Posted by: Dan Slaubaugh
Yeah, I used KAT's head as a fill-in so the picture would look more complete. Zach might be feeding him something. I'm not sure.
General thoughts on the season
Dan Slaubaugh: It was a bit of a roller-coaster. The beginnings and ends were a lot of fun. The middle? Not so much. Towns was fantastic the entire season, and gave fans a reason to watch when the team was performing poorly. Wiggins developed into a top 20 scorer. LaVine became a more well-rounded player as the season progressed. Ricky finally stayed healthy for a whole season. The only player that regressed (IMO) is Shabazz, who seems to often forget what his strengths and weaknesses are as a player. I predicted this team to finish with 29 wins. They did. So that's fun.
Alex Berg: Overall, the season exceeded my expectations. I predicted 26 wins before the season, so they slightly out-performed that. Towns was better than I ever could have imagined. Rubio stayed healthy and his shot improved late in the season. Once the silly Zach LaVine experiment ended, he started to look like a legitimate NBA shooting guard. On the floor, I guess the only disappointment for me was Nikola Pekovic failing to contribute and/or stay healthy.
Drew Mahowald: All things considered, the Wolves achieved much more success than I had anticipated. After what I saw from this team the last few weeks, it's hard for me to say this team can't make the playoffs next year. Whoever takes the wheel of this franchise will be set up with almost all of the pieces necessary for a contending team. The only thing left is development and growth.
Zach More: I was hoping for a team that would compete for the playoffs this year, that obviously didn't happen. So much good happened, LaVine turned into a good player, Wiggins, Dieng, Bazz all produced in different games, Ricky had a great year. This is the most excited I have been about Wolves basketball in quite some time and a big reason why is because Arnie Kander kept this team healthy and on the court.
Thoughts on greatness of Karl-Anthony Towns
DS: Let's put it this way. Watching Karl-Anthony Towns play basketball is almost as equally as exciting as watching my mom take fresh baked cookies out of the oven.
AB: He's not human. That's the best way I can describe him. On the court, he's exceeded even my most optimistic expectations. Perhaps even better, he seems to be a genuinely great person off the floor. Every time I hear/read his interviews, I forget he's only 20 years old. Minnesota sports have been mostly depressing for a long time, but Towns has the most potential to change everything.
DM: I mean, I don't really know what I can say here that I haven't already. Karl-Anthony Towns can be the father of my children.
ZM: Towns has endless potential. He is already a top 5 center as a rookie. He will now have an off-season after seeing what he needs to work on. If he can work on post defense, post scoring, 3 point shooting, and improve on all those things, the league better lookout because you are looking at a top 5 player.
Thoughts on Wiggins
DS: Many people were frustrated at Wiggins' laid-back demeanor and lack of aggressiveness he displayed early in the season. But I think that conversation slowly died as the year progressed with Wiggins asserting himself as one of the best scorers and attackers in the league. His 3 point shooting (41% post AS break) was a bright spot towards the end of the season, which is something he can continue to work on this offseason to make himself more dynamic offensively. Defensively, as Wiggins gets older and more experienced, I think we will start to him mold into one of the better defensive wings in the game.
AB: I think so many people got lost in the reality that Wiggins just turned 21 years old. Sure, it would be nice to see him play with the same passion and aggressiveness he does in certain games (hello, Cleveland) and it would be ideal if he would grab a few more rebounds or be locked in on defense all the time. The thing is, KAT completely wrecked the curve for development. In literally any other scenario, fans would be drooling over a 21-year-old that averages 20.7 points per game. But for some reason, Towns' mere existence has caused so many fans to pinpoint every little flaw in Wiggins' game.
DM: Andrew Wiggins quietly took a giant step in development this season. Especially in the second half of the season, Wiggins displayed much better court vision and perimeter shooting, two thins he needed to work on to round out his game. If he can figure out those two aspects in his game, look out.
ZM: Loved the way he played the last couple months of the season. Can see the talent is there just needs too effect all parts of the game. His rebounding numbers and assist numbers need to go up. This off-season he has already stated he is going to work on 3-point shooting, playmaking and strength. I thought his defense would be a little better by now. Not that he is bad, but thought he would be a true lockdown defender at this point.
Thoughts on LaVine and Dieng's progression
DS: Both players took tremendous strides this season. Gorgui has developed into a rock-solid rotational player in the frontcourt and has great shooting touch, especially from mid-range. Defensively, he still has room for improvement. As for LaVine, we saw him make the transition from being just being an athlete to becoming a smarter and more efficient basketball player. Defensively, he still needs work getting through screens and defending the P&R, but his on-ball defense definitely improved.
AB: Both players have been great this season, especially since the all-star break. LaVine might have the highest ceiling on the team, but since potential cannot really be quantified I'll stand by that. As for Dieng, I am so impressed by how much his jumper has improved. It has gotten to the point where I actually expect any mid-range shot he attempts to go in. I would like to see each of these 2 players improve on defense. I think Gorgui is often overrated defensively by fans because he makes an occasional block, but his rim protection and on-ball defense could use some work, in my opinion. Zach has come a long way defensively since November, but can obviously still use some work.
DM: Development happened all over the roster, and it may not have happened to anyone more than Zach LaVine and Gorgui Dieng. When LaVine FINALLY got the opportunity to start at the 2, he didn't disappoint. He's got the athleticism, scoring ability and mindset to be a star in this league. Gorgui was rock solid, too. He and Towns formed a brilliant 1-2 frontcourt punch that almost makes me believe he should be the starting big next to Towns in the future. His mid-range game is still automatic and he added an array of post moves this season. Even though he moves around the court like your uncle on stilts, he gets things done.
ZM: Dieng played well all season, especially after being inserted as a starter. He seemed to know what his role was and played it well. He still needs to work on strength and his hands but he has a big future with this team. Regarding LaVine, he had an up and down year, but more up than down as the year went on. The guy can score with the best of them when he is hot. This summer he needs to work on strength, finishing in traffic and shooting like everyone does.
How beneficial was KG, Prince, and Miller's presence to this team?
DS: On the court, their impact was minimal. Off the court, it wasn't hard to see the impact they had (especially KG) continuously giving the young players wise words of encouragement from the bench and in the huddles. Flip brought in the 3 to show the pups how to be pros. You'd be a fool to think they didn't accomplish that.
AB: I think all three were extremely vital to the young players on the team, especially KG. I've never seen an inactive player be so active in the huddles and constantly in the ears of players when they come off the floor. Plus his relationship with Towns has been pretty well-documented since day one.
DM: Veteran leadership is something that's tough to quantify, but there's no doubt that having leaders like these three guys was very beneficial for the young pups. Mitchell slowly moved away from playing the veterans to playing the young guys as the season wore on, allowing the youth to learn some before taking on real NBA minutes.
ZM: I feel as thought it's always nice to have a vet or two around. Prince's presence was big because he was able to play 70 games which no one expected. He put in some solid minutes this season. KG is like having another coach on the bench, these young players just take to him. He probably could have played towards the end but of the season but didn't feel the need. I'd rather have him as an assistant coach than a player at this point, but want him around one way or another.
DS: I think we're all in agreement that the future is extremely bright. The mere presence of KAT alone could bring us within playoff reach in the future. Complement that with a young talented surrounding core, an elite coach possibly on its way in, and another top-5 pick in this year's draft, it's not at all unrealistic to think they can compete for a playoff spot next year. I can guarantee you there are many organizations right now wishing they were the Wolves.
AB: Extremely bright. The young talent on this team is second to none and they have money to spend and might have a top-5 pick in June. The only hold-ups are the uncertainties in the front office and on the coaching staff.
DM: I didn't think the Wolves could be a playoff team in 2017 before this season, but I do now. There's no reason they can't be, especially with the hiring of a new coach. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me to see this team make the playoffs in each year of the next decade. There's that much talent here.
ZM: With the right moves this offseason this team should be competing for the 8th spot next year in the West with still a huge amount of upside. As it has been mentioned by many, this team is on the OKC road, competing for the 8th spot next year and with the right moves finishing in the top half of the West for years to come.
We will now transition from the extensive, long answer questions to the basic, short answer questions.
Favorite moment of the season
DS: The entire All-Star weekend was a blast. The pups won a lot of awards and got to showcase their talent in front of the national audience.
AB: KG ending Blake Griffin's life on his dunk.
DM: I've gotta put Rubio's buzzer-beating three here. At Oklahoma City in a tie game, Rubio silences the critics and calmly drills the open try off of a beautiful kick-out from Wiggins. That was fun.
ZM: Win at Warriors
DS: Ricky Rubio. Honorable mention: Arnie Kander
AB: Ricky Rubio
DM: Ricky Rubio. The on/off numbers speak for themselves. Towns is a close 2nd, though.
ZM: Ricky Rubio
DS: Zach LaVine. Transitioned from strictly being an athlete into a fine NBA player and shooting guard in this league.
AB: Tyus Jones (I know this typically applies to last season, but I'm making an exception. Jones was a huge liability in November and now looks like a serviceable backup PG).
DM: I'm going with Dieng here, but there are a lot of candidates that have a viable case. The way Gorgui and KAT gelled together really impressed me and gave me a ton of hope for the future. That is, if Dieng stays in Minnesota.
ZM: Zach LaVine
Best Defensive Player
DS: Ricky Rubio
AB: Ricky Rubio
DM: Rubio. There shouldn't be another answer here.
ZM: Ricky Rubio
Most Outstanding Performance
DS: KAT finishing with 27 points, 9 rebounds, and a game winning shot in a W over the Trailblazers on April 9.
AB: Karl-Anthony Towns. Can't really pinpoint it down to a single game, the entire season was outstanding.
DM: LaVine's clutch trey combo in Washington is the first thing that pops into my head here. He showed that clutch gene and that killer instinct he has while leading the Wolves to a solid road win over a playoff-contending team.
ZM: KAT's season as a whole was outstanding. His 30 point, 15 rebound game vs. the Pelicans was crazy.
Most impressive individual play (dunk, pass, shot, etc.)
DS: KG's dunk that ended Griffin. Wasn't that KG's first dunk in like 3 years? I think so.
AB: KG's dunk on Griffin
DM: KG throwing down on Blake Griffin was by far my favorite moment of the season. Kevin Garnett posterized a guy in 2015! What was the last time he threw down on someone like that? It had to have been over 10 years ago right?
ZM: KG's dunk over Blake Griffin!
DS: The win at Golden State. It's pretty awesome that the Wolves were able to contribute to 1 of just 9 Golden State losses.
AB: The win at Golden State
DM: Hard not to choose the road victory over maybe the best team in NBA history. The overtime victory at Oracle Arena against the Golden State Warriors may forever be labeled as Minnesota's "coming-out" party, because that was the nation's first glimpse of what this team can really be.
ZM: Win at Wizards or Win at Warriors, both fun games.
Thanks for reading. Hope you all enjoyed.
I'll leave you with an extra tidbit from Drew that he wanted to share.
"The most disappointing thing about this season is the fact that Wolves fans still bash Ricky Rubio. I just don't understand it. It gave me an idea, actually. I created a Timberwolves basketball knowledge test, a test that proves how much you know about basketball, specifically Wolves basketball. Here's the test:
Do you think Ricky Rubio is a valuable asset to the Wolves moving forward?
If yes, you pass.
If no, you fail. You have little knowledge of basketball. "