By: Dan Slaubaugh
The 2015-16 Minnesota Timberwolves season has been nothing short of a roller coaster so far. Through the team excelling in the clutch early in the season, the exasperating losses, and Wolves twitter blowing up (sometimes for good reason) almost on a nightly basis, this season has been pretty nuts. I am here to break down the good and bad about the "nuts" that has transpired.
Revitalized Wolves fans: It was just last week. The Wolves had lost to the Phoenix Suns in ugly fashion. The coaching style and rotational decisions of Sam Mitchell had apparently lingered on too far, and Wolves twitter had seen enough. To put it simply, Wolves twitter absolutely blew up and fans were furious because of the (completely rational) thought that Sam Mitchell was prohibiting this team of meeting and perhaps exceeding expectations. Shortly after everyone was done expressing their opinions, Jon Krawczynski (AP) provided the (quote) tweet of the night.
The excitement and potential of this Wolves team has fans digging through their closets for old Kevin Garnett jerseys to wear to Timberwolves games. So, even though some losses may be infuriating and gutwrenching to watch; the "big picture" is that fans are watching. They care, and that is all in thanks to Flip Saunders. Thank you, Flip.
Karl-Anthony Towns: It seems like he's breaking another record or throwing himself into elite company (statswise) every night. Towns has dominated the Rookie of the Year discussions and has quite possibly inserted himself into a pool of potential all-stars.
Should his numbers hold steady, as they have all season, Towns will be just the fifth rookie to average at least 19 points, 11 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes. His company? Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Ralph Sampson and eventual Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal. - Dan Favale (B/R)
Crazy thing is, Towns might already be the Wolves best player and in my opinion, the offense should be ran around him. The skillsets he possesses at such a young age are a massive reason why myself and other Wolves fans are excited about the future of this team.
Bounce Bros: Both (Zach Lavine and Andrew Wiggins) have made steady improvements in their own ways.
Wiggins has carried over his stellar play from last year averaging 21.3ppg; good enough for 15th in the league. He has also been getting to the free throw line at a consistent rate, averaging 7.6 ft's per game; good enough for 6th in the league. To nitpick; he will need to improve in other areas of the game (rebounding, passing) if he wants to turn into the star (almost) everybody is projecting him to be.
Regarding Lavine, I'm only going to give commentary about his play as shooting guard, because that is what has been "good" about his performance this season. Anyway, Zach has excelled at the 2, flourishing without the responsibility of handling the ball, setting up other teammates, and running the offense at the age of 20. When Lavine is playing alongside Rubio, Minnesota has outscored opponents 17.2 points per 100 possessions in a total of 98 minutes played together. Here's to hoping Smitchell realizes that playing Lavine at the 2 instead of the 1 is best for the team and best for winning basketball games.
Ricky's health: I'll leave it simple. Last season, he played 22 games total. This season, he's already played in 20 games (out of the 25); which is huge for his career because of the "injury-prone" label that's been placed on him; and of course, the Timberwolves success on the court.
Smitchell's rotations: I'll first state that I believe times are changing and he might be finally catching on when to play who and who to play where, but this is a breakdown of the first 25 games played this season, and throughout most of the 25 games, his rotational use has been highly questionable. Whether it's minimizing KAT's 4th quarter minutes, not giving Shabazz Muhammad enough minutes to thrive, not playing Zach Lavine at his natural position (the 2), or the amount of long two's the team is taking, Sam has been highly scrutinized by fans and writers/bloggers around the web because of his supposed ignorance to make rational decisions it takes to win basketball games. Again, this is what has been "bad" throughout the majority of the first 25 games, but I do believe he is starting to catch on.
Long two's: It's no secret the recipe for success in the NBA is elite 3pt shooting and defense. Regarding the Wolves, the amount of long two's the team has taken the first 25 games is discouraging, to say the least. No, their roster isn't built to shoot 25+ threes per game, but somewhere in the 18-23 range would be satisfactory. Right now, they are 2nd to last in the category hoisting, hoisting up only 16.7 threes per game. To keep it simple; more threes = more wins. Lastly, if you're not already following @the_longtwo Twitter account/blog, you're doing it wrong. Lucas provides great analysis and commentary regarding all things Timberwolves basketball. (FYI, his blog is not a bad thing, even though we are in the "bad" section of this article. It just seemed like it belonged in the "Long two's" section for obvious reasons. But seriously that blog is terrific).
Kevin Martin: This is statistically one of the worst seasons in his career. Martin, who throughout his career has closely hovered around the 40% mark, has shot only 34.8% from behind the arc this season. He's' also averaging just 12.3 ppg while shooting a shoddy 36.5% from the field. For a player who is known for notoriously bad defense, can't contribute much offensively, the value isn't there. Not only has he struggled, he's also prohibited the development of the youth on the roster with his ball-dominant, iso-controlled style of basketball. Currently, the Wolves are shopping him and sort of "auditioning" him to other teams and hope his performance over the next couple weeks are enough for teams to be interested in his service, and in the end, take him off their hands.
With such a young team like the Wolves, good and bad alike should be expected throughout the season. Check back with us at the 50 game mark, and we will reassess "the good and bad" surrounding Timberwolves basketball.