The Not-So-Good Stuff
Injuries have somewhat plagued the team throughout the first half the season, especially in the backcourt.
Jeff Teague (17 games), Derrick Rose (10 games), Tyus Jones (five games) and Robert Covington (12 games), have all missed significant time and are all either currently injured or have recently re-aggravated their existing injuries.
The flip-side, of course, is that some of these injury woes have opened up opportunities for younger rotational players.
Josh Okogie is starting to look like a draft steal, and despite fairly pedestrian stats of 7.5 points., 3.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 21.8 minutes per game, the rookie is showing real chops as a defender. If Okogie can continue to improve his ball-handling and 3-point shooting, the 20-year-old figures to be a serious asset to the team’s future plans.
Before his recent injury, Tyus Jones has also received extra opportunities during the first part of the season due to injuries to Teague and Rose. The guard, playing in the final year of his rookie contract, is averaging 5.6 points, four assists and 20.3 minutes per game while posting an extremely efficient 6-to-1 assist-to- turnover ratio.
Jones has certainly made his case to be a starting point guard in the league. Now, it’s up to the Timberwolves to decide if it will be in Minnesota or elsewhere.
Fans continue to have mixed emotions about the play of fifth-year wing Andrew Wiggins.
His season stats of 17.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game are solid, and the former Kansas Jayhawk has certainly shown that he is a valuable starter. But it’s only sometimes that he manages to look like a legitimate secondary scoring threat next to star Karl-Anthony Towns.
The problem largely lies in the money. Wiggins is playing in the first year of his five-year max extension worth $146.5 million; it would take a Herculean stretch to suggest that his stats and on-court performance warrant that kind of money over the life of the deal.
Contract aside, Saunders challenge will be to continue to put Wiggins in situations in which he can thrive.
Indeed, Andrew has looked more engaged since Saunders took over the coaching duties and this should give the Timberwolves fanbase some hope
However, with the return of Robert Covington, the emergence of Josh Okogie, and the late-game heroics of Derrick Rose, Wiggins may find himself fighting for floor time in the game’s most pivotal moments if he doesn’t show consistency down the stretch of the season.
The Timberwolves have posted a dismal 8-16 record away from downtown Minneapolis this season. Though there’s been a slight improvement as of late, the squad will surely find itself on the outside looking in come playoff time if this trend isn’t reversed.
A home record of 16-8 has kept the Wolves in postseason contention. However, the inability to string together a significant winning streak and failures away from home may keep the team from making a serious late-season playoff push.