The Minnesota Timberwolves’ quest for a second round playoff birth was vanquished by James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night. It was a bitter-sweet moment to say the least. Obviously no team wishes to be eliminated from winning a championship, but the Timberwolves did accomplish their main goal of breaking the playoff drought of 13 years.
Let’s do a quick rundown of this season as a whole:
The Wolves were 47 and 35 this year which was a 16 game improvement from the previous season. In their division they went 10 and 6, which is impressive considering it was the most competitive division in the entire NBA this season. Against Western Conference foes they went 34 and 18 which was tied for 2nd best in the west along with the Golden State Warriors. Arguably the most impressive team stat of the year. In the East is where things went downhill. The Wolves went 13 and 17 with losses to the Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets, and Chicago Bulls. All bottom feeders of the Eastern Conference. A promising thing this season was Minnesota’s ability to win at home. They went 30 and 11 at home which was tied for 5th in the entire NBA. On the road is where they struggled. They went 17 and 24.
Even with the lack of ball movement and quality offensive play calling, the Timberwolves managed to provide the 8th best offense in the NBA. We had the 2nd best free throw percentage, the 4th highest field goal percentage, and turned the ball over the 2nd least amount of times. All good signs that the offense is working at a high level. The eyes tell a different story but numbers never lie I suppose.
The defense was the Wolves main problem all year. Without a true rim protector and defensive wings, the team struggled to keep their opponents from scoring. The Wolves had the 2nd worst field goal percentage allowed to their opponents this year. That is a recipe for disaster when trying to win basketball games. In today’s NBA you also have to take 3 point shots and make them. The Wolves did not do that and found themselves dead last in 3 point attempts and makes. Rebounding was also a problem all year long as they ranked in the bottom half in total rebounds as a team.
The presence of Jimmy Butler cannot be understated when talking about key players that brought success to this franchise. He is changing the culture of this organization with his play on the court, and his demeanor off the court. Without the addition of Butler, we probably would have missed the playoffs yet again.
Karl-Anthony Towns had himself a sensational season shooting the ball. He had numbers that were astronomical for men of his size. If Thibodeau can finally center the offense around KAT, he will make an even bigger splash come next season.
His contract might be a little high, but what Taj Gibson does for this team cannot be ignored. He is the glue guy that keeps the team together whether they are reeling or in the drivers seat. He has made a great effort to keep the younger guys like Towns and Andrew Wiggins in check to make sure we have the best opportunity at winning every single night. Thankfully, he will be back next year as we make another push for the playoffs.
The needs on this team are obvious. Without wings who can shoot the ball from outside and guard the perimeter, we will have no shot at beating some of the best teams in this league. It is almost certain that Tom Thibodeau will draft a wing this summer and bring a veteran wing in during free agency.
Arguably the most frustrating part of the whole season has to be Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations, Tom Thibodeau. Whether it was his lack of knowledge about lineups that do not work, refusal to play the bench, or horrendous offensive and defensive play calling, Thibodeau left much to be desired for Minnesota Timberwolves fans. It was ugly to watch for most of the season and that problem lies on his shoulders. If things do not change enough this offseason and we lose in the first round next season, Thibodeau very well could be on his way out of Minnesota. He should arguably be out this summer but Jimmy Butler is eligible for a contract extension.
Financially speaking, we do not have much room to maneuver with any big name free agents. We have Towns and Butler eligible for contract extensions and that should be the main priority. Gorgui Dieng should be a name that the Wolves will look to move on from. His cap hit is around 14 million dollars for the next three seasons which is way to high for his level of production.
During this offseason I will be doing player reviews of every player on the Timberwolves roster. I will discuss their value to the organization, their future on the Wolves, and how their fared during this past season.
It has been a crazy ride to say the least, but the offseason should bring much discussion and fun as we head into the rest of the NBA playoffs and into the NBA Draft. I already miss Timberwolves basketball.
photo credit thewhalepicks.com