By: Louie Vicchiollo
Shortly before the 2017 - 2018 season began, I laid out nine realistic goals for the Timberwolves this season. With the All-Star break coming to a close, it seems like a good time to check back with these goals and see how the now not-so-new-look Wolves are doing.
Goal 1: Have a winning record
Check this one off the list. The Wolves currently sit at 36-25, with a win percentage of 59%. While this isn't the most difficult goal for the Wolves this season, being 11 games over .500 should please fans everywhere. Part of the Wolves impressive record is a 13 game home win streak, and a 27-10 record against the West. The Timberwolves have struggled against the East this season, with a record of 9-15. This is an area that will have to improve post All-Star break if the Wolves want to secure home court advantage in the playoffs. Speaking of playoffs...
Goal 2: Make the playoffs
Now I don't want to jinx anything, but as of now, the Wolves are sitting pretty. They are currently tied for 3rd in the West, with a 2 game lead over the 5th place Thunder.. One thing for fans to note is that the Wolves need to keep the pedal to the metal, the 9th place Clippers are only 3.5 games behind the Wolves; the 5th through 8th spots in the West will be tight come playoff time. For now, we can check this goal off the list as well, and expect the Timberwolves to end the 13-year playoff drought.
Goal 3: Top 10 in offensive rating
Another check mark for the Wolves. In fact, they have blown this goal out of the water. Your 2017 - 18 Minnesota Timberwolves trail only the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets in offensive rating, currently sitting 3rd in the league with a rating of 113.8. The offense is led by Karl-Anthony Towns who has an offensive rating of 126, Taj Gibson at 123 and Jimmy Butler at 123. Key bench pieces Tyus Jones and Nemanja Bjelica both have offensive ratings of 119, which has helped the Wolves' second unit keep the offense rolling.
Goal 4: Top 20 in defensive rating
This has not been great. In fact, this has been terrible, and as many Wolves fans have pointed out, this could be the Timberwolves downfall come playoff time. The Timberwolves currently sit at 26th in the league with a defensive rating of 110.5. The only other current playoff team that has a worse defensive rating are the Cleveland Cavaliers, who recently made a plethora of moves at the trade deadline. Jamal Crawford, Jeff Teague, and Andrew Wiggins all have defensive ratings of 112 or higher, and only three players have defensive ratings under 110: Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng, and Cole Aldrich. It is absolutely imperative that the Wolves improve their defense before the end of the regular season.
Goal 5: Top 20 in rebounding
Leave the checkbox blank for this goal. With similar issues to last year, the Wolves are great on the offensive glass, and struggle mightily on the defensive side of the boards. Per game, the Wolves are currently 7th in offensive rebounds, 26th in defensive rebounds, and 24th overall. Like I said at the beginning of the season, the defensive rebound issues have a direct relationship with allowing a high opponent FG%. The Wolves currently allow the highest opponent FG% in the league at 47.8%. While this may be shocking to read, it shouldn't come as surprise with the atrocious defensive rating the Wolves currently have.
Goal 6: Two NBA All-Stars
The Wolves were well represented this All-Star weekend, so lets check this one off. Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns were both selected to this year's All-Star game, and were reserves for Team Curry. While being selected to the All-Star game is often a popularity contest, it felt good to send some representatives from Minnesota for the first time since Kevin Love in 2014.
Goal 7: Two All-NBA team selections
This one is a little hard to gauge at this point in the season, but I want to highlight some statistics for the two most likely selections the Wolves have this year: Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler.
KAT is currently averaging 20.1 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.4 blocks per game on 0.546/0.422/0.850 FG/3P/FT shooing splits, putting together an impressive resume for an All-NBA selection. Take a look below at his advance statistics this season as well.
Jimmy is putting together a nice season as well, averaging 22.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 steals and 0.4 blocks per game on 0.480/0.378/0.862 FG/3P/FT shooing splits, another impressive resume for the potential All-NBA player. His advanced statistics also speak volumes about his game:
While there is no guarantee that Karl or Jimmy will be selected to any All-NBA teams, they have both put together seasons that will at least make the selection committee consider them.
Goal 8: Top 20 in attendance
Leaving this one unchecked hurts the heart more than I like to admit. Although there has been a good increase in ticket sales at the Target Center, the Wolves still rank 22nd in attendance per game, and 20th in total attendance. There have been a handful of sellouts, but this hasn't been enough to get the Wolves per game attendance into the top 20. Check out the charts below for the attendance trends for each NBA team over the last four seasons.
Goal 9: Win the division
While it hurt to not check off the attendance goal, being able to currently check off the division lead feels great. The Wolves currently have a two-game lead over the second place Thunder, and there is good reason to believe the Timberwolves can finish out the season in first place. In fact, with two more division wins, the Timberwolves can secure the best division record this season.
The Timberwolves have had a solid season thus far, and beating the Lakers in a 15-point comeback win should have them on a high note going into the All-Star break. Let's hope they come out refreshed, and ready to clinch a division.
As always, go Wolves!