The Minnesota Timberwolves went into the season with high ambitions, but the early games were sobering. Head Coach Chris Finch has a lot of work ahead of him as the stars aren’t a good match so far.
It must have been the inglorious climax of the Wolves’ messed-up season so far. In the second quarter against the Phoenix Suns, coach Chris Finch’s men suddenly had only four players to defendbecause D’Angelo Russell completely overslept coming on for Taurean Prince between free throws.
“It’s a sign that this team is a bit lacking in confidence and direction at the moment,” Finch tried to explain the inexplicable situation. It’s rumbling in Minnesota, and not just since the game against Phoenix. Even when the Knicks went bankrupt two days earlier, the team whistled and an assistant coach to Finch publicly counted out the team in the halftime interview.
“We have to find five players who want to give everything, especially on defense,” Micah Nori was surprisingly clear. “At the end of the day it’s not about the system. It’s about the will to give everything. It’s a shame when after eleven games we have to preach that we have to play hard and play hard.”
Meanwhile, the Wolves are at 5-7 despite an almost outrageously easy game plan. The following teams were beaten: Houston, San Antonio, OKC (2x) and the Lakers. All teams ranked lower than Minnesota. The euphoria that prevailed around the team in the summer has long since disappeared.
Timberwolves: Edwards and the Desire for Small Ball
This seemed justified. After one of the best seasons in franchise history, culminating in a thrilling playoff series with Memphis, Tim Connelly’s new front office engineered a shocking trade that put three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert in the high brought north.
The price was high, but with a core of Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Gobert, they wanted to nestle in the top flight of the Western Conference. Not much has happened yet, but how the Wolves present themselves these days gives food for thought. “We’re playing soft,” Edwards said after the game against the Knicks, shutting himself in.
It’s not yet on for last season’s rising star, who made headlines for his eating habits and body language that’s at times very questionable. This play against Houston serves as an example, as Edwards didn’t move an inch the complete possession with his hands on his hips. It raises questions as to whether those draft reports that painted the picture of a moody diva might have contained a grain of truth.
Edwards caused a stir early in the season when he questioned the new big lineups: “The smaller we play, the better it is for me,” said Edwards after losing to Utah, only to add that he was with time will find solutions to work alongside two bigs.
Edwards hasn’t found his place on this team yet, it’s obvious he’s expressing frustration. The lightness and his contagious good humor seem to have been lost. Although the 21-year-old has set a career high with an average of 22.2 points, not much wants to succeed from downtown, which is also due to the sometimes questionable selection of throws. The Antman wants to force it, his touches have also dropped due to the restructuring of the team. His qualities as a scorer are still in demand, but Russell, Towns and of course Gobert also want to be involved.
Timberwolves: A system is not yet recognizable
It would be asking too much for the chick to lead the way in this experiment. After all, that’s what other people are there for. Ex-All-Star Russell, who is having a terrible season, seems overwhelmed with the task of keeping things in order. The starting five have a negative net rating of -6.2 in 152 minutes, instead it’s mostly up to the reservists to get the coals out of the fire.
In half of all games, the Wolves were now at least 18 points behind, with this accumulation of talent a moderate scandal. “We’re still trying to figure out who we are,” Finch said. “Every team is different and what we did last season is worthless now.”
Initial difficulties were to be expected, but that it would be so bumpy is frightening. Tons of bad shots are taken, the ball doesn’t run well through their own ranks. Also striking: Despite this extremely athletic team, the Wolves far too rarely develop easy transition points and often get bogged down in their sets.
“We play basketball as a team, we share the ball,” Suns star Devin Booker yelled at the Wolves during the game and he has a point. Minnesota has yet to find a way to feed everyone. The preparation was also a hindrance, in which Towns only played one game due to an infection and Gobert had to be slowly introduced after the EuroBasket.
Timberwolves: Twin Towers not voted on yet
The rhythm has to come with the games, setbacks are the result. This also applies to the defense, which has gained in profile with Gobert, but has lost the emotional leader in Patrick Beverley and the man for special tasks in Jarred Vanderbilt. Russell’s defensive limitations are well known, but Edwards doesn’t recall what he presented in the playoffs either.
10th place in the league is okay for the Wolves, but it feels like there is a lot more in it. As soon as Gobert leaves the field, all the dams break, but then it goes all the better offensively. It’s usually the minutes in which Towns acts as a center and not just on the perimeter. It brings with it other hurdles at the same time, as KAT continues to be a big minus defensively.
It’s not just about his problems defending on the wing (it’s amazing how often he forgets his opponent off the ball), but also his ringside ability. Even at almost 27 years of age, the once highly acclaimed Towns has yet to prove that he can at least defend respectably.
Timberwolves: The Evil Spirits by Jimmy Butler
Last year the Wolves were able to hide that with a high aggressive defense, this season it rarely works in the minutes without Gobert. This Twitter thread shows it quite well. With the French, on the other hand, a lot of drop defense is played, as Gobert knows it from Utah and how it is best used.
At the same time, it is noticeable that Minnesota wants to get Gobert Touches, which often does not look really happy. This is also part of the Wolves’ stutter start. After all: It can’t get much worse, even if dark clouds are hovering over the franchise in tranquil Minneapolis after just a few weeks. It’s not just the defeats, but the “how” and the comments about the games that make you a bit suspicious. “We have to find lineups where everyone plays hard and sacrifices themselves,” says Finch. “It’s now up to me to find solutions so that we can get better.”
Nevertheless, one is aware that the Wolves could be heading for a situation like 2017, when there was also great euphoria after the trade for Jimmy Butler. “I know that. Expectations are high and then we make such slip-ups,” noted KAT. “It’s always the same, but we have to keep calm. We have talent and now we have to do it together. You’ll see the team that was so hyped over the summer.”
After all: With Butler, the Wolves were a top team before the house of cards fell apart due to an injury and the subsequent trade request. For the moment, however, the Wolves are miles away from the status of a top team.
Minnesota Timberwolves: The Upcoming Games
|November 12th||3.30 a.m||Memphis Grizzlies||A|
|14th November||12:00 a.m||Cleveland Cavaliers||A|
|November 17th||1 O ‘clock||Orlando Magic||A|
|20th November||1:30||Philadelphia 76ers||A|
|22nd of November||2 O ‘clock||Miami Heat||H|