What the Nuggets’ success means for the Minnesota Timberwolves

James Johnson of the Minnesota Timberwolves guards Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
James Johnson of the Minnesota Timberwolves guards Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Jamal Murray
Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets brings the ball down the court against the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

Step 1: Acquire lightning-rod scorers and playmakers

There was a lot that went into Denver upsetting the No. 2-seeded LA Clippers in the second round, but the biggest factor was simply Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic balling out for four out of the seven games.

In those four victories, Murray averaged 28.5 points while shooting 51 percent from the field and 50 percent on threes. Jokic averaged 25 points, 7.3 assists, and 17 rebounds per game and shot 54 percent from the field and 48 percent on 3-point attempts.

The Clippers had no answer for either of them and, just as the saying goes, great offense beats great defense.

The Wolves seem to have completed this first step already. In D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns, the Wolves have two players with exceedingly high offensive potential. They may not be the type of “system” players who could blend in seamlessly to a motion offense like in Golden State — at least not yet. But on any given night, both players have the potential to put up 50 and that’s valuable.

Just like Murray and Jokic, Russell and Towns have the sort of gravity that can open the court up for everyone else. They’re both advanced passers for their positions, and it seems that with time they could be a deadly offensive duo.

Step 2: Acquire rangy defensive wings

The Nuggets’ Gary Harris isn’t particularly dangerous on offense — he shot just 33 percent from the 3-point line for the second year in a row this year — yet coach Michael Malone has continued to rely on him in big minutes when he’s healthy. This series shows why.

Since Harris’ return in Game 6 against Utah, the Nuggets managed to hold the Jazz to 78 points in Game 7 and then somehow kept the Clippers under 100 points three times. The Clippers had not scored less than 100 since March.

Along with Harris, Jerami Grant, Paul Millsap and Torrey Craig deserve a lot of credit for the work they did containing the Clippers’ scorers throughout the series.

The biggest difference between Denver and Minnesota right now seems to be that the Wolves don’t have a Gary Harris, a Paul Millsap, a Jerami Grant, or a Torrey Craig.

Denver proved that it’s possible to win with stars who struggle on defense, there just needs to be an extra emphasis on defense when filling out the rest of the lineup.

For the Wolves, that doesn’t bode well for offense-leaning players like Beasley and Hernangomez. Potential No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards has some defensive question marks as well. You can never have too many shooters, but it seems likely that more trades are in the future if all three end up on the Wolves’ roster.