The Minnesota Timberwolves were a poor defensive team for most of last season, but both of their 2018 draft picks should help shore up that side of the ball.
Last season, when things were going bad, one of the easiest things for Timberwolves fans to do was blame head coach Tom Thibodeau.
The complaints were varying, and some of were deserved. Did he play his starters heavy minutes? Yes. Should he have mixed his first and second unit for longer than he did? Sure. (The only players from the bench who played together for more than 10 minutes with at least 3 starters were Tyus Jones and Nemanja Bjelica)
Thibodeau’s rotations are compartmentalized; he used to stagger starters and bench minutes separately, and this is a fact. But what if he knew what he was doing? Out of the 7 lineups that logged more than 100 minutes together, three had a terrible defensive rating.
According to NBA.com, the 2017-18 Timberwolves bench was the worst bench unit in terms of defensive rating. This is surely Thibs’ (not so flexible) way to handle rotations, but it frequently happened during the regular season that Thibs was forced to pull his bench because they were blowing leads.
Defense was the main issue for the second consecutive year, ranking in the bottom 10 in opponent’s points, defensive rating and in transition (opponents attacked the Wolves in transition with a frequency of 16.8 percent, the highest in NBA).
Incoming rookies Josh Okogie and Keita-Bates Diop have some real upside on this end of the court, and they should be serviceable from the get-go off the bench for at least 10-15 minutes a night.
Where, specifically, could they help defensively, and where are they long-term projects?