2 areas where the Minnesota Timberwolves’ defense could easily improve

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley blocks a shot. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley blocks a shot. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Jaden McDaniels
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels commits a foul. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports /

If only the Timberwolves could defend without fouling…

The Wolves commit the most personal fouls per game of any team in the league at 22.5.

Even more relevant and damaging is their league-worst mark of .212 free throw attempts per field goal attempt (FTA/FGA). In other words, 21.2 percent of the time that opponents attempt a field goal, they’re also afforded the opportunity to attempt a free throw.

While it’s only a tick worse than the No. 26-ranked .207 number that they finished with last season, it’s easily the worst in the NBA so far this year. (The Boston Celtics and New Orleans Pelicans are tied for No. 29 at .194.)

There have been fewer fouls called this year in general (teams averaged 18.7 personal fouls per game last year and the mark currently sits at 19.3), but notably, there were 10 teams that had a FTA/FGA mark north of .200 last year. The Wolves are currently the only one with such a number.

Unsurprisingly, this is an area in which the Wolves have struggled in recent years, finishing No. 26 in the league last season and No. 24 the year prior to that.

Individually, Towns has had major issues staying out of foul trouble. Last season, Towns was No. 17 in the league personal fouls committed despite only playing in 50 games. Of the 16 players above him, only Mason Plumlee played in less than 60 games — and he committed the exact same number of fouls as Towns but appeared in six more contests.

Going back to 2018-19, which was the last season in which Towns played close a full schedule, he led the league in fouls with a whopping 292 in 77 games — 20 more than the next-closest player.

Now, there are two things to note here: 1) Towns commits a ton of offensive fouls, which obviously doesn’t impact the defense in terms of free throws attempted by opponents, and 2) Towns is far from the only culprit.

So far this year, McDaniels leads the league in fouls committed with 55 in just 15 games. In fact, McDaniels and Beverley rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the league in personal fouls per game, clocking in at 3.7 and 3.5, respectively.

Defending without fouling is exceedingly important, and it is only amplified when the Wolves’ offense — currently No. 25 in free throw attempts per game and No. 26 in free throw rate — struggles to get to the line themselves.

There’s one more area in which the Wolves must improve to become a top-10 defense…