Timberpups Need To Grow Into Timberwolves

For the 12th straight year, the Timberwolves will be watching the playoffs from home. The last time the Minnesota Timberwolves played a game after mid-April was in 2004.

The Timberwolves have experienced over a decade of futility and despair as they have tried time and time again to rebuild after the trade of Kevin Garnett. At the conclusion of this year, they will have to answer some major questions regarding their future. They have to find long-term lineup answers as they try to develop their core moving forward.

However, after this year there is a different feeling among fans as the summer rolls around. With Karl-Anthony Towns a shoe in to win Rookie of the Year, that will be the second in as many years after Andrew Wiggins ran away with it last year. The Timberwolves will become the first team to boast consecutive rookies of the years since the Baltimore Bullets in the late-1960s.

In addition to these two, Minnesota has some other interesting young pups.

Towns rookie season has been discussed frequently, this year but to keep it short and simple, no big men in almost 20 years has dominated the league as fast as he has. Towns is averaging 18 points, 10 rebounds and almost two blocks all while shooting 55 percent from the field.

The list of rookies who have accomplished that is very short. Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and Towns.

Towns is on the fast track to becoming one of the best players in the NBA; the Wolves need not worry about the center position.

Wiggins appears to have grasped to one of the wing positions for the Wolves despite some concerns. A year after winning RotY, Wiggins came back in his sophomore year and poured in almost 21 points a game on 46 percent shooting while also getting to line seven times game which was among the top 11. Wiggins has shown the ability to absolutely score the basketball whether it is on the fast break, at the free throw line or in isolation situations.

However, besides the prolific scoring for a 21 year old, Wiggins has not shown much else in his game. His rebounding declined from a decent 4.6 a game as a rookie to a paltry 3.6 this year.

At 6’8’’ with elite leaping ability, Wiggins should be gathering more rebounds. Wiggins assists have also declined albeit very minimally. For as great as a scorer he has been he has been abysmal behind the three-point line.

Wiggins is shooting less than 29 percent this year from the great beyond. With the league already arriving into the three-point bombing barrage age, it is absolutely necessary for your wing players to be able to knock down the three.

On the other side of the wing, it looks as if two-time Slam Dunk champion Zack LaVine may have finally found his niche. After being statistically the worst point guard in basketball last year and one of the worst this year, it took 40 games but the Timberwolves finally moved LaVine to his natural position as the off guard. Playing as the off guard has made drastic improvements for LaVine. Since the all star break specifically (which is around the time when LaVine began exclusively starting as the two guard), LaVine has averaged 18 points on 52 percent from the floor and 48 percent from behind the arc in the games in which he has played the shooting guard alongside Ricky Rubio.

If LaVine can perform with that type of production all the time and can continue to become a better defender the Wolves will have found their long-term wing pairing in Wiggins and LaVine.

With three younger-than-21-year-olds all showing flashes of scoring brilliance, it would benefit the team to employ a pass first point guard who can run an NBA offense and plays tough defense. Luckily for the Timberwolves, that player is on their roster. By many accounts, Ricky Rubio is enjoying a career year, statistically. Rubio is averaging a career high in assists, turnovers, and free throw percentage. After two unfortunate injuries (torn ACL, sprained ankle), Rubio was trying to shed the injury-prone label. Rubio has started in 63 out of 69 games.

Rubio has been a monster defensively this year as he is top five in steals per game and is the highest rated point guard in Defensive Real Plus Minus. DRPM is a measure of a players estimated on court performance that is measured in points allowed per 100 defensive possessions. Rubio ranks among the elite in terms of passing, court vision, defense, and running an NBA offense. There are not many players who maximize their teammates strengths as well as him.

Backup center Gorgui Dieng has been an iron man this year playing in all 69 games and playing whatever position the Wolves need for him to play that game. He has started at center and power forward. Dieng has developed into a remarkable marksmen from mid-range and the free throw line. Dieng has flown under the radar but he is has consistently been among the team leaders in +/- for individual games as well as the season. Also, he has developed fantastic chemistry with Towns. The Wolves will need to address Dieng’s contract this summer as he will be heading into restricted free agency after next year. Dieng is a functional NBA player who has carved out a role and the fact of the matter is that the Wolves do not have a lot of players who fit that criteria. Therefore, it would behoove the Wolves greatly if they brought Dieng back.

With these five players, the Wolves have a clear core moving forward for the first time in a very long time, however they will need to find more than five players if they expect to not only make it into the playoffs but win some games when they arrive there. This will be a big question mark as they are set to receive another top 5 pick in this upcoming NBA draft and are strapped with oodles of cap room. It is imperative for the Wolves to find a long term backup point guard, which may be Tyus Jones as he’s shown improvements in his game over the year. They will also need to find another wing defender, a bench scorer and backup big or starting caliber power forward. If they can address those roster issues, they will finally be in not only just the playoffs but in a position to compete for a championship. Winning in NBA championship with this team would simply be these young pups developing into alpha males and marking their territory.



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