Coming off an unexpected comeback to the playoffs in the previous season, the Minnesota Timberwolves have since been busy stacking their roster and upgrading their game in their hopes of another shot at the playoffs and eventually bagging their first-ever NBA title.
Currently standing with a 9-8 slate on a four-game winning streak, the Minneapolis-based squad is finally slowly finding its groove in the young 2022-23 NBA season.
However, with the majority of the teams also peaking at the moment, the Wolves’ chances of a back-to-back playoffs’ appearance are still uncertain. Frankly, this is not what most spectators expected from the squad, especially after finishing the preseason with an impressive 4-1 card, giving justice to the Gobert trade in the offseason.
The trade had the Wolves send five players and five picks to Utah in exchange for the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. The package Minnesota disposed of included former fan favorite Jarred Vanderbilt, who has been a key contributor to Utah’s remarkable 12-7 card, currently sitting at the top spot in the Western Conference.
With the way the team has been performing, are the Timberwolves missing former fan favorite Jarred Vanderbilt? Moreover, how did his departure affect the Wolves’ NBA 2022 odds?
FULL TRADE DETAILS:
Multiple first-round picks
INSANE. 🤯 (via @wojespn)
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) July 1, 2022
Acquired in 2020, the 6-foot-8 forward had been one of the best forwards Minnesota has ever seen, appearing in 140 games in his three-year stint with the squad.
Vando only suited up for two games in his first year with the Wolves. The following season, the league saw a more stable and consistent forward in Vando, appearing in 17.8 minutes in 64 games. Generating 5.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.7 blocks, the Kentucky alum had proven himself worthy of a starting nod.
He had since been one of Minnesota’s offensive guns, posting an above-average 60/20/56 shooting split. Apart from an outstanding offense, the 6’8″ forward’s 109.2 defensive rating had also been instrumental in the Wolves’ run that season.
In the 2021-22 season, his last for the Wolves, Vando’s numbers just got even better, mainly due to playing more minutes for the Wolves. Playing for 25.4 minutes in 74 appearances, Vando tallied an average of 6.9 points per game, backed by 8.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 0.6 blocks.
A good role player, Vando’s 110.5 defensive rating was essential in landing Minnesota to the 12th most defensive team finish in the league, their best in recent memory.
Currently, Vando is thriving with the young and promising Jazz squad, posting career-high averages at 7.8 points and 2.9 assists. His 55.6 percent success rate from the field and 36.8 from beyond the arc, his best in his growing NBA career, has also added to Utah’s weapons this season. In addition, Vando currently has a 108.8 defensive rating, more than enough to fill in the shoes left by Gobert.
there’s always room for seconds 🍽️🖤
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) November 23, 2022
After Vando’s departure, Minnesota mainstay Karl-Anthony Towns took over the role left by the former. While KAT has been doing great in the role, the Wolves’ offensive and defensive ends have both been underwhelming.
Vando’s presence was key in running the Wolves’ offense last season, finishing as the eighth-best in the league with a 114.3 rating. In the current season, after seventeen games, the Minneapolis-based squad sits at the fifteenth spot, proving how effective the Wolves’ offense was with Vando.
An athletic, versatile defender, Vando had always been a great defender for the Wolves, allowing the squad to thrive offensively and eventually end a three-year playoffs drought.
Before his acquisition, Minnesota sat at the 21st seat in terms of team defense. Throughout his stay, the squad slowly climbed the rankings until reaching the 12th spot last season with a 111.0 defensive rating.
On the other hand, Utah’s front office has always been aware of how much of an asset Vando is. “A high energy, defensive-minded four-man that I think has some upside to continue to develop in our program,” Justin Zanik, Utah’s general manager shared in an interview.
— Jarred Vanderbilt (@JVando) November 20, 2022
Although they have been doing way better than they used to do in their first few games, the Wolves has to face the reality that Vando is not in the squad anymore and someone has to step up in order to fill in the spot he left.
Vando’s tenacity and energy is unmatched, for sure. This was evident in his first meeting against his former squad earlier this season, with Utah’s 132-126 overtime win against Minnesota. The Salt Lake City-based squad’s defensive pattern, spearheaded by Vando, forced the Wolves to generate 20 turnovers while also posting subpar shooting.
Defense wins championships, and this will be the case for the Wolves throughout the season’s run. Close, late-game comebacks have been Minnesota’s thing recently, which helps in putting the squad’s clutch behavior in action.
However, the Wolves might want to begin their upcoming games with a strong start as snatching a win against tougher teams can be extra challenging. Eyeing another shot at the playoffs, the Wolves certainly do not want to risk their chances with late-game comebacks.
Minnesota has to upgrade its defensive game as well. A jump from a 111.0 defensive rating to currently 111.5 can be somewhat underwhelming, especially with Towns and Gobert, two of the most defensive players in the league, playing for the team. Say the Wolves are able to solve these defensive woes, a good offensive run is guaranteed.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) October 25, 2022
Now on a four-game winning streak, the Wolves are finally slowly realizing their full potential. They are certainly missing Vando, especially the energy he brings to the court. Good thing, Nowell and the rest of the squad are slowly learning to embrace the role he left.
Minnesota looks to extend its winning streak as they face the Pacers on Wednesday at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse.