The Minnesota Timberwolves chose to upgrade their offense at the trade deadline in the hopes of winning shootouts with this roster.
In desperate fashion the Minnesota Timberwolves, who can’t win a game lately and haven’t won a game since Thanksgiving with Karl-Anthony Towns, conceded their 2021 first-round pick (top-three protected) and a 2022 second-round pick to the Warriors along with Andrew Wiggins for D’Angelo Russell.
This came one day after the Wolves traded away Robert Covington for a 2020 first round pick owned by the Nets, Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, and Jarred Vanderbilt. Minnesota also sent out a group of role players in the deal.
In hindsight, I thought Andrew Wiggins was a great fit with Karl-Anthony Towns because KAT is a special center that doesn’t need a point guard to be efficient like most big men who need to be fed in certain spots on the court.
KAT can get the ball anywhere on the court and score efficiently. So in theory, I thought that if you can surround Towns with four wings that can space the floor, make plays, and most importantly defend, that would be the most competitive team you could build around KAT. And I thought the two-man game with KAT and Wiggins in the pick-and-roll showed a lot of potential, but for some reason Ryan Saunders staggered their minutes a lot, which was probably a mistake, so we didn’t see them on the court as much together.
Looking at the details, there was a lot more assists from KAT to Wiggins than Wiggins to KAT because Andrew was a much more mobile off ball player and a willing cutter than Towns, and also KAT only made 26.4% of his threes from Wiggins’ passes which is much lower than his usual percentage.
Of the 26 assists from Wiggins to KAT, there was only one or two pocket passes where Towns rolled to the basket and got an easy dunk. I’m really surprised the coaches didn’t emphasize calling more of those plays.
With Wiggins’ driving ability and KAT’s ability to shoot from three, there was a lot of room to make the pocket pass. And if the defense commits a third defender to stop that play, Wiggins was capable of making a skip pass to the corner.
Unfortunately, the most common pick and roll play involved Wiggins driving to the basket with Towns just standing and watching from behind and then sprinting to the basket to follow for an offensive rebound, which sometimes resulted in a put-back for KAT. But that’s not the most efficient play because you can’t bank on a poor box out on a missed field goal and the ball bouncing right into Towns' hands.
Maybe what this all means is there was a lack of chemistry between KAT and Wiggins, and if Towns wasn't willing to screen-and-roll for Wiggins that much then it wasn’t going to work, but the potential was there and the coaching staff didn’t capitalize on what they had.
What this all means is that Rosas has realized that his best player, Karl-Anthony Towns, has a long ways to go on the defensive end. In the meantime, Rosas is upgrading the offense as much as possible hoping that by the time that Towns is in his prime he might figure out how to be at least average on defense.
With Gorgui Dieng in the starting lineup, the Wolves have had one of the best defenses in the NBA and with Towns its one of the worst. Even if the Wolves would’ve traded for a good two-way player like Justise Winslow and pieces like I had previously written about, it probably wouldn’t have helped that much in the long run.
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The center position really makes or breaks an NBA defense, and the Wolves simply can't stop anyone with Towns on the floor even when he's surrounded by good defenders. For now I agree with Rosas that instead of focusing on fixing the defense just surround Towns with best offensive players you can and as KAT matures and hopefully improves defensively, so will the rest of the group.
With Towns, Russell, and Beasley, the Wolves have a trio of shooters that can possibly win some shootouts but probably lose a lot of games to playoff teams. However, Rosas will continue hunting for stars and his next target will likely be Devin Booker. Russell, Towns, and Booker have publicly stated that they want to play together, and since the Wolves already have two of them they have a good shot at getting the third to force his way to Minnesota.
Another silver lining is whether you’re a fan of Andrew Wiggins or not, he is now a Warrior, and for a Wiggins fan like me, I’m happy for Andrew as he will be surrounded by champions and will have a great chance to win a ring next year.