After a busy offseason, do the Minnesota Timberwolves have what it takes to contend? In a three-part series, we will look at the starting five, the bench and the coaching to see how they stack up in the tough Western Conference.
The Timberwolves starting five last season consisted of Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns. Two of these guys no longer live in the state and another may have to take up residence on the bench when the season kicks off.
The Wolves decided to part ways with Rubio and LaVine, and replace them with proven players and All-Stars in Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague. With these additions, the expectations for W’s have increased dramatically.
Now that we know what has changed, how does the Wolves starting lineup compare to others across the league? Do they have a chance to compete in the Western Conference?
Well, a good place to start is by looking and comparing this new Wolves lineup to that of the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors were already better than most teams (like record setting, historically better) before adding arguably the best player in the game in Kevin Durant last summer. There is no team who will trot out a starting five as talented as them this year.
That doesn’t mean that other teams cannot have success and possibly dethrone them. For this to be possible, teams will have to be able to offer some of the same key attributes that have led to Golden State hoisting the championship trophy two of the last three years.
Here are a few things that make the Warriors starting lineup so effective and dangerous;
- Position Versatility – Being able to put its players in many different spots on the floor and be effective in playing multiple positions have made Golden State nearly impossible to stop. Having a small forward who can play center can really give the other team migraines.
- Unselfish Basketball – The Warriors averaged a ridiculous 30 assists per game last year. One key stat, according to NBA.com, is that the team averaged almost 32 assists in the 67 games they won, as opposed to 24 in the 15 contests they lost. So, in other words, sharing equals more than caring about individual numbers in the NBA.
- Clutch Performance – Golden State has two of the best shooters in the game of basketball on their team. Kevin Durant and Steph Curry can knock down big shots in clutch moments and are incredibly hard to defend in late game situations. Just ask LeBron James.
So, how do the Wolves stack up in these three areas?
- Players like Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns give Minnesota lots of flexibility in how they can adjust to other teams and attack them with the starting unit. Wiggins and Butler can play almost any position on the floor. Both have shown ability to be primary ball handlers in half court sets. Towns can play power forward or center and can stretch the floor. He shot nearly 37 percent from the three-point line last season. The key will be how well Wiggins and Towns can play defensively this year after struggling last season.
- Minnesota will have to start sharing more if they want to win ball games. Last season, according to NBA.com, they averaged under 24 assists a game. This stands out because the Warriors lost all 15 of their games when averaging the exact same number of assists.
- Between Butler and Wiggins, the Wolves can perform very well in the clutch or end game situations. Both can score at an elevated level and can cause a lot of headaches for the opposing defense.
So, when it comes to the starting five for the Minnesota Timberwolves, it is easy to see that they have the talent to compete with even the best teams starting lineups.
If they can improve defensively and share the ball more, this group could be incredibly hard for opposing teams to deal with this season.