Almost halfway through the season, teams in the NBA are still searching for ways to up their standings and secure a seat in the upcoming playoffs. Now standing with an 18-21 slate, seated 11th in the Western Conference, the Minnesota Timberwolves have had their fair share of high and low moments this season.
Frankly, the Minneapolis-based squad was expected to dominate the league after their offseason trades and acquisitions, including the renowned Gobert trade.
How has the Minnesota Timberwolves been performing so far? Can we expect a better showing from the team after beginning the year with a two-game winning streak? Moreover, does the ongoing winning streak shake the team’s NBA 2022 odds?
Stats Never Lie
After 39 games, Minnesota posts a 46.2 winning percentage, a few points lower than their 56.1 rating in the previous season. Meanwhile, the team generated 11-9 and 7-12 win-loss cards at home and on the road, respectively. In addition, the team was only able to win four of their last ten games.
These numbers are enough to place the Wolves in the middle of the bottom half of the Western Conference. Has the team been underperforming? Possibly.
Defensively, Minnesota currently stands with a 112.8 rating, 16th in the entire league. The team has been doing well in maximizing Gobert’s presence on the floor, with the Stifle Tower leading the team in the blocking and rebounding departments.
Former Washington standout Jaden McDaniels has also been a great support to Gobert’s defense, providing 131 rebounds, 38 steals, and 41 blocks for the Wolves this season. However, with a couple of talented cogs in their roster, the team still has a long way to go in terms of defense.
On the other end, the T-Wolves display a 112.3 offensive rating, also lower than their 113.8 outings last season. Currently, Minnesota stands also as the 16th-best offensive team in the league, tied with the struggling Toronto Raptors.
A good reason for the team’s mediocre offense can be the absence of NBA 2015 Draft round one first pick Karl-Anthony Towns, who even after missing all of the team’s games since acquiring a right calf strain in late November, still stands as the second-best scorer in for the team.
Good thing, the 6-foot-4 Anthony Edwards has the tools to fill for KAT’s absence, leading the team with 24.2 points per game.
Meanwhile, apart from doing well on the defensive end, the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Gobert has also been an efficient offensive contributor for Minnesota, posting an impressive 67.2 success rate from the field, just a few notches away from team leader Nathan Knight’s 68.0 rating.
With a -0.5 net rating, it seems that the Wolves will have to go through the eye of a needle to secure a playoff seat. This is not what a lot would expect from a star-studded team like Minnesota, but the best they can do is to eliminate inconsistency and bank on their roster’s skills and athleticism.
Obviously, the team has been heavily relying on Gobert, Edwards, and the rest of the team’s starters whenever they step foot on the court.
However, Minnesota also has a couple of unsung heroes from the bench who have delivered the goods whenever the team needed them the most.
The forward-center Knight, for example, currently stands as the team’s most efficient shooter even after not starting at any of Minnesota’s games this season. A reliable role player, the 6-foot-8 baller’s rare appearances on the floor were nothing but notable ones.
These include a 16-point output against the Bulls and a double-double against the Nuggets, among such.
N A T E
— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 21, 2022
Aside from Knight, the towering Luka Garza also deserves more recognition for his skills. Playing for both Minnesota and their G-League affiliate Iowa Wolves, Garza has always delivered whenever he entered the court.
A 16 points and 3 rebounds showing under 18 minutes against the Bucks proves that Garza plays quality minutes whenever given the opportunity. Recently, Luka generated 14 points off an outstanding 100/100/75 shooting split all in 13 minutes in their win against Portland. What more can he provide if he were given more minutes, right?
— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 27, 2022
Austin Rivers & Bryn Forbes
Veterans Austin Rivers and Bryn Forbes are also ones to appreciate. A decade-long NBA stalwart, Rivers’ quick in-game adjustments, and sneaky shots have helped a lot in keeping Minnesota’s playoff hopes alive this season.
Currently, the best three-pointer for the team with a 40.6 percent efficiency, the Duke alumni’s all-around outputs has been essential in having the Wolves’ game going throughout the season. On the other hand, Forbes’ maturity on the court has also helped in establishing creative plays for Minnesota.
In spite of struggling with his renowned long-range shots, the 6-foot-2 guard made it up for his team in the free-throw line, leading the team with a hundred percent efficiency.
These unsung heroes have lowkey been the key for Minnesota whenever any of the starters are struggling or are generally not in sync. Although they are only given limited minutes, they see to it that they make the most out of those playing times.
Hence, Minnesota must realize that more than their starters, the team still has these second-stringers to bank on anytime they are needed. They can use this as an asset for the rest of the tourney. Can they maximize their roster? We will see.
After all, these unsung heroes have proven themselves through and through and all they need are more opportunities to exhibit their skills on the court.
Bounce Back Big Time
After falling to a depressing six-game losing streak to end 2022, the Wolves bounced back big time to begin this year’s campaign. A 124-111 victory over the Nuggets and 113-106 against the Trail Blazers seemingly signaled a more regrouped and refreshed Minnesota squad.
These shocking wins had league spectators believe that the team is off to a better showing this year, which in fact is what the team should be looking forward to. They have to get used to missing a few players’ presences and rely on who is on the court. Consistency and court familiarity is what is going to save this team from a flustering downfall.
The team should take their early back-to-back wins as morale boosters and carry with them the tenacity they had to their upcoming games. By doing so, the team can most likely pocket more wins and eventually climb up the standings.
It has definitely been a season of uncertainty for Minnesota. However, one thing is for sure: the season is still too long. Now in the middle of the season, the Wolves have gained more experience as a team and they must utilize this to grab more victories in the future.
The Minnesota Timberwolves will attempt to extend their winning streak to three as they battle it out against the LA Clippers on Friday, January 6, at the Target Center.
Credits on Featured Image: Flickr/Nikk_La/Commercial License Allowed