The Minnesota Timberwolves have lost eight of nine games in what is possibly the easiest stretch of schedule during the entire season.
The Wolves stifling defense that surprised us earlier this season has vanished. The young and ferocious Wolves that opened the season 8-8 in a Western Conference that has simmered down a bit have appeared unmotivated and soft. It seems like they’ve hit a wall.
Maybe that’s what we should expect from a team full of 19 and 20 year-old players in their first and second years in the league. But there are still issues with that expectation.
Karl-Anthony Towns slowed down a bit but has since regained his form and has looked like the player that most people thought would win Rookie of the Year. Knocking down triples, rebounding, scoring in the post, blocking shots; Towns has been solid for the Wolves over the past few games.
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The only issue with Towns has been his lack of touches. Back-to-back games of attempting seven and eight shots, respectively, cannot happen within the Wolves offense considering Towns is one of the best offensive options on the team.
Towns has become one of the best three-point shooters on the Wolves when he actually launches from deep. He has such a great rhythm to his shot. Mitchell has even drawn up plays for Towns to hit a crucial three pointer at the end of the game.
Andrew Wiggins has been streaky over the past few weeks for the Wolves. Some games he looks unstoppable driving into the paint while dunking on dudes seven feet. During other games he looks timid, settling for contested mid-range twos.
Also, has anyone noticed that Andrew Wiggins does not want to drive left or finish with his left hand? There have been plenty of times where the easier play for Wiggins was to finish with his left hand, and Wiggins has chosen to shift his body and get back to his right. It’s something Wiggins can improve on and has to improve on, but it’s definitely a weakness of his.
Look at the below play. The play called for a left-handed layup and Wiggins went with his right hand while Carmelo Anthony was on his right side and Carmelo blocked it.
Ricky Rubio, on the other hand, had himself a game against the New York Knicks, almost logging a quadruple-double. You could see him trying to “will” the Wolves to a victory at Madison Square Garden. There were, however, moments in the game against the Knicks where Ricky was exposed.
Many times during the game the defense absolutely left Ricky Rubio without any fear of him knocking down a shot. Smart teams leave Rubio when Towns and Wiggins have the ball because Rubio is one of the easiest point guards to double off of in the NBA. Even against the Knicks in his second-best game of the year, Rubio shot just 30 percent — three of ten from the field.
For instance: Rubio post feeds Karl-Anthony Towns. Carmelo Anthony doubles Towns and pays no attention to Rubio while he is out on the perimeter. Towns has to pass out of the double and Rubio misses an open mid-range two. Smart defenses leave Ricky.
Also, it’s the biggest reason why I believe Tyus Jones is the point guard in two years. He can knock down open shots. is is why I think Tyus is Wolves point guard in two years. Look at the D pay no attention to Ricky and double Towns.
Additionally, Kevin Martin sat against the New York Knicks because of a sore right wrist and it is now being reported that Martin is on the trading block.
Martin has struggled to find his shot all season and it has really slowed down the Wolves offense when he’s been in the game as he’s shooting a career low 36 percent from the field.
Martin is still good at getting to the free throw line, but the way he does it is generally not good offense. Lots of times its a bail out call by the referee in an isolation situation and the referees have not been giving Martin all of the calls that he once used to get and Martin is still attempting the same plays.
The Wolves won’t get much in return, but Martin may not be back next season either since he has an opt-out in his contract.
Zach LaVine has developed faster than anyone has thought and when he is paired with the correct teammates, he looks like a starter. I understand why LaVine is playing the backup point guard, but he’s much better and more comfortable when he’s playing alongside Ricky Rubio at the shooting guard.
Near the end of the third quarter and for most of the fourth quarter against the Knicks, LaVine and Rubio played off each other and that’s when the Wolves made the game competitive after trailing by twenty points. When LaVine and Rubio are together, the Wolves get easier baskets.
Check out the play below. Rubio gets one of his eight steals, and LaVine bolts out and receives a touchdown pass from Rubio for an easy layup. LaVine’s talent mixes well with Rubio. He’s an athletic play-making guard and that fits Rubio’s style.
The Timberwolves started to find their groove against the Knicks in the fourth quarter. Hopefully, the losing skid ends soon, but the schedule starts to become more difficult.