By: Dan Slaubaugh
Hello there, friends.
I've been thinking of starting a weekly column, one that's both entertaining and educational, for some time now. With the abundance of pure analysis provided by the Timberwolves blogging community, I thought something lighter - but still informative - would be something viewers would enjoy. That said, this marks the column's opener. Thanks for clicking. Sorry. No backing out now.
Anyway, you came for Timberwolves stuff, so I'm going to give you the Timberwolves stuff.
Wolves in Oakland
Fresh off a dominant victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday, Nov. 5, the Timberwolves will try to make it six straight wins tonight in Oakland against Nick Young's Golden State Warriors.
Yeah, that's right. NICK YOUNG's Golden State Warriors. Lol, in all seriousness, he's settled into a nice role with his new team averaging 5 points per game on 40.0 percent three point shooting. His defense remains a problem, which serves as the main reason why he's only averaging 11.4 minutes per contest.
The Wolves have been able to the defending champs tough the past couple seasons, tallying at least one win against the Dubs in each of the past two years. My favorite win all of last year came against the Warriors at home. I wrote a recap telling fans that the team had officially turned a corner, but as always (except for this year!), they collapsed by losing four of their final 18 games.
This season is obviously different. With the additions of all-star Jimmy Butler and veterans Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, and Taj Gibson, the Wolves are much improved. This is evidenced by their 7-3 start and current five-game winning streak, where they rank second in offensive rating (111.2) and 11th in defensive rating (102.6).
The key difference is clearly Jimmy Butler, who will need to be at his best tonight defending Kevin Durant and the rest of the Warriors brass who rank an entire eight points above the second-place Houston Rockets in offensive rating at 116.4. It will be important for Minnesota to string together some stops early in the game with Golden State being a fine-tuned machine that can demolish competition in no time. Makes sense considering they have the best shooter in NBA history, one of the finest scorers ever, and a number three option who would be the top gun for most teams in the league.
Unfortunately for the Wolves, their defense, anchored by Draymond Green, is just as good as their offense. Therefore, per usual when facing the Dubs, the Wolves will have to be on the same page defensively while receiving contributions up and down the roster to challenge the Dubs tonight.
Wiggins thriving in new role
Through ten games, Andrew Wiggins seems to know exactly his role as third fiddle. He's slashing, shooting more threes, and getting to the free throw line at a consistent rate. His per game don't reflect well on the type of player he has been for Minnesota. His shooting has been a little inconsistent but overall I'm happy with it. He's currently shooting 34 percent from three point range on 4.7 attempts per game. I would like to know his catch-and-shoot percentage, which ought to be higher, but for some reason NBA.com won't show the statistic for the 2017-18 season.
By the eye test, the Wolves have played better with him on the court, and the stats back up the claim too. When Wiggins is on the court, the Wolves offensive rating is 112.1. With him off the court, that number plummets to 104.9. Defensively, the Wolves have been a tick worse with Wiggins on the court, but things have gone well when Jimmy has been healthy.
The main flaw in Wiggins 2017-18 performance has been at the charity stripe, where he's shot a measly 57.4 percent. This could turn into a real problem as teams could be tempted to foul him late in games. With how often Wiggins gets fouled attacking the basket, his free throw shooting needs to improve. Accomplishing that feat will lead to greater efficiency in a season where he's exceeded expectations to this point.
At 23.9 minutes per game, the Wolves starting unit (Teague-Wiggins-Butler-Gibson-Towns) are averaging the most minutes of any five-man rotation throughout the league in the last ten years. This season, the Clippers starting five ranks second, averaging 18.3 minutes per game. Scroll down a bit, and you'll find that the Warriors starting five only averages 12 minutes per game together. That's crazy, and it makes you think head coach Tom Thibodeau is a bit behind the times. That said, it's worth noting he doesn't have the bench to allow for many rotations.
The Wolves starting five averaging the most minutes per game together isn't necessarily a bad thing. Of the five-man lineups that have played five or more games together this season, the Wolves starting five ranks 4th in the NBA in +/-. Of any starting five that's logged at least 50 minutes together, the Wolves starting brass ranks 7th in offensive rating (114.1) and 15th in defensive rating (102.4).
Minnesota's starting unit is doing their part to make this team successful. Whether the bench can do enough to sustain that level of success by the starting unit will be answered in the following weeks. If not, we may see Thibodeau make a move, particularly for a veteran wing.
That question will begin to be answered tonight in Oakland, where receiving contributions throughout the roster serves vital in trying to keep up with the best offense in NBA history.