October 15, 2017, 11:24 am
The Minnesota Timberwolves underwent significant turnover this offseason as head coach and team president Tom Thibodeau reshaped the roster, adding 10 new players while sending seven out the door. As a result there is some uncertainty on how these new pieces will affect the performance on the court, and how last year’s strengths and weaknesses translate into this season.
Below we will examine how the Wolves fared as a team last season and how the offseason additions may affect team performance.
3-point shooting (NBA Rank 20th of 30 in 3P%, 30th in 3PA)
Zach LaVine and Brandon Rush were the Wolves’ top 3-point shooters last season at 38.7 percent and 38.6 percent respectively. They are being replaced with Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford, who both ranked worse percentage wise. Teague over Rubio is a solid improvement, but 3-point shooting may continue to be an issue.
Defense (NBA Rank 28th of 30 in overall FG%)
The Wolves were not effective in getting stops last season. Bringing in Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson addresses the huge need, but it will take improvements from existing rotation players to dramatically help this defense.
The Timberwolves had a total of 33 games of playoff experience from their rotation players last season, all coming from Cole Aldrich and Brandon Rush. This offseason the Wolves added 272 games of playoff experience. Bringing these veteran players in to establish a winning culture was a point of emphasis. Jimmy Butler has discussed accountability and wanting guys to get “pissed off” if they are scored on so far in training camp.
Offensive rebounding (NBA Rank: 6th of 30)
Adding big men Taj Gibson and Justin Patton to this group should help keep this number strong, but also replacing Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio with Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague may help improve upon it. Though it may start sounding redundant that’s how big of a piece Butler is for this team. He is a true all-around talent.
Interior Scoring (NBA Rank: 10th of 30 in 2-point FG%, 5th of 30 in FT%)
Teague and Butler are a big upgrade inside the arc over Rubio, but LaVine may end up being a tougher loss than anticipated inside, after shooting 52% from 2-point range. Gibson coming in also gives the bench unit more scoring in the post, either through himself or from Gorgui Dieng getting shifted to a reserve role.
A team with 31 wins doesn’t have many strengths, and the Wolves were quick to address their needs without jeopardizing the things they can do well. If we look at how the new additions would have affected the team percentages last season, it helps give a better idea of how the team may fare going into this season.
From the point guard position, by replacing Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn with Jeff Teague and Aaron Brooks the team would have seen an improvement of 6.2 percent in 3P% (30.1 percent to 36.3 percent) and a 4.1 percent increase in 2-point FG% (42.3 percent to 46.4 percent). Assist percentage would fall 1.2 percent (58.3 percent to 57.1 percent), and rebound percentage would fall 3.2 percent (14.5 percent to 11.3 percent).
From the shooting guard position, by replacing Zach LaVine and Brandon Rush with Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford the team would have seen a loss of 2.4 percent in 3P% (38.7 to 36.3 percent) and a 1.5 percent decrease in 2-point FG% (49.0 percent to 47.5 percent). Assist percentage would increase 21.6 percent (18.4 to 40.0 percent), and rebound percentage would increase 1.3 percent (11.0 percent to 12.3 percent).
This isn’t an exact correlation because it’s impossible to replicate each situation. The volume of shots taken from each new addition is also significantly greater compared to last year’s personnel. With more guys in the rotation and less shots to go around, it will be worth looking where the offense is distributed and how the resulting efficiency stats shape up.
On the surface though it is apparent that the Wolves added a number of versatile playmakers and will be able to provide many different dimensions to the offense. How it ultimately shapes up will be one of the many storylines this season.