Even though the Minnesota Timberwolves hung on to beat the Warriors in overtime on Friday night, the loss to the Grizzlies still stings. What might be the silver lining from that loss?
Just last Wednesday, the Minnesota Timberwolves lost to the Grizzlies, who were previously the worst team in the league based on record and point differential. But as the cliche goes, that’s why they play the games.
The biggest excuse for the Wolves was the absence of both point guards in Jeff Teague and Shabazz Napier. While it’s a legitimate excuse, it doesn’t necessarily explain how to Wolves gave up 137 points.
Part of the reason the Wolves were that bad defensively was because Robert Covington and Josh Okogie, the team’s two best defenders, only played 26 and 20 minutes respectively. And Jake Layman and Treveon Graham played eight more minutes combined than the two best defenders.
Graham brings energy, effort, and rebounding, but he’s been a bit more spotty on defense than the aforementioned duo. And while Layman has more upside, his first stint off the bench was bad.
Right a way he allowed a dunk in transition, had a couple of turnovers, and missed a layup. The Wolves were up by three when Graham and Layman came in and then were down by 11 by the end of the first quarter when Graham sat down on the bench. From that point on, it was tough to catch up without your best defenders playing starter minutes and the Grizzlies catching fire.
The most encouraging part was that Jarrett Culver looked good with the starters. He is a good facilitator and the seven assists and zero turnovers is proof of it. He also grabbed five rebounds and hit a couple of threes. He shot only 38 percent from the floor, which has to improve but it’s not bad for his first start.
The fact that Culver is not afraid to shoot the three, launching five in the game, already makes him a better floor spacer than Teague. And, with more space, Andrew Wiggins is getting to the rim, initiating the offense and collecting assists — six of them in this game, and he could’ve had much more if his teammates were making shots.
Since his heroic performance against Miami in the home opener, Andrew Wiggins is shooting 57 percent from 3-point range and now that his defenders have to honor his shot, Wiggins is using his quickness to blow by the initial defender even without a screen which forces additional defenders to leave wide open spot-up shooters and cutters to pass to.
Wiggins is flourishing in the new system with his elite slashing ability and if his outside shot keeps dropping, the Wolves got two legit stars. With Culver starting, Wiggins gets more primary duty without Teague while Culver gets valuable minutes without the pressure to score.
The early absence of Teague and Napier could ultimately be a blessing in disguise if the improvements made by Wiggins and Culver stick, but only time will tell.