some of his best numbers of his career scoring 26.4 PPG on 44.8/38.4/77.0 splits, and 32% usage. But it got very messy in specific situations regarding his quick decision-making, thus leading to turnovers and a rough time closing games.

Minnesota’s newfound energy of next man up and having the depth the adapt will only be a positive benefit moving forward. They face a difficult final schedule: Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Brooklyn Nets, San Antonio Spurs, and New Orleans Pelicans – and into potential postseason games, of course.

The balance of the roster overall adds more creative elements when fully healthy.

Guards:

  • Mike Conley is a veteran presence and consistent player.
  • Anthony Edwards adds electric scoring and rim pressure.
  • Jaylen Nowell provides shot creation, and Jordan McLaughlin brings playmaking and helps out others around him.

Wings:

  • Jaden McDaniels offered All-Defense level play and a budding offensive game.
  • Kyle Anderson can serve as a facilitator and ball handler and adds capable defense.
  • Taurean Prince offers shooting prowess.
  • Overall having an added forward and length to the team from last season is massive.

Bigs:

  • KAT can space the floor like no other and attack off the dribble.
  • Rudy Gobert can play terrific drop defense while offering enough on the offensive end.
  • And Naz Reid can add microwave scoring with guard skills.

Teams often do not want to tinker with things this late in the season. But the minutes and lineups that are a part of the rotations that Chris Finch can optimized more to give the Wolves variance and advantages over their opponents. In last year’s playoffs, Taylor Jenkins removed Steven Adams from rotation after a rough start, and the Memphis Grizzlies were then able to play better without him and could reasses moving into next series/game.

Specifically, this year’s team has a lot more creative archetypes that still have the ability to gel. I look very specifically to the Jaden, SloMo, TP, Naz grouping. These players are all very versatile in which they possess length, spacing and their own specific trait to the table. Jarred Vanderbilt was phenomenal last year as a rebounder and defender, but he was often put in a box. However, this Wolves grouping can be more adaptive this season, which is something that all NBA teams are looking to do.

While it is easier said than done, Finch has recently shown that he is flexible to leaning on the hot hand when it comes to tertiary pieces. While you still need your stars to perform when the lights are bright, having strong consistent play around them will only help you reach your team’s potential.

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Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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