Now standing with a 4-4 slate in the 2022-23 NBA season, the Minnesota Timberwolves have had a couple of high and low moments throughout the season’s duration so far. Expectations have risen after the Minneapolis-based squad’s impressive preseason performance, dropping only a single game in five outings.
However, it seems that the team is yet to discover its extreme potential, especially on the defensive end. The acquisition of 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert, a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, had league spectators assume that the Wolves are but a tough squad to conquer this season. The numbers, however, show otherwise, with the team exhibiting mediocre outputs defensively.
With this, how are Minnesota Timberwolves NBA 2022 odds affected? Moreover, are the Timberwolves unable to have a consistent defense?
Timberwolves’ Defensive Stats
After eight games, the Wolves sit as the league’s 11th-best defensive team, tied with nine other squads. This can be considered the team’s best in the last five years or so, consistently ranking 20th and lower until finally placing 12th in the preceding season. Meanwhile, the Wolves’ solid defense was put on full display in the preseason, gaining recognition as the second-best defensive team in the league, tied with five other squads.
In the season’s duration so far, the T-Wolves displayed a 108.6 defensive rating, a bit better than their 111.0 output in the previous season and a bit worse than their 101.7 in the preseason. On the other hand, the Wolves produced an average of 36.0 defensive rebounds per game, spearheaded by Gobert who currently leads the league with 14.0 rebounds per game.
In terms of steals, the preseason favorites have posted an average of 8.1 per game, significantly lower than their 10.6 outing in the preseason and 8.8 in the previous season. On the other hand, the team logged an average of 5.6 blocks per game, better than their 4.4 outing in their five-game preseason run while matching their blocking output in the previous season.
With these numbers, one thing can be seen in the Wolves’ defensive efficiency — inconsistency. The “Gobert effect” has not been really felt yet as of the moment, with the team still almost in the same position as they were last year in terms of defense.
In an interview, center-turned-forward Towns himself admitted how the Wolves’ defense has been the team’s Achilles’ heel in the ongoing season. “It’s really not the offense that’s hurting us, it’s the defense.”
“I was joking around with the guys saying we’re the best, worst defensive team we’ve ever seen,” the newly-acquired Gobert shared in another interview.
🐺 The Stifle Tower is set to make his debut in Minnesota!
🔒 Led all centers in defensive win shares (min. 50 games played)
❌ 2.1 BPG (3rd in 2021-22) | 137 Total Blocks (2nd in 2021-22) pic.twitter.com/MrkDMk7KLc
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) October 17, 2022
OTHER ASPECTS TO WORK ON
In a highly-contested league like NBA, defense alone will never be enough in bringing a team to a championship seat, as there are also a couple of aspects to work on in order to achieve such a successful feat.
Aside from a struggling defensive end, it is also notable how the Wolves’ offense has been underwhelming, with the team generating a statistically lower efficiency on offense than their usual outputs.
Towns were projected to generate more points since moving to the forward position, but his 47.3 percent success rate from the field, comparatively lower than his 52.9 output in the previous season, did not help. The 6-foot-4 Russell’s shooting has also been below his usual average, with his 34.0 efficiencies from beyond the perimeter now down to 27.9.
On the other hand, Forbes, mainly acquired for his mastery of three-pointers, found himself in a career-low 12.5 efficiency from beyond the arc after an impressive 41.4 outing in the previous season.
A bit early comparison of 22-23 season distance coverage with 21-22. pic.twitter.com/GvQ5KEa4zt
— TheNext23 (@TNext23) November 3, 2022
On the brighter side, meanwhile, the towering Gobert has proven how successful he can be on the offensive end as well, generating a 59.7 success rate on the field. Reid, Prince, and McDaniels have also been instrumental in keeping the Wolves’ offense working.
As a team, the Wolves posted a 52.2 success rate from the field and 32.6 from beyond the arc, bad enough to land them the 21st and 25th seats in the 30-team league, respectively.
Apart from the offense, the Wolves should also work on limiting their turnovers, currently having an average of 15.1. Their 20.6 personal fouls and 0.6 technical fouls per game are two main aspects to work on as well.
Say the Wolves are able to maximize their defensive prowess and work on these aspects, taking home their long-awaited first-ever NBA title is definitely possible.
In last night's 129-117 win over Houston, @itsmclaughlin11 dished out a career-high-tying 11 assists while not committing a turnover in 22:24 minutes of action off the bench, becoming the first player in the @NBA this season with 10+ assists/0 turnovers off the bench. pic.twitter.com/DN8DeFizsg
— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) November 6, 2022
Lack of Syncing
Despite parading an all-star roster, the Wolves, like other squads, still has a couple of things to work on.
The Minneapolis-based squad’s starting roster has been evidently out-of-sync in the past few games, outplayed by their second unit. The roster is great individually, for sure. However, the lack of chemistry seems to hurt the Wolves’ starters, opposite to what the second stringers exhibit. This is backed by a really low offensive rating for the team’s starters, exhibiting 97.4 points per 100 possessions, the second worst in the league.
Underwhelming passing amongst the starters has also been observed in the T-Wolves’ first eight games. Most of the time, when an opposing defender comes close, the starters either exhibit poor passes or drive straight to the basket without properly executing the act which leads to missed shots.
“They’re sharing the ball. They don’t care who scores. That’s the biggest thing… They all want to see each other shine in that second group,” Edward, the Wolves leading scorer, shared in an interview.
Good thing, this lack of chemistry can still be forgivable for the Wolves’ starters, considering how little the amount of time they were given to play together before the season began, unlike the second-stringers who had all the time to team up and gel really well.
Wolves physical team defense on Devin Booker pic.twitter.com/Lib3Mmvp2Q
— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) November 2, 2022
Although the Wolves’ defense has been inconsistent so far, they still have the rest of the season to work on it and reach their full potential defensively.
Chris Finch, the team’s coach, is surely aware of these holes and is up to something to lead his squad to another playoff appearance and eventually a shot at the finals.
In the long run, we can expect a better, well-established high-pressure defense, backed by an upgraded offense and well-synced chemistry from this promising squad.
The Timberwolves are playing lockdown defense right now 💪
They're on a 12-1 Q2 run on TNT! pic.twitter.com/McO3k50ng6
— NBA (@NBA) November 2, 2022
Credits on Featured Image: 2013 Minnesota Timberwolves 3/Michael Tipton