Through 15 games this season, there have been some surprising teams in a good way. One of those teams happens to be the Minnesota Timberwolves. They are now 8-6 on the season, in the eighth seed with two full games on the Sacramento Kings. By all accounts, the Timberwolves have been a fun team to watch. Guys have elevated their level of play and have won in close games when it mattered. This team has shown heart so far this season but there is one question that is on everyone’s mind; can this last?
In recent years we have seen this Timberwolves team fall and miss the playoffs. Whether it was last season, where everyone thought this team should be blown up or Jimmy Butler creating some internal issues. One thing is for sure, it hasn’t been fun to be on this Minnesota team for a couple of years now. Since 2006, the Timberwolves have had one winning record where they made the playoffs and got knocked out of the first-round. Some of that can be blamed on coaching and front office. You can also blame players not living up to their full-potential. However, things seem and feel different in Minnesota this year, but why?
First off, their stars Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins seemed to have leveled up into superstar/all-star form. Towns has taken his game to a whole new level this year, especially on the offensive end. His averages are at 27 points, 12.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.6 blocks on 51 percent shooting. But that’s not all; Towns is hitting 43.5 percent of his three’s on nine shot attempts a game. That is other-worldly for anybody, let alone a center. He was always coming along with his three-point shot, but nobody ever thought it be this good.
His teammate, Wiggins, has somehow woken up this year. He is averaging 25.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists on 47.8 percent shooting and 36.1 percent from three. To remind you how much of a jump that is, all of those numbers are career-highs for Wiggins. When you watch him play, you can see the enjoyment and basketball-IQ show again that he didn’t have in quite sometime. The past few years, you can see the struggles not just offensively but on the other end as well. The game didn’t look fun for him anymore. Wiggins has hit big shots to win games as well, he isn’t afraid to hit the big-time shot. The two stars have finally taken the role of being stars, there are not afraid of any opponent.
They are second in clutch-time in the last five minutes of a game, record being 5-1 on the season. That is a testament to coaching from Ryan Saunders. He sets his team up for wins when it counts, and makes sure they come in the game with an understanding of what needs to happen. They are in the top-five in every category in clutch moments, which is what keeps this Timberwolves team alive. They lock-up defensively with guys like Robert Covington and Jeff Teague, and get second-chance points with their stars of Towns and Wiggins grabbing big rebounds.
The mood on this team changed as soon as Saunders took the title of Head Coach. He seems to be a players-coach, which is much more suiting for this team who is super young. Their oldest veteran being 31 year-old Teague couldn’t be led by a guy in Tom Thibodeau, who is harsh in nature. Thibs was a yeller, a dictator for this team and it turned guys like Towns and Wiggins off who ended up playing a lot of minutes under him. Even in the best condition, for how much they played was unhealthy for these young guys. The only player who enjoyed their style of play was Jimmy Butler, who guys had problems with as well. He made it out to make this team soft, which maybe they were at the time. However, that could have been because of them being turned-off by Butler’s leadership skills which were in question. If you disagree, ask some of the Chicago players how they felt about him.
The Timberwolves have a new dynamic to them, they’re young and have established role guys on this team. Towns and Wiggins are the stars, Teague is the veteran ball-handler, Covington and Layman are the wings that can knock-down three’s and others such as Jarrett Culver, Josh Okogie, Treveon Graham and Shabazz Napier give some energy with their youth. The question is can they last? I don’t suspect Towns to keep up with his three-point shooting if I’m being honest. Shooting from down-town at 43 percent is hard to do consistently. If I had to make a guess though, I think this Timberwolves team can easily make the playoffs. The Blazers and Spurs seem to be going through a whole lot at the moment, the Kings are hurt and the Thunder and Grizzlies seem to be inconsistent all year. This is a team that seems hell-bent on proving everyone wrong. We will see how the year goes for them.