December 4, 2017, 11:32 pm
The Wolves are a confusing team right now. On one hand they have a winning record at 14-11, a superstar wing in Jimmy Butler, a bright young duo of Towns and Wiggins and a good group of secondary players. On most nights they are easily the most talented team on the court.
On the other hand this team is a flat, inconsistent and incoherent bunch that is likely overachieving based off the results. In their losses the Wolves have looked terrible. In most of their wins they have looked bad. They are skirting by at the moment off of pure talent. It’s not a terrible problem, but something needs to happen with this group to get more engaged.
As mentioned countless times before the defense has been a serious issue for this team. There was no shortage of miscues on that end in this game, and it was similar mistakes. Guys not rotating correctly, bad footwork, lack of awareness or just pure laziness.
Some of these problems are starting to leak over into the offensive end as well. Butler has seemingly taken it upon himself to carry this team offensively, especially in late game situations. It’s not a terrible strategy, Butler scored 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting, but isolation “hero ball” is predictable and easy to defend.
It worked last night against a defensively challenged Clippers’ back-court, but it’s not going to work against the Grizzlies every time. Or most of the top teams in the NBA for that matter.
Late in this game most offensive sets resorted to Butler having the ball in his hands and trying to make something happen. The Grizzlies were all over it. Butler was 1-of-5 down the stretch and there was just no movement on offense.
It’s tough to place the blame here. Does it fall to Towns for not getting involved in the offense? KAT was 2-of-6 from the field with seven points. It’s arguable that a player of Towns’ caliber should be more active in demanding the ball, or putting himself in better positions to get the ball instead of waiting for it to come to him.
Does Thibodeau get the blame for not calling enough plays for Towns and drawing up poor sets for Butler? It’s safe to say that everyone deserves a share of the blame tonight, and for the continued failings in general.
As unfortunate as it may sound, it seems that a number of players on this team need to get going on offense early in the game to give some sort of effort on defense, or to participate in the flow of the offense.
That may explain the wild shot Towns took late in the fourth quarter. In a one-point game under a minute left Towns found himself with the 6’6″ Dillon Brooks on his back. Butler threw the ball into Towns with his back to the basket early in the shot clock.
Instead of overpowering Brooks, or even putting on any kind of move, Towns turns and faces up and takes a 17-foot jump shot that bricks off the rim. Butler flew in for the offensive rebound and called a timeout, but it was an unbelievable shot. Butler voiced his frustration with Towns on camera:
— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) December 5, 2017
For non lip-readers, “that was a ****ing layup” Butler contested.
In all honesty it is tough basketball to watch right now. It’s hard to find enjoyment out of a team that is so maddeningly inconsistent and flat, despite having so much talent.
And yet that is the exciting part in all of this. Take a step back and it’s clear the Wolves have so much potential to grow. This team, with so many new faces, wasn’t going to come together in a couple of months. Wiggins and Towns are still just 22 years old with long NBA careers ahead.
Look at the Thunder who are still piecing things together, or the Sixers who are right there in terms of record with the Wolves. It is incredibly rare for teams to go from the bottom of the standings to the top in one season, yet somehow the Wolves are already on that path as they would qualify for the playoffs today.
This experiment is far from over. There will likely be changes ahead as the team looks to add a bench piece. There will be more yelling and fighting guys holding each other accountable. It’s not always going to be pretty. There are many things that have to improve.
Will the experiment ultimately work out? It’s too soon to tell, but it’s also too soon to abandon ship.