y: Zach Toedter
The second half of the NBA season has commenced and the Wolves are getting back into the swing of things. The Western conference playoffs were once inconceivable without 45 to 50 wins, but those days have come to an end. With a winning streak and a little luck the eighth seed and a first round beating from the Warriors isn’t a totally absurd idea. Just imagine watching Wiggins and KAT all over Sportscenter TOP10 while down 30 on the big stage. Most fans would be overjoyed to get swept by the Slim Reaper and The Splash Bros just for a taste of the playoffs.
Flash to reality. This team massively underperformed expectations through the season's first 35 games. Wolves Twitter was almost calling for Tom Thibodeau's head when he nearly traded Rubio for a former MVP at the trade deadline. Some were also mad there was no trade at all, not even to replace the missing firepower of an injured Zach Lavine. Why would anyone believe this team can play better than the first half of the season, especially with their difficult schedule?
First off, the team did get some needed rest at the All-Star break. Second, perhaps a larger boost of energy was installed because Thibs didn't trade a single member of the group that has grown together over the past two seasons. They didn’t get shaken with a trade of their veteran PG or their only scoring threat off the bench. Hence, the trust in Thibs has to be at an all-time high. Looking at the roster, making no move was the right move. Buying into a system takes trust and coach earned it. From the initial disappointment of how the season started, things do seem to be on an uptick as of late. Here’s what you can watch for in the next few months.
Towns and Wiggins emerging into lethal 1-2 scoring punch
Minnesota's Batman (KAT) and Robin (Wiggins) continue to show out every game. The record may not reflect it, but this one of the most exciting duos to watch in the NBA. Maple Jordan averaged 28.8 points in February and hit season high's in FG%, 3pt% and FT%. KAT also averaged 28 points and a team high 13 rebounds in February. He also trails just Russell Westbrook when it comes to double-doubles this season (although Westbrook’s are also triple-doubles). With a combined 56 PPG going into March, it seems like nothing can stop these too as they tear up even the best defenders in the league at the ages of 22 and 21. Plus if you’re a fan who watches the NBA just for dunks, you’re burning your Lob City jerseys and replacing them with a navy 22 or 32 jersey ASAP.
The pride of Apple Valley
Tyus Stones, who not only has the best nickname in basketball, has also been getting some minutes finally. He saw more court time in February than in any other month this season, and hit some seriously clutch shots. It is amazing to see the hometown kid produce on the big stage. We can only hope Lance Stephenson's possible return doesn't effect Tyus' minutes. That would certainly be a shame, given the correlation between his upswing in minutes and the team's improved play.
Dunn’s minutes dropped a ton in February, even after the loss of Zach Lavine. Aside from a few And1-mixtape-style highlights that you don’t usually see in the NBA, his season has been a flop. The question is can he make a push in the second half to undoubtedly prove that the Wolves didn’t make another mistake in the draft? He has a lot to prove, but Dunn is a very hard worker who's poised for success in the NBA - even if it may not be at the point guard position.
It’s way too early to tell how the rest of this season is going to turn out but hopefully these blooming ballers can produce a few more wins. The schedule gets difficult for the remainder of the season with only five games against teams not in the playoff picture. Facing the likes of the Warriors, Spurs, Thunder, Rockets and Clippers is difficult for any team, but these teams could be resting players which is good. If they can manage to take advantage with even a few semi-winnable games versus the Blazers, Jazz, and Eastern Conference playoff teams they face they could go at least .500 down the stretch. That would put them at around 35 wins. It may not be a miracle playoff run, but it’s certainly a small sign of improvement and a goal both players and something fans alike should be happy with. Whether you are praying for playoffs or #LosingForLonzo, we all have a reason to keep watching Wolves games the remainder of the season.