By: Dan Slaubaugh
Good afternoon, Wolves fans.
The Wolves are in the City of Brotherly Love tonight, set to face Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers for the second time this season. Tipoff is set for 6:10 pm CT.
Minnesota (11-23) has went an even 5-5 over the last ten games, but blew a 12-point halftime lead Saturday vs. Portland.
Philadelphia will be coming into the game well-rested, coming off a 124-122 victory at Denver on Friday.
Andrew Wiggins (22.1), Karl-Anthony Towns (21.5), and Zach LaVine (20.9) are all still averaging over 20 points per game and are among the league scoring leaders. The defense is still bad. They're 26th in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing 108 points per 100 possessions.
The 76ers boast their share of defensive issues as well, ranking 21st in the league in defensive efficiency at 106 points per 100 possessions. To make things worse, they rank dead last in offensive efficiency at 99.1 points per 100 possessions. Rookie center Joel Embiid is still playing well, leading the team and all first-year players in scoring (18.9), rebounding (7.3), and blocked shots (2.4).
The Wolves obliterated the 76ers in the first meeting this season, routing Philly 110-86 Nov. 17 at Target Center.
If you're looking for reason to watch tonight's game, another Karl-Anthony Towns - Joel Embiid showdown should be enough.
It's been a joy to watch the development of the 3rd-year guard thus far in his NBA career. After starting just one game in college, he now leads the league in minutes (37.5). He still has plenty of work to do on defense (on-ball defensive has certainly improved) and still needs to improve his offensive decision making, but it's been remarkable to witness the progression of one of the analytically worst players in the league his rookie year to the dynamic scorer he has proven to be this current day.
Here's a snippet from a piece from Josh Clement (Canis Hooopus), taking a look at LaVine's advanced statisics from his rookie year to 2017.
LaVine has improved across the board while increasing his minutes per game from 24.7 to a league-leading 37.5 while retaining a usage rate of between 22-23.5 percent. The rest of his numbers have been largely stagnant, other than a decreased assist percentage and turnover percentage, which is easily attributed to the move away from point guard to shooting guard.
Overall, LaVine’s rise from barely-NBA player to potential star with a positive impact is remarkable. The real palatable thing about LaVine’s development is how linear it is. It fits the narrative and timeline of how young players develop, as well as how they should respond to increases in playing time."
Once LaVine figures out how to play team-defense - much like the rest of the team - his advanced statistics will improve dramatically. And more importantly, wins will come.
It's been an odd season for Tyus Jones. When he's seen the court, he's played well (net rating of 6.3). He brings the ability to stretch the floor, indicative of his 41.7% shooting from three-point range. Furthermore, the bench has been downright awful. So why on earth is he not getting any minutes?
"The numbers strongly suggest Jones should be an established part of the Wolves’ rotation. The fact that Thibs plants Jones on the bench implies a couple of things about the new head coach. First, maybe Thibs isn’t much of an advanced stats/analytics guy. Sure, this is only one example, but he has made little reference to it in the past.
Secondly, and this is a narrative that most of us have been aware of already, but it appears as if Dunn is “his guy” and giving Dunn reps in games is a priority for Thibodeau. But doing so at the cost of Jones, who is 26 months younger than Dunn and has shown upside in his own right as a valuable rotational player at the least, seems hasty." - Canis Hoopus
Drew concludes his article by stating that if he were the head coach of the Wolves, he'd look to the young man who has provided a spark on the most consistent basis when he has stepped on the floor this season.
I, for one, agree with Drew in his conclusion. The bench clearly can't get any worse (21.4 points per game, worst in the league), so why not give the Jones-Dunn backcourt some run? Tyus has shown - in a small sample size - that he has the ability to run an NBA offense. Dunn has shown he can score with Tyus running the point, albeit it being against much weaker competition in Summer League play. The main point is, bench production literally can't get any worse. Hence, giving the former Dukie more playing time suggests as a rational idea.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy tonight's game. Go Wolves.