The Minnesota Timberwolves know how to tie up King James

Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports /

When it comes to shutting down the best player in the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves know a thing or two about that. In fact, you could argue that the Timberwolves are the experts in the field. After all, this is the team that was not very good on defense but made it a point to emphasize that area at the end of the 2022-23 NBA season.

Since that time, it’s been more than new faces who defend well. The Timberwolves have gotten serious defensive chops in small forward Jaden McDaniels and shooting guard Anthony Edwards. The team drafted rookie guard Wendell Moore Jr. and forward Josh Minott. Then the team added power forward Kyle Anderson and center Rudy Gobert. And then the Timberwolves roster welcomed veteran point guard Mike Conley Jr. and wing Nickeil-Alexander Walker.

What about this season? More delightful additions. The team added forward Tony Brown Jr., and guard Shake Milton, and drafted forward Leonard Williams and defensive savant guard Jaylen Clark. All in all, Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly seems to favor strong defense, and he’s wise to do so.

Crowning the King

Just take a look at the defensive performances of NBA teams against one of the best NBA players of the modern era: LeBron James. 29 teams have had to face LeBron over the past two seasons, and it’s safe to assume that the seasoned veteran is fairly consistent in his ability to put points up on the scoreboard.

So where do the mighty Minnesota Timberwolves fall on the scale of points allowed to LeBron James?  You may need to sit down for this one:

While I cannot confirm that every NBA top scorer has identical results, I can confirm that many of the NBA’s best struggle to score far below their average against Minnesota Timberwolves defensive juggernaut Jaden McDaniels.

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The loss of McDaniels at the end of the 2022-23 NBA season was a huge blow for the Timberwolves. McDaniels is the NBA equivalent of a shutdown cornerback, and his absence allowed the Los Angeles Lakers, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Denver Nuggets to have a much easier time putting points up on the scoreboard.

Skeptical of the Timberwolves upcoming 2023-24 NBA season? Just change one element, no McDaniels broken hand to end the season, and that changes the entire TImberwolves landscape. The breadcrumbs to a better season for the team are strewn for anyone to follow the trail. But if you are still doubters, just check the list of NBA teams who have attempted to defend LeBron James once more.

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The Minnesota Timberwolves did not stumble into the best defender accidentally. That is the new template for the team, excellent defense, and a dangerous offense. Will it work? I’m willing to give the team a chance. How about you?