What to watch for as the Minnesota Timberwolves appear to be tanking

Jake Layman of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Jake Layman of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

With all playoff hopes gone at this point in the season, what should be watching for from the Minnesota Timberwolves down the stretch.

Tanking doesn’t make as much sense for the Minnesota Timberwolves with the new lottery odds this season, but without Karl-Anthony Towns and a lot of new faces learning to play together, the Wolves have had to face reality.

The good news is that it looks like Gersson Rosas has accomplished his goal of improving the team’s spacing after his moves at the trade deadline.

With Russell, Beasley, and Hernangomez inserted into the starting lineup, the Wolves are shooting almost 40% from three with the second-most attempts in the league, trailing only the small-ball Rockets.

The new-look Wolves thrashed the Clippers in their first game after the trades, but that game is looking like an anomaly.

With Beverley out of the lineup, the Clippers had no answer for Jordan McLaughlin’s driving ability and the Wolves hot shooting from the outside. McLaughlin was able to generate a lot of ball movement by driving and kicking or scoring at the basket.

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With Russell in the starting lineup, the pressure in the paint with the drive-and-kick game hasn’t been there. While we’re working with a small sample size, Russell has only attempted 13 of his 71 shots at the rim in favor of threes and midrange attempts.

The end result looks like a lot of isolation scoring by Russell instead of the ball movement we saw in that win over the Clippers. D’Lo has never been known for getting to the basket, and he could develop in that area of his game, but the Wolves really lack that drive game with a Russell-Beasley backcourt.

Malik Beasley is an excellent shooter, but he seems to really struggle finishing on drives to the basket. It seems like he picks up his dribble too early a lot of the time like his teammate Josh Okogie, and Malik ends up hanging in the air with rim protectors draped all over him.

At this point, it seems like the only way the Wolves will get shots inside is from cutters. Even with KAT in the lineup against the Raptors and Clippers, his biggest offensive impact came from finding cutters as he almost had a triple-double in both games.

Juancho Hernangomez has done an excellent job of cutting, but he’s converted only 42% of those attempts.

Josh Okogie is a good cutter and had done a great job of getting to the free throw line all year, but he might be too small to do this consistently.

Jake Layman might be the man to watch with his improved shooting and great cutting ability. He might be the man who profits most from this system.

Another player that could break out down the stretch of the regular season is Omari Spellman.

Spellman is currently with the G League team in Iowa, but before that he was shooting 40% from three with the Warriors and looked like a really active big with a high motor.

Spellman’s issues have alway been related to his weight. Even though he is listed at 245 pounds, an article by USA Today in October reported that Spellman weighed around 315 pounds in Summer League and the Warriors helped him slim down to 275 pounds by training camp. If the Wolves can keep his weight in check, his motor and leaping ability could be a game-changer at the power forward position.

Spellman still has two years left on his rookie deal after this season, so the Wolves should give him a long look before making on a decision on Hernangomez this offseason, who will be a free agent.

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With Jake Layman rounding into form and Spellman potentially in the mix down the stretch, the Wolves could really find an identity in shooting and cutting.