The Minnesota Timberwolves’ season hangs in the balance. Even while playoff hopes fade, someone on the team has to step up.
It’s almost as if the team is simply waiting for the season to be over so they can start again with a clean slate in the fall. Someone needs to step up and show leadership if the Wolves are going to have a shot at correcting this sinking vessel.
The Minnesota Timberwolves sit No. 11 in the Western Conference with a 29-34 record. The trade deadline is long past and playoff rosters are set. There are no free agents are coming into the locker room to bolster the Wolves’ stagnant offense.
With 19 games left, this season is going to be a lost year if someone simply doesn’t step up and inspire others to step up alongside him.
Entering the first season of his new max contract, Andrew Wiggins has actually regressed. The initial thought was that Butler and Wiggins could not coexist, but the numbers seem to show otherwise.
Butler was traded early in the season, which – at least in theory – opened up more opportunities for Wiggins to score and grow as a player. But he has continued to disappoint throughout the year, averaging only 17.6 points to go with 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while still struggling with efficiency.
The former No. 1-overall pick has looked timid and passive all season, including being shutout against the one of the league’s worst defenses in the Chicago Bulls and is shooting a career-low 39.6 percent from the field. Since seemingly breaking out during the 2016-17 campaign, Wiggins’ erratic performance has left the Timberwolves faithful confused and frustrated.
Only two years ago, he averaged 65.4 percent on field goals between 0 and 3 feet from the basket and he also had 77 dunks on the season. This year, he’s averaging 59.5 percent on those same close shots and he only has 31 dunks. He’s simply not slashing to the hoop with frequency or success anymore. Wiggins is a natural scorer, that is obvious, he just needs to get his head in the game, be aggressive, and genuinely care about winning.
The same can be said for franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns at times. He broke out two years ago as well, but again his numbers are down across the board. He’s attempting a career-high 4.7 3-pointers this season and has a total of 79 dunks. For perspective, KAT had 130 dunks in 2016-17.
Both Wiggins and KAT needs to stop being trigger-happy on taking bad, low-percentage shots once they get the ball. Settling for outside jumpers early in the shot clock only leads to fast-break points and often puts the Wolves in a deficit quick. The team as a whole isn’t exactly full of snipers from long distance, ranking 24th in the league at 28.5 percent from the 3-point line. They need to play to their strengths, which is moving the ball around more, slashing to the open areas in the paint, and creating open looks on higher percentage mid-range jumpers.
Much of the team’s success weighs heavily on the performances of Wiggins and KAT, but others, including Dario Saric, Josh Okogie, Robert Covington and veteran Jeff Teague need to be engaged, play defense, and bring their A-game. They should look at the revitalized Derrick Rose as an example to draw inspiration and step up their overall performance.
Of course, if they continue with their current lackadaisical approach, the Wolves are doomed to miss the playoffs.