By: Dan Slaubaugh
FOX Sports North and the Minnesota Timberwolves Thursday announced a 75-game telecast schedule for the 2017-18 season that will once again see the network serve as the exclusive local television home for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
FOX Sports North's regular-season coverage begins Wednesday, October 18, with the Wolves season opener at San Antonio, marking the first of three televised games against the Spurs. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. CT with a special one-hour edition of Wolves Live. The game will also be televised on ESPN.
Coverage will continue Friday, October 20, as Fox Sports North will again offer a special edition of Wolves live beginning at 6:00 p.m. CT for the team's home opener (and Ricky Rubio's return!) against the Utah Jazz.
And of course, there is the preseason.
Fox Sports North will televise all three Wolves preseason games, including two contests from China on Wednesday, Oct. 4 and Sunday, Oct. 8. against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Per Fox Sports North's press release, "The overseas telecasts will air live and re-air again during primetime".
Coverage begins on September 30 with Fox Sports North's first preseason broadcast for the Wolves' game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Anaheim, California.
Play-by-play announcer Dave Benz enters his 5th season alongside color analyst Jim Peterson, who will be in his 15th season providing his excellent color commentary for FOX Sports North.
Kevin Lynch and Quincy Lewis return as analysts for the pregame and postgame shows, while Tom Hanneman is back for his fifth season as host.
Marney Gellner will once again serve as the in-game reporter, and will helm the pre- and post-game shows.
9/19/2017 0 Comments
By: OTP Staff
This is the second piece in a series of articles that will look at each individual position on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster heading into the 2017-18 season. Today we feature the shooting guards, headlined by Andrew Wiggins and Crawford.
In the transcript below, On The Prowl writers Dan Slaubaugh, Zach More, Jonah Sprinkel, Cal Colbert, and Louie Vicchiollo discuss what Andrew Wiggins needs to do to take the next step in his NBA career, converse about Jamal Crawford's role in Minnesota this season, and touch on few players who will be competing for a roster spot. This conversation has been lightly edited.
Dan: Going to be a fun year for Maple Jordan! (Maybe I should stop calling him that).
Jonah: I’m going to ask two very tall tasks of Wiggins this year. 1. Play consistent defense. 2. Shoot the ball more efficiently. That’s it. Do that and the Wolves are a top 5 team.
Cal: If I'm going to ask Wiggins to do two things. I would ask him to sign the extension already, and I would really like to see him rebound the ball more consistently. We all know Wiggins is super athletic, so I know he can rebound. He just needs to hustle and actually do it.
Zach: Butler is going to be great for Wiggins. He will lead by example and show Wiggins to be a star he will need to be a 2 way player. He will also make things easier on Wiggins by guarding the best player on the opponent’s team and also on most nights having the opponent’s best defender guarding him. This will give Wiggins hopefully the better match-up on offense and easier task to improve his defense.
Louie: Honestly, it is easy to see what wiggins brings to the table on offense, but I agree, all I want from him this year is defense. We all saw that 538 stat that he barely affects shots when he is on defense. Jimmy should help him with this tremendously.
Zach: Wiggins had a stretch last year where he was very good from behind the arc. His shot form looked a lot better and he did end up shooting 35.6% from 3 last year after just 30% the previou year. His form looked much better and he seemed to be more confident. He needs to keep improving on that shot, and become a catch and shoot threat. I think we will see another increase in his percentage this year. I would also like to see his attempts increase as well.
Dan: The roster is so much more set for Wiggins to be successful now. Minus the fastbreak buckets Ricky got him, the offense now is more conductive for him. Teams can no longer double him and prevent him from getting to “his spots” on the court.
Jonah: How much of a scoring load do you guys expect Wiggins to carry? For as much as he ran iso plays last year he wound up in the bottom third of the league in terms of efficiency.
Dan: For one, I don’t think Wiggins will be daunted with the task of closing out games for the Wolves. That’s now in Jimmy Butler’s hands, which takes a lot of pressure off the fourth-year guard. Now, Wiggins will need to utilize his athletic ability in the slashing game and, like you said Jonah, shoot the ball more efficiently. If he can do that, we’ll have a better third-fiddle than 95% of the league.
Dan: Wiggins is coming off a season where he averaged a team-best 23.6 points per game to go along with 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists. With the arrival of Jimmy Butler, what are your expectations for Wiggins in 2017-18?
Zach: It’s so hard to predict stats with how different this team will look. I think his points will stay about the same but efficiency will go up. Rebounds right around 5 or just a bit below. Assists should increase with better options around him.
Dan: JAMAL CRAWFORD WELCOME TO MINNESOTA
Jonah: I think it’s safe to say that Crawford brings both some positives and negatives to this team. I’m mostly concerned with his streaky shooting and lack of defense. The flip side to that is the Wolves haven’t had a bench scorer like this in a long time.
Dan: Yep. My evaluation of the signing was A+ off the court, C on the court. Jamal didn’t shoot very well last season, so that will be one thing to keep an eye on.
Louie: I agree with you Dan; he is going to be an amazing player to have in the locker room, with loads of experience, but as far as the on court skills go, everyone knows he is past his prime. Last year he had shooting splits of 41.3/36.0/85.7 FG/3P/FT which isn’t horrible, but for the type of “vacuum” player he is, team efficiency declines mightily when he is on the court. Regardless, he has the ability to provide the crowd with one or two plays a game that will make them pick their jaws up off the floor.
Zach: Love the signing for the mentor part and the off the court stuff. Crawford can still score the ball but he did not have a good season last year. It’s up to Thibs to put him in a role that benefits him and the team. I am curious to see how him and Bazz will coexist together.
Dan: Good points, Zach. While I’m curious to see how he and Bazz coexist, I’m also curious to see how much ball-handling duty Thibs gives Crawford. Will he share ball-handling duties with Tyus in the second unit or play off-ball most of the time? For a player so used to having the ball in his hands, he is going to have to adjust if Tyus gets warranted minutes at backup point guard.
Zach: Thibs is going to have to be careful with his minutes to make him successful. Crawford has said that he struggled last year because he wasn’t comfortable or happy with the way Doc was using him. Crawford will have to be able to be above average at catch and shoot 3’s as well for that second unit to be successful.
Louie: I’m glad you brought up ball handling responsibilities Dan, people forget when Jamal came into the league in 2000 he played 77% of his minutes at the PG position compared to the 1% he played there last year (70% at SF, 26% at SG).
Dan: If I remember correctly, Jonah has deemed Crawford the “four-point play godfather”. That being said, I’m setting the over/under for four-point plays at 4.5 for Crawford this season. Are you taking the over or under?
Jonah: I think I’ll take the under. Last year Crawford had a usage percentage of 22.7. It’s hard to imagine a world where he logs anything close to that.
Louie: I’ll also take the under. He made 3 last year, and I think he will finish with 3 or 4 this year.
Dan: So what are your expectations out of Jamal Crawford this season? What does he need to do to give Thibs a reliable bench piece?
Jonah: He needs to shoot at least 44 percent from the field. As long as he’s a little smarter about what kind of shots he takes I think he’ll be fine. Last year 12.5 percent of his shots came from the three to 10 foot range. He shot 38.5 percent on those shots. From everywhere else inside the arc he was above 43 percent.
Louie: I expect him to play around 22 minutes a night, 75+ games, and hit two threes a game off the bench. I think that is very realistic for him to do on offense. When it comes to defense, I expect him to not be a total liability, and that is all. He has never had a positive Defensive Box Plus Minus in his career, so anything close to zero this year will make me happy.
Zach: It’s not a very in depth effort but he needs to be a net positive player. Needs to be an efficient scorer with a low number of turnovers. Has to make it so teams don’t go on the big runs vs our 2nd unit because we go on scoring droughts.
Marcus Georges-Hunt and Anthony Brown
Dan: I’m going to pair these guys together simply because I don’t know a ton about them. What I do know, however, is that they deserve to be on a roster.
Jonah: If I’m being 100 percent honest here, I couldn’t pick either of these guys out if they were standing next to Glen Taylor.
Dan: Lol. So here’s the gist on Hunt: He was waived by the Magic in late July after signing a two-year, partially-guaranteed deal with the team in early April. He was a long shot to make the roster and played in just five NBA games with the Magic, totaling 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists and one steal in 48 minutes. He spent a significant chunk of time in the G-League, however, appearing in 45 contests. In those outings, he averaged 15.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game while hitting 39.0 percent of his shots from deep.
Louie: Yeah, what Dan said.
Zach: Anthony Brown, who signed a two-way contract with the Wolves in July, is a shooter. In the D-League last year (now known as the G-League) he attempted 14.8 shots a game with 5.1 of those attempts being from 3. He shot an amazing 46.7% from behind the arc. This is one of those signing that has little to no downside but a ton of upside. Wolves will need to try to get shooting from anywhere they can find it. He is 6’7” and 211 lbs so he has good size for a guard.
Dan: It will be interesting to see if the Wolves can develop the 24-year-old shooting guard/small forward into an NBA-level perimeter threat, as their current team doesn't have any true three-point marksmen.
By: OTP Staff
This is the first piece in a series of articles that will look at each individual position on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster heading into the 2017-18 season. Today we feature the point guards, which feature someone knew at the helm for the first time in six years.
In the transcript below, On The Prowl writers Dan Slaubaugh, Zach More, Jonah Sprinkel, Cal Colbert, and Louie Vicchiollo discuss what the arrival of Jeff Teague means for the Timberwolves and converse about Tyus Jones' future in Minnesota. The conversation has been lightly edited.
Dan: JEFF TEAGUE WELCOME TO MINNESOTA! (Miss and love you, Ricky)
Zach: I’m more excited now that we have Teague than right after it happened. Rubio will always have a place in my heart but a change might help everyone.
Cal: I agree with Zach. At first I didn't understand the trading of Rubio to sign Teague. I didn't feel like it really made sense to sign a new PG to try and come in and learn the offense when Rubio had been doing so well and improving. However, I am excited to see what he can offer.
Jonah: It’s going to be a weird change of pace for sure. Teague is interesting to me, as an isolation scorer last year he was in the 84th percentile and scored 1.02 points per possession.
Zach: Something that I think we will have to all learn to understand is that we can’t just look at the stats from Teague. If he does what Thibs says he will and make the defense guard him at the 3 point line, the numbers of the other players should improve.
Dan: That's a great point. That being said, Teague was one of only five players last season to average 15 points and seven assists with a true shooting percentage of .550 or better last season. While Rubio has more strengths than Teague, he also has more weaknesses. After watching highlights of Teague, I think he suggests to be mediocre at everything except in being a very efficient pick-and-roll point guard. He doesn’t have many holes in his game.
Jonah: Last year Indiana’s defense actually got better when Teague was off the floor. That’s kind of concerning to me.
Zach: I would have to go back to listen to Thibs talking about Teague, does he mention his defense at all? We all knew Ricky was a good defender and seems like Thibs would have preferred a defensive minded point guard, but it seemed like from the time Thibs got here he was determined to bring in someone to replace him.
Louie: With a league dominated by offensive superstar point guards, Teague will have to play defense for Thibs.
Dan: I believe Jim Pete pointed this out after the Wolves traded Ricky, but having him on the floor during crunch time was a real concern. There wasn’t much spacing for Wiggins to operate because Rubio's inability to consistently knock down shots and finish at the room hurt the team. Close games and playoff games are decided by halfcourt execution and shot making. Teague gives the team a better chance to win those type of games.
Zach: That is a good point, as we have talked about in the past, I have always felt with Ricky as the point guard that you needed an offensive minded backup point guard who could shoot, that way they could have played the situation. With Teague they don’t have to worry about that as much. He will be enough of a threat on offense where teams need to respect them or he will make them pay.
Jonah: So what are your expectations for Teague this year?
Dan: My hope is that Teague can knock down shots at an efficient rate, because he’s going to have to with Jimmy Butler running the show a significant amount of the time. Statistics-wise, I’m projecting 33 MPG, 13 PPG, 6.3 AST, and 1.3 STLS with league-average defense at the point guard position.
Jonah: I have this idea that Butler will be doing the majority of the passing and distributing this season. Last year with the Bulls Jimmy’s teammates were very poor finishers and shooters when catching the ball out of a Butler pick and roll. If the Wolves use Butler in a similar manner it would allow Teague to be more of a pure scorer with a minor role in assisting others. I’m thinking somewhere along the lines of 15 points and 5 assists.
Louie: I think that Teague can be super solid this year. Realistically, 30 MPG, 10 PPG, 6.5 AST with a sprinkle of steals in there as well along with not turning the ball over.
Zach: That is a great point Jonah, I think Thibs envisions the ball being in Butler’s hand down the stretch and Ricky wasn’t a guy that was a good fit for playing off the ball. Teague can be more of a threat off the ball in the corners.
Dan: Absolutely. Teague’s steady play helped push the Pacers into the Eastern Conference playoffs a year ago. Let’s hope he can do the same with the Wolves this season while staying extremely healthy like he has in the past just missing 17 games over the past four seasons.
Dan: I’m not sure about you guys, but I sure am happy the hometown kid is back.
Jonah: Tyus needs a haircut. Any chance he’s related to Prince?
Zach: 2nd cousins
Dan: Lol. Did you guys know Tyus has an Instagram for his dog? You can follow at dukestonesjones. It’s a nine-month old Husky Pomeranian. Truly a beautiful dog.
Zach: New favorite player!
Dan: Jones was quietly efficient last season in limited playing time as he averaged 7.3 assists to 1.8 turnovers per 36 minutes and was eighth on the team in PER.
Zach: I am glad that Tyus is back this year. He had moments last year where he looked like a true backup point guard. It was thought by most that Thibs would bring in a backup point guard and move Tyus back to the third guard, but that hasn’t happened. It will be a big jump for Tyus going from 12 MPG to somewhere in the upper teens. He will need to become more consistent with his shot, and has to be a litte more of a playmaker but he is a winner and has that clutch gene.
Cal: Tyus is great! I'm upset that I never got the chance to see him play in high school. But now I get to see him in a Wolves jersey, so I can't complain. Plus in 2k he's always ballin for me.
Jonah: Tyus did play 15 and a half minutes a game his rookie year, so he’s not a complete stranger to a higher workload. I do agree with you Zach, much more will be asked of him.
Dan: One improvement I noticed in Tyus’ game last year was knowing when to gamble on defense. Ricky sometimes tended to take more risks gambling than needed, but I think Tyus learned greatly from Rubio’s defensive instincts. Tyus possesses a phenomenal basketball IQ, so this is something he should improve on each year.
Jonah: Definitely. I think it’s rare to see a guy Tyus’ age with such a high basketball IQ. The only thing that seems to hold this guy back are his physical limitations. But we’ve seen smaller guards accomplish much more so I’m pretty confident in Tyus as a backup.
Dan: Offensively, Tyus just needs to limit turnovers while hitting the three ball at a fairly efficient rate (36-38%).
Cal: Yes! Tyus definitely needs to be able to hit the 3 ball! I know you guys talked about his defense, but think he definitely will be improved in defense this season. I think he really learned a lot from Ricky and last season, more importantly just felt confident and comfortable in his decision making when he was on the floor.
Zach: Tyus will also have some pressure this year. He is the main backup and this is a playoff caliber team. If he isn’t playing up to Thibs standards and making the team better when he is out there, the Wolves will need to be active at the trade deadline to find someone who will.
Dan: Well said, Zach. Improving defensive competence, hitting the perimeter shot, and limiting turnovers by operating a consistent offense are the steps Jones will need to take to carve out a role for him this season. If he can do those things, it will give Thibodeau another viable option off the bench.
By: Dan Slaubaugh - 5 minute read
With training camp just two weeks away, basketball activities are close to ramping up in the Twin Cities.
Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau still has some work to do filling out the back end of the roster. Previously stating he’d like to keep the 15th roster spot open for flexibility, he can sign up to four more guaranteed contracts if he so pleases.
We can pencil Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, and Karl-Anthony Towns into the starting lineup with Tyus Jones, Jamal Crawford, and an incoming free agent (Anthony Morrow?) coming off the bench. What we aren’t sure of is who starts at the power forward position between Taj Gibson and Gorgui Dieng.
This being the case, which player makes the most logical sense starting at power forward for the Timberwolves? Let’s take a look.
The case for Taj Gibson
With a defensive rating of 112.6, the three-man lineup of Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, and Karl-Anthony Towns ranked 11th worst in the NBA. The Wolves clearly need capable defenders in their starting lineup. Taj Gibson was brought in to be just that.
But it doesn’t just end there. Gibson was also brought in to help accelerate the defensive growth of the young pups – particularly third-year center Karl-Anthony Towns. In KAT’s first year with the Wolves, he had the privilege of going to war with one of the greatest defenders of all time in Kevin Garnett. As a result, KAT had a much better sense of what he needed to do defensively.
Gibson isn’t expected to be near the level of defender Garnett was - even during his last years in Minnesota - but he is expected to help improve the communication as a whole. For the majority of last season, Gorgui Dieng was the only one on the floor who would talk on defense; communicating on defense is crucial to team success. Gibson, who comes to Minneapolis with a complete understanding of Thibodeau’s defensive concepts, will help tremendously in that area.
Earlier this summer, Sports Illustrated NBA Writer Rob Mahoney touched on the impact Gibson will bring to the Wolves defensively:
“Players who don’t quite know where to be or what to do can look to Gibson or ask him; teammates past and present respect him almost universally for the way he contributes to organizational culture. It helps, too, that he brings it. Gibson has his limitations, but he always plays with an admirable edge and intelligence. It’s hard not to respect a veteran so competitive (just ask the forwards he bullies) and yet so self-aware.”
If Minnesota can even sniff the league average on defense, they could be a real and immediate problem. Gibson’s toughness and versatility on defense will go a long way in accomplishing that feat.
Gibson’s offensive arsenal is pretty basic, mostly consisting of back-to-the-basket post moves. If he can use his toughness to bully smaller defenders in the post while staying out of KAT’s way, Gibson will do just fine in Minnesota’s offense.
The case for Gorgui Dieng
By all means, Gorgui Dieng is not a poor defender. According to Basketball-Reference.com, the Wolves defended better (111.0 DRtg on, 114.1 DRtg off) with Dieng on the court last season.
In addition to being a competent defender, Dieng provides the ability to stretch the floor. This would not only help the offense in general, but specifically KAT who deserves space in the post when he pleases.
Dieng started all 82 games last season, putting up a steady 10.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists on 50%/37%/81% shooting splits. In his season review of Gorgui, A Wolf Among Wolves’ William Bohl noted those numbers don’t exactly jump off the page; but rather providing value in ways the traditional stat line doesn’t quite capture.
“Dieng posted the 2nd-best Net Rating among the team’s regulars, finishing only behind Tyus Jones in that category. Gorgui’s usage rate (in other words, possessions he shot or turned over the ball) ranked 3rd-lowest on the team, but he found other ways to contribute. He led the team in screen assists, charges taken, kicked balls, and contested shots per game. His assist ratio (in other words, what percentage of his team’s baskets he assisted on when he was on the floor) was 15.8%, ahead of Nemanja Bjelica, Zach LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins . He doesn’t have the reputation of a “facilitator,” but is a smart passer who does other little things to free up teammates for buckets.”
Offensively, Minnesota’s starting unit would benefit more from Dieng on the floor more than Gibson.
It’s important to remember that both Dieng and Gibson will play plenty regardless of who starts, forming a quality three-man rotation up front with Towns.
Having said that, Taj Gibson should be the starting power forward on opening night. The offense – spearheaded by three dynamic scorers in Towns, Butler, and Wiggins – is going to score plenty. The Wolves main focus this season needs to be improving the defense. Gibson in the starting lineup gives the team a better chance at fulfilling that focus.
Furthermore, the second unit could be in a heap of trouble if Jamal Crawford doesn’t produce the way we hope. Adding Dieng into the mix would only help ease the scoring load for Crawford and the entire second unit. Dieng built real chemistry with LaVine last year. Crawford and LaVine have similar playing styles, so why can’t Dieng and Crawford develop a chemistry similar to what Dieng had with LaVine?
At the end of the day, Gorgui Dieng just isn’t the solution to start at power forward for the Wolves. Tom Thibodeau didn’t pay Taj Gibson 14 million dollars per year to come off the bench. I barely mustered a B in my 100 level Philosophy class (Traditional Logics) freshman year, but I’m confident saying that starting Gibson and bringing Dieng off the bench simply makes the most logical sense for a team trying to create a balanced attack and a well-rounded roster.
By: Louie Vicchiollo and Jonah Sprinkel
The NBA season is fast approaching. This is great news for basketball junkies who miss their favorite sport and especially for Wolves fans who are eager to see their new-look team on the court for the first time.
That said, this will be the last offseason-centric post here at On The Prowl in 2017. Training Camp is two weeks away, so we'll be turning our attention to actual basketball activities. For now, enjoy this End of Summer Mailbag by Louie and Jonah, who are anxious to start covering the 28th season of Timberwolves basketball. A season that could end the longest playoff drought in the NBA.
Q: The Wolves are hosting free agents this week. Do you know which players are invited? Also, what players have received a contract offer? - @MDTrapp
JS: According to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders, the Timberwolves have worked out free agents Thomas Robinson, Alan Anderson, Trey Burke, Isaiah Canaan, Perry Jones and Anthony Morrow. All of those guys seem pretty "meh" to me. I don't think Burke would be a bad third point guard. With his experience in the league, he can be competent if he is needed to play.
On a much more positive note, I can tell you that both Dante Cunningham and Shabazz Muhammad have received contract offers from the team. The latter spent last year with the New Orleans Pelicans as a part time starter/part time bench player with a quality perimeter shot. The former spent last season with the Wolves, where he drove me bonkers with his inconsistent play.
Q: Would you rather start Dieng or Gibson? - @jjbgenson
LV: Editor Dan Slaubaugh will have more a detailed answer to this on the website later this week!
Q: Best case scenario, how far do the pups get in the playoffs this year? - @zachtotz
LV: As bad as I want to tell you the Timberwolves will make the conference finals, even that may be reaching too far for our beloved pups. We have heard regular season projections as good as fourth, and as low as eighth but the playoffs are a different beast. Getting to the playoffs is one of the goals we set for the Wolves this year, but just how far they make it is a whole different story. Realistically, making it to the second round is more than possible, but best case scenario, we see our Wolves get knocked out by the Warriors in the conference finals.
Q: Will KAT finally become an All-Star? - @jjbgenson
LV: Yes. One hundred and ten percent yes. If Karl's post All-Star break stats (28.4 PTS, 13.4 REB, 2.2 AST, 59.7 FG% and 43.4 3P%) have any indication of what he will do this year, there is no way he won't be an All-Star. Beyond the statistics, Karl seems to be one of the most liked players not only by other NBA players, but by the fans as well. This combination of jaw dropping stats and being one of the most liked young guys in the league will surely put KAT into the All-Star lineup.
Q: Is KAT good? - @A_Mar32
LV: Did you really just ask me that?