By: Dan Slaubaugh
Happy Monday, Wolves fans.
The Wolves (2-2) in preseason play) are so close to playing meaningful basketball, with only nine days until they tipoff their season in Memphis against the Grizzlies.
So, how is the team looking with only nine days until the season tips off? Any new changes to the lineup?
The answer: Nah, not really.
Tom Thibodeau will assuredly roll with Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, and Karl-Anthony Towns as his starting five. Nemanja Bjelica appears to have embraced the Wolves' "sixth man" role for now, with Cole Aldrich following shortly after and Kris Dunn Brandon Rush and Shabazz Muhammad rounding out the second unit.
As for Tyus Jones, it doesn't look like he will be getting many minutes to start the year. How many minutes he would initially receive was in direct correlation to how well Kris Dunn could shoot from the perimeter, and Dunn's shooting has been pretty awful so far going 9-41 (3-25 from outside five feet, 1-8 3ptfg - 12%) from the field so far.
More on Dunn: He's playing like a rookie point guard generally does. Along with his poor perimeter shooting, he's had a difficult time converting post-entry passes and seeing the entire floor. This has led to 13 turnovers and 16 assists through the first four games, which is an 0.8:1 assist/turnover ratio. That my friends, is not good.
But that's what preseason is for. It takes time for rookies to adapt to the pace and speed of the NBA game, and Dunn is asked to do so at the toughest position to play.
Dunn will improve, and may have to at quick rate if the Wolves want to contend for a playoff spot, but it will take time.
After all, not everyone can be Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Wolves will wrap up preseason play with two games this week against the Memphis Grizzlies (Wednesday - 7pm CT) and Charlotte Hornets (Friday - 7pm CT). Both games will be televised on FSNorth.
Last Tuesday, the Timberwolves announced they will be hosting an open scrimmage at Target Center on October 18th (tomorrow). Here's the official release.
Minneapolis/St. Paul – The Timberwolves announced today that they will host “Wolves Fan Fest” at Target Center on Tuesday, October 18. The event, which is free and open to the public, will give fans their first look at the 2016-17 roster.
Doors will open at 6:00 p.m. with the team taking the floor at 7:00 p.m. Wolves Fan Fest requires securing a ticket in advance, which fans can obtain by visiting timberwolves.com.
The Wolves home opener is set for Tuesday, November 1 at 7:00 p.m. against the Memphis Grizzlies. Single-game tickets are currently on sale at timberwolves.com or by calling 612-673-1234.
This will be a great opportunity for fans to get their first look at the this years team under new head coach Tom Thibodeau.
The event drew a great crowd last year, so one would think they will draw equal or even more this time around with the unreal amount of hype this team is getting, which leads me to my next segment.
So. Much. Hype
If one wants to find a pump-up article on the up-and-coming Timberwolves, they won't have to look to hard. They're everywhere.
ESPN's Zach Lowe published his annual 30 "crazy predictions" for the 2016/17 NBA season. In it you will find that the Wolves are everyone's pick to steal a playoff spot. Also, Lowe predicts Karl-Anthony Towns will make his All-Star debut this year in New Orleans.
More from ESPN's NBA writing staff: Senior Writer Brian Windhorst seems to be riding the Wolves bandwagon pretty hard as well, following them around a bit during preseason. He's published two articles on the team so far. The first on how Tom Thibodeau's extreme makeover of the Wolves is underway. The second on how the future of the Wolves rests on Andrew Wiggins' emergence. Both are fantastic pieces and I recommend you read.
Bleacher Report Lead Writer Jonathan Abrams wrote about how the young stars of the Wolves are ready to take over the NBA and tried to answer the question on if they can turn around a franchise that seems to have forgotten to win.
After so many years of being the laughing stock of the league, the Wolves are finally the darling of the NBA media. A budding superstar, a young stud every other young team would be drooling to have as their number one guy, and a vast array of young talent surrounding them led by one of the league's top coaches will do that to you. Pair that with a new practice facility and a renovated Target Center and there's no secret why there's a feeling of rebirth surrounding the Wolves organization right now.
Have some people gotten ahead of themselves? Maybe. Maybe not. I don't believe that question can be answered until we start playing some games. Nonetheless, this is easily the Wolves most hyped squad since 2003-04.
It's an amazing feeling when the trajectory of a franchise (particularly the team you follow most) is trending upwards after 12+ consecutive years of bottom-dwelling. Fans should savor the national attention this team is getting -- even if it is overblown -- and be excited about the team's future. I mean, come on, this franchise boasts the worst winning percentage in NBA history. It's okay to feel giddy that the future will bring joy through success, even though this team might not materialize as early as people are projecting.
By: Ryan Schmidt
Almost all professional athletes are pretty spectacular in some way. It can sometimes be difficult to quantify them individually at being more remarkable than another. But some just astonish a witness by their level of athleticism over the competition they are competing against.
The first time I witnessed Zach LaVine up close was the Minnesota Timberwolves Summer League open scrimmage. I knew LaVine was an incredible athlete, the 2014 NBA Draft combine confirmed that. I was blown away by LaVine’s speed (https://vine.co/v/igaYFUQ5zxT) and explosion in person though. In scrimmages things aren’t always what they appear. One thing for sure that I could see was that LaVine was one of those another top-notch athletes. ESPN’s SportsScience confirmed this.
Zach LaVine’s game resembles Russell Westbrook’s. I know what you’re thinking, hot take incoming. Relax, take a deep breath. LaVine is like Westbrook not because they play basketball similarly. Or because they both attended UCLA. Or in their first year in the NBA they both were moved/made to play the point guard position (one a lot more successful than the other). LaVine is like Westbrook because when you see him play you think this guy is/can/could be amazing. The athleticism and speed they play the game at seems like it’s always warp and everybody else is normal. It’s like when you get into a car accident and you briefly have slow motion perception and you are 100% cognitive of everything happening. Yet they both are able to make plays and not go tumbling into the stands every time because they can’t stop like Mendoza.
Quantifying how good a certain player can/will be is the hardest thing in sports. Even though LaVine is similar to Westbrook in style, he’s still not Westbrook. Although both were shooting guards in college and had NBA coaches attempt to make them into points their rookie year’s, Westbrook is clearly a playmaker while LaVine is a lot better off the ball, or a secondary ball handler. First two year comparisons show Westbrook had 560 more assists, 358 more rebounds, and played 1280 more minutes. LaVine is a significantly better 3 point shooter (37% to 25%) and per 36 they averaged roughly the same amount points (16.5 to 16.9).
What Zach Does Well
Overall LaVine shot 38.9% from three, 3.9% better than league average. LaVine shot 64.9% eFG% on spot-ups, that’s 6th among players with 100 attempts. He shot 49.6% FG and 43.7% from three after the all-star.
On corner threes he was even better shooting 45.5% and 48%. Within five feet LaVine shot 62.6% and within the restricted area he shot 64.7%. LaVine took over 32% of his shots within five feet and for a guard that is respectable number.
What else can Zach LaVine do? Right now, honestly, we don’t know. On defense traditional stats and advanced stats make LaVine appear fairly pedestrian. His on/off plus-minus is pretty awful as well. When LaVine was on the court during 2015-16 season he was -6.2 while off the court he was 0.1. When LaVine was a full-time starter his on court was -4.6 and off he was even. Over the course of the season his Advanced OffRtg 104, DefRtg 109.5. After the break 107.1 offense. 110.3 Defense. In defense Real Plus-Minus LaVine was the 10th worst overall player in the NBA which is 456th (Derrick Rose is 449 Damien Lillard is 450). The positive in LaVine’s 2015-16 season on defense is he managed to average 1.1 steal in March and 1.7 in April (https://vine.co/v/iXnlxriqZYE).
LaVine isn’t a point guard. Allow me to repeat that if it didn’t sink in: Zach LaVine is not a point guard. LaVine’s net rating during the 2014-15 as a point guard was -486. At the shooting guard spot, -54 according to 82games.com. Most of LaVine’s early 2015-16 struggles can be attributed to this as well, and the poor matching of LaVine and Kevin Martin together on the floor. LaVine’s shot selection needs some work as well, or a drastic improvement on pull up shots. He shoots 35.3% from the 16-24 feet range and takes 42.6% of his shots are pull ups. He shoots 34.4% on pull ups and just 35% from 3 on those. In comparison, 42.5% on catch and shoot 3’s according tostats.NBA.com.
In small bursts of 5 games or a month, like March 2016, the first full month at exclusively shooting guard, LaVine scored 17.8 points per, shot 49.8% FG, and 47.4% from three. LaVine has clearly shown the promise and potential. Now the Timberwolves have finally put him where he’s always belonged, next to a dynamic passing guard. So after almost out of necessity his rookie year, and mostly to get minutes his sophomore year, Zach LaVine may have found the spot where he should’ve been all along. A place that could enable him to do what he does second best, shoot the rock.
By: Dan Slaubaugh
The first week of training camp brought some notable news and quotes from the Wolves players and coaches. From Ricky Rubio telling the media how hard he tried hard to get Pau Gasol to sign here, to Karl Towns stating that the whole "12-year playoff drought" phrase is getting old, Wolves media finally had something to gnaw on.
My personal favorites came from Shabazz Muhammad and Nemanja Bjelica.
With that said, one thing has become increasingly clear throughout the first week of training camp. Tom Thibodeau believes Shabazz Muhammad and Nemanja Bjelica -- two players who had mediocre 2015/16 seasons -- can be key contributors in 2016/17.
We are all aware of Shabazz's ability to put the ball in the basket. He's good at it. It's the defensive side of the ball that has held the 23-year old back in his first three NBA seasons. This is something he's looking to improve on.
“It’s crazy. I feel like I’ve already gotten way smarter on defense," Muhammad said. "Just the things coach is explaining to us and attention to detail and his defensive schemes. I feel like we’re getting them pretty quick.”
Thibodeau has noticed improvement on that end so far as well, offering praise for Shabazz's willingness to learn.
“The first step is to know what you have to do,” Thibodeau said. “He’s done a good job with that… He’s a terrific athlete. He’s strong. There’s no reason why he can’t be a great defender.”
Thibodeau has also hinted that we could see Muhammad at the two, three and four this season.
"One of the things the coaches have been telling me is that they want to use me to spread the floor," Muhammad said. "They’re thinking of playing me at three different positions, putting me in different spots so I can find ways to score the ball. I think for me it’s really getting to know our new offensive system. I just can’t wait to get started. I know I can be an X-Factor for this team, I just have to go out there and start working right away in training camp. - UPROXX
How Thibodeau uses Bazz in preseason play will be something for Wolves fans to keep an eye on.
Professor Big Shots
Nemanja Bjelica's first season was a roller coaster (beating a dead horse here) filled with inconsistent play. However, it sounds like he is on a mission to prove his doubters wrong. He almost entirely spent his summer in Minneapolis working on his game and trying out a new diet which looks to have paid off.
John Meyer (Canis Hoopus) has raved about Bjelica's potential and ability to help this team return to the playoffs, which is something I am fully on board with.
More importantly, Thibodeau is as well.
"I'm excited about him. He's had a great summer. He's in really good shape. He has a very unique skill set: He acn shoot the three, he can put it on the floor. The one thing that is probably overlooked is his playmaking ability. You can run the pick-and-roll with him. He's got great vision, he can pass over people."
Let's hope Nemanja can shake off an inconsistent rookie season and turn heads his sophomore year.
Fun Fact (h/t Kyle Ratke of Timberwolves.com) about Bjelica: He said the he got his driver’s license this offseason, after carpooling with Nikola Pekovic at times last season.
I just want to know why there wasn't a podcast recorded from their car rides.
Karl-Anthony Towns stars in Gatorade's "Burn It To Earn It" advertising series.
Timberwolves add Ed Pickney to their coaching staff.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins share their thoughts on Kevin Garnett.
Around the League
LeBron James writes op-ed endorsing Hillary Clinton for President.
Why Ben Simmons broken foot should prompt increased patience from Sixers management.
It's time for Demarcus Cousins to rise above the Kings' dysunction.
*All unsourced quotes from this article were taken from Timberwolves.com.
That's right. The #Wolves have a basketball game this week. They will take on the Miami Heat on Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri at the Sprint Center. Tipoff is set for 7:00pm CT. Until then, have a wonderful week, and be sure to follow @OnTheProwl_MN on Twitter for extensive coverage/analysis of Timberwolves training camp.