If you had to choose, would you rather have the best offensive team and the worst defensive team in the NBA or would you rather have the best defensive team and the worst offensive team?
It’s a good question for Wolves fans to ponder in light of last season and the current roster.
Heading into the 2011-12 season, the Timberwolves hadn’t made the playoffs in nine seasons but they were improving and entertaining – especially offensively. The Wolves had a chance to make the playoffs in the shortened lockout season in 2011-12, but Ricky Rubio tore his ACL in March and the Wolves’ playoff hopes were over.
In 2012-13, everyone was injured. Kevin Love broke his hand doing knuckle push-ups, Brandon Roy (remember him in a Wolves’ uniform?) played in five games due to his degenerative knees, Andrei Kirilenko had back issues, Nikola Pekovic was out and while Rubio returned in December, he couldn’t find his spark that he had during his rookie campaign coming off knee sugery.
The 2013-14 season was supposed to be the year. If the Wolves didn’t make the playoffs, Love was gone. Then again if they did make the playoffs, I think Love still would have left. It would be their last chance at the playoffs before they would have to rebuild (again) and of course, they didn’t make it.
Back to my thought.
The Wolves’ have had a terrible defensive team for a long time. Like, a long, long time. If the opposing team had the ball in the final seconds in a close game, the Wolves’ wouldn’t win because they couldn’t stop them. That was a huge issue during the 2013-14 season when the Wolves started out 0-11 in games decided by five points or less. They finally beat Golden State to end that streak, but that’s only because Harrison Barnes missed a wide open corner three to win.
Why do I remember this stuff?
In the 2013-14 season, the Wolves’ averaged 106.9 points per game, which was the 3rd highest rank that season. However, they gave up an average of 104.3 points per game to the opponent, which ranked 25th that season per NBA.com.
That’s a 2.6 point differential in favor of the Wolves’ so that’s a good thing, but giving up 104.3 points per game on average is way too much and in result, they had a record of 40-42. So their offense was ranked in the top-three, but their defense was ranked in the bottom-five. Remember that.
During the same season, the depleted Chicago Bulls had a record of 48-34. The Bulls are in the weaker Eastern Conference, so that has to be taken into account, but they were without Derrick Rose for most of the season and Joakim Noah was playing on one leg basically the entire season. During that season, the Bulls had the worst offense in the league, averaging just 93.7 points per game.
However, the Bulls had the best defense in the league giving up an average of only 91.8 points per game. That’s a 1.9 point differential, just .7 points less of a differential than the Wolves had that season.
The Timberwolves’ had a better point differential than the Bulls had that season so why did the Bulls have a better record? Could it mean that the Chicago Bulls could make defensive stops late in games and the Wolves couldn’t. See my point?
Last year, the Wolves were not great offensively — they averaged 97.8 points per game. But defensively, they were the worst in the league, giving up an average of 106.5 points per game. That’s a -8.7 point differential. Yuck.
We all think we know the answer to the Timberwolves’ woes. If Flip’s offensive system wasn’t out of wack or if Rubio could knock down a jumper they would be a much improved team. And while the Wolves can improve offensively, it’s not their biggest problem.
But defensively, oh my Lord. The Wolves’ have ranked in the bottom ten defensively in seven out of their last eight seasons.
The Wolves have the athletes to be a good defensive team — Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Adreian Payne. Rubio is also a good defender. But having athletes isn’t the be-all end-all to being a good defensive team. You need your players to have a high basketball I.Q., which results in quicker rotations and they also need to want to be a good defensive team. That’s what it takes.
So, would you rather have the best defensive team and the worst offensive team or would you rather have the best offensive team and the worst defensive team?
I’ll choose the first option.