The Jekyll and Hyde Minnesota Timberwolves: A tale of two teams

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - MARCH 03: D'Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots against Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - MARCH 03: D'Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots against Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

In their wins after the trade deadline, the young Minnesota Timberwolves are a team that oozes swag and confidence. They make extra plays, play harder on defense, and they rain in shots. In their losses, Minnesota does the opposite and they’re a drastically different team.

Including Tuesday’s matchup against the Houston Rockets, the Minnesota Timberwolves are 4-10 since the trade deadline.

They win pretty convincingly when they win, but in their losses they typically stay in the game through the first couple of quarters before eventually falling apart and losing. When that happens it seems like everyone with the exception Josh Okogie basically becomes disengaged. I mentioned this briefly in a recent weekly recap.

Per, the Timberwolves have shot 45.78% from three in non-garbage time minutes when they’ve won. In their losses, the Wolves have shot 34.87% from downtown, which is an almost 11% difference.

For a team whose new identity is loading up with shooters and firing away from three, their variance in performance is going to depend on whether those threes are falling.

Another very telling stat is that the Timberwolves have scored an average of 124.52 per 100 possessions in wins. In losses the team hasn’t fared quite as well averaging 107.72 per 100 possessions.

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On the defensive end the Wolves let their opponents average 115.16 per 100 possessions in games that the Timberwolves win, and 121.3 in games that the Wolves have lost. This gives the Wolves a differential of 9.36 points per 100 possessions in wins and a negative 13.52 differential in losses. That is a total difference of almost 23 points per 100 possessions.

These issues could be cured a little once star Karl-Anthony Towns returns. He provides another layer of offense, gives the Wolves another superstar that can make things happen, and he’ll help Minnesota create better shots in general.

KAT will also help Minnesota create a mildly better defense. While he’s not known as the best defender, having Towns on the roster again allows Minnesota to have a capably-sized center playing almost all of the game. KAT also won’t get crushed against the more traditional sized player like Nikola Vucevic the way that James Johnson would.

Another thing that will help cure this ailment is time. James Johnson is the oldest player on the team and is the only player over the age of 25. A lot of these players are newer to the NBA and should adjust increasingly more each game just like Naz Reid has grown before our eyes over the last handful of games.

There’s also a lack of experience from these players in their current roles and playing with each other. The team has played a total of 14 games with each other since the trade deadline, and it shows from time to time with missed defensive rotations as an example.

Guys like Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Naz Reid, and Jordan McLaughlin haven’t played in a role as prominent as theirs in the NBA before all of the trades went down. Time will help each player sort themselves out and adjust to their roles as they go forward.

Lastly, this tale of two teams could be attributed to head coach Ryan Saunders not making key substitutions through struggles and not adjusting. This season is all about development, growth, and assessing what the team has. Whether it’s by design or Saunders is that bad of a coach is something that Gersson Rosas has been assessing all year long and could make a decision on this coming offseason.

Next. Timberwolves: Tracking new players' progress. dark

If Minnesota wants to be a playoff team next year, they won’t be able to be this woefully inconsistent, or should I say consistently inconsistent. That process could begin with these 17 games left in the season and getting Towns back could provide some momentum. But as it stands, something needs to change.