By: Dan Slaubaugh
Good afternoon, Wolves fans.
The Wolves (20-40) are in Dallas tonight to take on the Mavericks (31-28), who have struggled lately losing 6 out of their past 9 games. They did, however, surge back from a 23 point deficit Friday night to defeat a mediocre Nuggets team.
Minnesota is coming off a 112-110 win against the New Orleans Pelicans, thanks to a late fourth quarter surge led by Zach LaVine and Karl-Anthony Towns. KAT finished with 30 points and 15 rebounds and LaVine poured in 25 points on 11/17 shooting.
It's scary how true that is.
For Dallas, recently acquired David Lee is still trying to find a fit with the Mavs, and I'm sure Rick Carlisle will find a way to make that happen.
As for Minnesota, they still need another frontcourt player if Bjelica doesn't return soon. It's extremely difficult to win basketball games with only 2 reliable bigs, which may be the Timberwolves "secret" way of tanking for the rest of the season.
Personally, I'd like to see them win as many games as possible the rest of the season. The young pups need some confidence heading into next year, and the best way to give them that is to win games to prove they can compete in this league.
The Wolves will head back home after tonight's game to get ready for a matchup with the Wizards on Wednesday night.
Tonight's prediction: Mavs defeat Wolves 110-97. Wolves run out of gas on end of back-to-back, Mavs pull away in 4Q.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the game. Go Wolves.
By: Drew Mahowald
Yeah, I know. It sucks.
This question is asked nearly every year regarding the Minnesota Timberwolves. It's not fun to talk about, but it needs to be discussed because this franchise is on the cusp of something special.
At 18-40, the Wolves have already topped their win total from last season and currently sit fifth in the NBA's draft odds, according to Tankathon. Last season, Flip Saunders engineered a genius tank job that helped them edge out the New York Knicks for the best odds at the first overall pick, which helped them attain future NBA Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns.
Should the Wolves employ the same strategy this season?
As of today, the Timberwolves are 10 games "back" of the Philadelphia 76ers for the best odds at the number one overall pick, which would be a big hill to "climb" in just 24 games. However, they only trail Phoenix by four games for the third spot in the standings and Brooklyn by two games for the second spot. So, if the Wolves did employ a tank job similar to last season's, I would bet they could move up a couple spots in the draft lottery.
Additionally, Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press told ESPN 99.1 FM Sioux Falls yesterday that it's a very real possibility that interim head coach Sam Mitchell has his interim tag removed if this team ends up winning 27-29 games this season. To put it nicely, Mitchell has not been good as head coach of this squad. I could go into further detail, but a majority of you reading this already know about the details.
With all of this said, however, I do not want to see this team tank during the remainder of the season.
First of all, winning games is important for this team, believe it or not. Bringing that winning culture to a franchise that really hasn't had it in over a decade isn't something that should be pushed off any longer. Putting together some wins and finishing this season strongly obviously won't change the culture completely, but it will build up some serious momentum moving into the 2016-17 season. The youth on this team doesn't need to have that losing mentality brought upon them for a second straight season.
Secondly, as Alex Berg alluded to in this article, the attendance at Target Center has been downright putrid lately. While there are many reasons for it, purposefully losing games will only make this problem that much worse. It's already at laughingstock status, and I can't imagine what tanking would do to the attendance figures during those April home games at the end of the season.
As far as the issue with Mitchell goes, I get it. I don't want him as the head coach of this team at all. He has shown too many bad tendencies as a coach, and don't even get me started on his extremely outdated offensive system. As far as I'm concerned, unless the Wolves wind up winning 35 games or something this season, I would still bet on Mitchell not returning. I don't know, I guess I'm not buying the report too much. If the front office sees what we see, and understands how the fans feel about Mitchell, they'll realize how bad of a basketball move and PR move it would be to bring him back. Regardless, this team needs to win games, or at least play like they're trying to. The head coaching position for next season will take care of itself.
Maybe the fan in me just doesn't want to see a tank job, I don't know. But losing games on purpose is something I have never really believed in. Even looking back at last season for the Timberwolves, I didn't like it. Luckily, the Wolves won the lottery with their 25% odds and were rewarded Towns for it, so it worked out this one time.
A winning identity needs to be brought to Minnesota sooner rather than later, and this team has the opportunity to start the transition of bringing a winning culture to this organization during this final stretch of the 2015-16 season, and it shouldn't be wasted by tanking in order for a better, but still small, chance at a better draft pick.
Drew Mahowald is a staff writer for On The Prowl. He also works as an assistant editor at NFCNorthBarRoom.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @MNSportsDrewM.
By: Alex Berg
The Minnesota Timberwolves have a huge problem.
Go ahead, take a guess. I’m not talking about Sam Mitchell. I’m not talking about the question marks in the front office. I’m not talking about Ricky Rubio’s field goal percentage. I’m talking about the attendance.
So far, through 30 home games, the Timberwolves rank 29th in the NBA with an average of 14,137 fans per game, which accounts for 73.0 percent of the Target Center capacity -- also ranks 29th in the NBA. Perhaps the most alarming part, this season’s attendance mark is on pace to be the WORST IN FRANCHISE HISTORY!
Yes. You read that correctly. The Ryan Gomes and Randy Foye 2008-09 Timberwolves drew more fans than this team featuring some of the best talent in the NBA. How is that even possible?
In a short answer, I have no idea. I have no answer for this, but if I had to take a guess it would be a combination of the ticket prices, a lack of “other” attractions at the Target Center, and the new FlashSeats ticket app.
First of all, in comparison, Timberwolves ticket prices are not that outrageous. I know for many NBA arenas, you’re looking at spending $100/ticket to sit in the lower level. That is not the case at the Target Center. I chose the Detroit Pistons at random to see how their set prices compared to the Wolves. For $12, you could get into the Palace of Auburn Hills last night to see a game vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. I imagine that is one of the “value” games this season.
Timberwolves tickets start at $14 for the cheapest games, so that is pretty reasonable. On a higher end, the Pistons charge $25 to get into a Tuesday night game which features Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s only trip to Detroit this season. Again, this is comparable to the $26 price tag to see the Golden State Warriors next month at Target Center.
Seeing how the Wolves compare price-wise to some of the “cheaper” NBA teams, it is hard to fairly accuse them of pricing tickets too high. And comparing them to the other teams in the Twin Cities is apples to oranges because of the atmosphere and number of games in a season.
The next reason compares exclusively to local teams -- specifically the neighboring Twins -- because I simply do not have enough (any) knowledge outside of this market in the NBA. It just seems like there are not many enticing features at the Target Center aside from the product on the floor. At Target Field you have a clubhouse store, the Metropolitan Club -- which serves as an affordable sit-down restaurant with a view -- and various food options from local restaurants and food trucks. At the Target Center, you have scattered clothes in the concourse and Freschetta pizza that is usually cold when you get it. Hopefully the upcoming renovations give the Target Center a needed face-lift in this area. I know it is not necessarily a fair criticism, but there are people who have no interest in baseball who will go to Target Field regularly. I’m not sure that is true about basketball at the Target Center.
Finally, for those who are not already aware, the Timberwolves started using an app called “FlashSeats” this season. In a nutshell, it is a very convenient app that allows fans to enter the arena without the hassle of carrying around a paper ticket and makes tickets easily transferable via smartphones. Sounds great. Well, except the Wolves are essentially forcing this method on fans purchasing tickets in advance. I know it may be hard to believe in 2016, but not everybody has a smartphone (or a cell phone for that matter) or is technologically-advanced enough to want to do this. I think everyone appreciates an effort to crack down on fake tickets, but let’s be honest, Timberwolves tickets have not been in a high demand for over a decade now. I am all for trying to make things easier for fans, but forcing an app (especially when you are a team with no real leverage) on its fans is just insane to me.
I say all of these things in speculation, of course. I go to as many games as I possibly can and always have a good time at the Target Center. I am just trying to get into the head of a casual fan who clearly is not coming to Timberwolves games as often as they have in the past.
My suggestions may be part of the answer, it may have nothing to do with any of what I said. Despite a losing record, the Wolves do have an intriguing product that should draw more than 14,000 people per home game.
I mean this in no offense to the great people I know who work in marketing and ticket sales for the Timberwolves, but finding out how to get more bodies in the Target Center has to be a priority. Until tickets are in more of a demand, it is unlikely that fans who either cannot or do not want to attend all 41 home games will want to invest in a product in which the resale tickets are often less than half of face value. Once season ticketholders keep either his or her tickets or do not have to sell them for pennies on the dollar, I imagine the walk-up sales and attendance numbers will improve.
By: Alex Berg
I REALLY did not want do this. But I’m going to write about the Ricky Rubio trade rumors that surfaced before last week’s trade deadline and what his future in Minnesota could hold.
I think it is pretty obvious that the Timberwolves were not actively shopping the 25-year-old point guard last week, but that does not mean they would not listen. As many have already pointed out, the front office -- even with it being a massive question mark right now -- is not “married” to Rubio in the same way they are to Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. What that means is he probably not seen as a cornerstone piece in this rebuilding project, at least not to the extent of the aforementioned trio.
That being said, the team did not just throw $56 million at Rubio for the hell of it. The front office obviously values Rubio and what he brings to the table as a contributor to this young core of potential superstars. Even considering the insane stretch Towns is in right now, I could still make a case for Rubio being the most important player on the roster right now. Part of that is for what he does, part is the lack of back-up plan; regardless he is pretty important to this team.
If he is so important, why even consider trading him? Well, I would not trade him right now unless you get an absolute haul in return. Which is what made a deadline deal incredibly unrealistic. No team seeking a point guard for a playoff run is going to empty the cupboards, especially the few teams who have assets that should entice Minnesota.
Looking at a few of the teams that reportedly had interest in Rubio, it was nearly impossible to find a match. The Indiana Pacers? Sure, Myles Turner would be nice, but I’m not sure if Indiana moves him and it leaves a massive hole in the Wolves backcourt. The New York Kni.. Gross, nevermind, move on. The Milwaukee Bucks were the most intriguing match because of their assets. Between second-year forward Jabari Parker and wings Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have the potential for an “odd-man out.” It was reported the Wolves asked for Middleton, which I applaud them for. I’m not sure how the Bucks would rank the three, but I’d put him slightly above Parker and slightly below Antetokounmpo. Not shockingly, the Bucks did not want to move Middleton. I’m just glad the Wolves did not settle for Michael Carter-Williams and fillers. MCW is basically a poor-man’s Ricky Rubio and he’s only a year younger.
I know some fans are fed up with Rubio’s shooting -- which is right around his career-low at 35.7 percent -- but what Rubio brings to the team aside from scoring is way too often overlooked. His 8.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game rank close to the top among NBA point guards, and that does not even factor in the touchy fouls he draws to get the team into the bonus earlier or the turnovers he forces by drawing a charge, often 20+ feet from the rim. He has a rare ability to make everyone else on the floor better and I think being surrounded by better shooters would do even more justice for his already-impressive assist numbers.
A team like the Timberwolves can only be in “rebuild mode” for so long. They’ve essentially hit the lottery twice with Wiggins and Towns. It is not likely a young duo with that much talent will be eager to go through a 5-plus year process of building for the future. That’s what the team might be looking at if they move their point guard without a concrete plan in place.
Fans often say something like “how can the Wolves expect to compete with Curry, Lillard or Westbrook?” Well, if point guards of that caliber just grew on trees, they wouldn’t be considered the all-world players they are. So many fans want to end the Rubio era, but have no plan for what is next. No, Tyus Jones is not the answer. No, Kris Dunn (out of Providence) -- or any other college prospect -- is going to step into the NBA and play at the all-star level for at least two or three seasons. So you’re looking at at least a season and a half of growing pains from your floor general parlayed with wasting a season of learning to play with Rubio for Towns and Wiggins.
I think the one realistic wildcard for the Wolves was LaVine. I mean, I cannot think of any other reason why they continued to trot him out at point guard and watch the world burn around him. It’s just a guess, but I think the team wanted to see if LaVine could be the future Russell Westbrook-like point guard and Rubio be used as a sixth man that keeps the ship above water -- something the Wolves have desperately lacked for most of Rubio’s career here.
Now that it is apparent that LaVine is MUCH better off-the-ball and Tyus Jones is back into the rotation, I would be very surprised if Rubio is moved this summer. The only deal that would make sense for the Wolves is getting a proven point guard that is a step up from Rubio, and that just would not make sense for the other team. I think it might be time for critics to accept Rubio’s shooting for what it is and appreciate what else he does on the floor. He probably isn’t leaving anytime soon.
By: Dan Slaubaugh
Happy Monday, Wolves fans. Tonight, the Boston Celtics (33-24) are in town to face the youthful Timberwolves (17-39), who have struggled since the AS break, having lost consecutive games against Memphis and New York. Boston is currently sitting comfortable at the #3 spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Wolves sit at #13 in the West.
The Celtics are looking to sweep the Wolves after beating them 113-99 before Christmas. The Celtics have lost 3 straight in Minnesota, but have won the last 10 in Boston.
The key matchup will be Andrew Wiggins vs Jae Crowder, one of Boston's best defenders. Last time around, Wiggins poured in 26 points against Crowder and the Celtics, and was the Timberwolves leading scorer. Tonight, Crowder will have to be at his best defensively if he wants to slow down Wiggins.
The Celtics have built their identity this season with their tough, gritty defense. They don't give up many easy looks. With that, the Wolves have to shoot the ball well tonight if they wants a chance at a W.
KG, Pek, and Bjelica will sit out for Minnesota for the 2nd game in a row.
For Boston, Kelly Olynk is out, while Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart are both probable.
Jim Peterson's Birthday!
Yes! Today is Wolves color analyst Jim Peterson's birthday. Jim has been with Fox Sports North since 2003 providing excellent analysis and insight to fans during Timberwolves games and is a beloved figure in the Minnesota basketball community.
Jim, I and the rest of Wolves nation, would like to wish you a very happy birthday. Thank you for all the hard work you put in each night. Thank you for your loyalty and dedication to this team and state. It truly would not be the same watching a Wolves game without your in-depth breakdowns and supreme commentary.
Now, let's hope the Wolves can get a win for Jim Pete on his birthday and build some momentum before heading to Toronto for the start of a 3 game roadtrip.
Prediction: Wolves defeat Celtics 99-93. Celtics continue to struggle on 2nd night of back-to-backs, run out of energy in 4Q.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the game. Go Wolves.