What a brutal showing. This isn’t the way Minnesota wanted to play in front of a solid Target Center showing on a Friday night. There is so much going on around the team, that everyone is starting to wonder how long the drama can go on. While the players are expected to be professionals, there is little doubt the drama is bothering the team and carrying over into their performances.
Karl-Anthony Towns had a brutal first half, performed better in the third quarter. Towns finished the first half with two points. Yes, you heard that right. The All-NBA Center had just two points at half. He was getting shots, but not hitting them. Fortunately, Towns had a terrific third quarter. KAT recorded 14 points in the third quarter, on 6-8 shooting in that frame. With tonight’s 16-point showing, Towns is now averaging just 16.3 points per game. That number is a cause for concern. Maybe it’s a matter of time before he heats up, or maybe the Butler situation is taking a toll on the big man, but things need to change.
Timberwolves go cold from three. After shooting 50% from three in Toronto on Wednesday, the Timberwolves were 10-43 (23.3%) from three tonight. It’s good to see Minnesota taking more threes, but they were not hitting the shots tonight, so it would’ve been nice to see Minnesota attack the basket more.
Minnesota has a big night on the offensive boards. One slight positive from tonight’s game was Minnesota’s effort on the offensive glass. Minnesota grabbed 17 offensive rebounds in the game, turning those rebounds into second chance points. While Minnesota has struggled grabbing defensive rebounds at times this season, the Wolves have been terrific crashing the offensive glass.
How long can the Jimmy Butler saga continue? Tonight’s effort was pathetic, and it won’t be getting any easier for Minnesota. Sitting at 2-4 with their next six games against the Lakers, Jazz, Warriors, Blazers, Clippers, and Lakers again, the Timberwolves have no easy upcoming contests.
Milwaukee was about as hot as a team can get from three. The Bucks shot 19-46 (41.3%) from deep. Middleton led the way making four threes with Henson and Lopez each connecting on three shots from deep.
Mike Budenholzer is the right coach for this group. The Bucks have started the season 5-0 and look primed for success this year. In a game where Giannis was held under 20 points, the Bucks handled Minnesota easily. If the Bucks continue to get support around Giannis, they will be in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Donte DiVincenzo knows how to play. DiVincenzo won’t always make his presence felt in the box score, but the rookie understands the game. DiVincenzo made a number of hustle plays tonight and recorded nine points. For DiVincenzo, he has the chance to develop into a great role player for Milwaukee this season.
The Bucks shared and moved the basketball. Milwaukee recorded 32 assists on their 49 made field goals. Compared to the Wolves’ 19 assists on their 36 made field goals, Milwaukee moved the ball and found the open shooter in Minnesota.
Confusing game all-around for Minnesota. In some ways, the Wolves stood in with Toronto on their own court, but in this league, it’s not about hanging with teams. It was a game of runs, and in the end, the Timberwolves didn’t have a big enough fourth quarter run in them.
The Timberwolves shot very well from deep. Minnesota was 15-30 from three. The entire team was hot from downtown. Butler led the way by going 4-7 from three, and Tolliver connected on 3-5 triples from deep. In the end, the three-point barrage wasn’t enough to get Minnesota the win, but it’s something to build on.
Jimmy Butler was brutal from the free-throw line. What happens in this game if Butler knocks down his foul shots? Butler was 5-10 from the line, where he is a career 83.4% shooter. Butler has recorded 20 points in each game he’s played in this season, but he could’ve done a lot more damage tonight.
Karl-Anthony Towns looked like he didn’t want to be on the court tonight. Towns has been very active so far this season, but tonight was a different story. KAT was a no-show on offense and wasn’t in the flow of the game. Towns’ offensive start to the season has to be a major concern going forward.
Josh Okogie had an interesting game. There is no doubting Okogie’s ability on the defensive end of the court. He is already an elite player on that end of the court. It’s the offensive end where Okogie is a huge question mark. Okogie started the game by shooting 0-9 from the field, forcing too many shots up. Then, Okogie caught fire, by hitting two straight threes and throwing down a massive putback. Okogie finished 4-14 from the field. If Okogie can learn when to shoot the ball and when to give it up, it will make him much more valuable to Minnesota.
This Toronto team is legit. I know, it’s been said before, but this year is truly different. With Kawhi Leonard in, and LeBron and out of the East, the Raptors have as good of a shot at going to the NBA Finals as any Eastern Conference team.
Kawhi Leonard is back. After missing almost a full year of basketball, Leonard looks like he hasn’t missed a step. Leonard recorded 35 points on 15-23 shooting from the field tonight, ridiculous efficiency. If Leonard continues to perform at this high of a level, he will definitely be in the MVP conversation at the end of the season.
Jonas Valanciunas provided a huge punch off the bench. Valanciunas recorded 16 points and 9 rebounds off the bench to lead Toronto’s bench scoring. Playing in just 20 minutes, 5 of the 9 rebounds Valanciunas grabbed were offensive rebounds.
The Raptors are the Spurs of the East. Their ball movement is unmatched. Almost everyone on their team is willing to make the extra pass. This team-centered basketball can take them very far, just ask San Antonio.
The Timberwolves played defense. This is not a drill. The Minnesota Timberwolves played defense. Minnesota held Indiana to 91 points, the first time the Wolves have held an opponent under 100 points on the season. Tonight is something to build upon in terms of defense.
The Wolves are a playoff team with Jimmy Butler. With the win over the Pacers, Minnesota moves to 2-1 with Butler. Had Butler played on Saturday against the Mavericks, the Wolves would likely be holding a 3-1 record. However, without Butler, the Wolves are an average at best team.
Josh Okogie played terrific. Okogie’s energy on defense alone makes him valuable off the bench. With Wiggins going down with an injury, Okogie got a chance to show out, and make hustle and effort plays on the defensive end. However, Okogie has work to do on the offensive end. The rookie was 5-13 from the field tonight, including 1-6 from three. He forced the ball too much on offense, but the defense alone made him a big part of the winning effort tonight.
Timberwolves have a defensive rebounding problem. Indiana recorded 12 offensive rebounds tonight, compared to Minnesota’s 8 offensive rebounds. For Minnesota, it will need to be a team effort on the defensive glass, and if they don’t correct the mistakes, it will cost them games, like it already has.
Taj Gibson is as steady as the come. With 13 points and 8 rebounds, Gibson once again showed his value to Minnesota. Gibson is the most consistent Timberwolves player on the roster. The team knows what they will be getting each and every night.
Victor Oladipo struggled. Oladipo failed to get calls in the paint tonight, only shooting four free throws. The Wolves did a great job of walling up on Oladipo in the paint and defending without fouling.
The Pacers shot 11-16 from the charity stripe. Compared to Minnesota’s 22 points at the free-throw line, it’s hard to win games when the opposing team doubles your point total at the line.
Bojan Bogdanovic was terrific. Recording 20 points on 8-12 shooting from the field and 4-5 from three, Bogdanovic gave the Pacers a great punch on offense, on a night they didn’t produce much offense.
The Pacers bench was less than spectacular. Indiana’s bench was outscored 43-21. Nobody on the Pacers’ bench had a great night, and it’s hard to win games in the NBA with that little of bench production.
The Timberwolves season is upon us. It’s been a long journey since the Game Five playoff loss to Houston that ended the season, and a lot has happened since then. Two big changes that happened over the summer were the additions of Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop. In the first-round of the 2018 NBA Draft, the Timberwolves selected Josh Okogie, a wing out of Georgia Tech. Later in the evening, the Timberwolves used their second-round selection on the 2017/18 Big Ten Player of the Year, Keita Bates-Diop. With the inability to add many players in free agency over the summer, Okogie and Bates-Diop will be expected to learn on the fly and contribute to the big league club right off the bat.
If preseason action was a sign of things to come, one thing is clear: both rookies will see the floor. Both rookies were in the regular preseason rotation. Okogie even saw a couple starts because of rest and Jimmy Butler being away from the team. For Bates-Diop, he was a regular with the second unit, something that is expected to continue in the regular season. So, what can Wolves fans expect from Okogie and Bates-Diop in their first season in the NBA? I chatted with Georgia Tech Assistant Coach Eric Reveno and Ohio State Head Coach Chris Holtmann over the summer to get a better understanding of the Timberwolves rookies.
The NBA is a big adjustment from college basketball. The game is played faster, the three-point line is farther away, and players are much more mature. That is why we don’t see rookies win MVP. Rookies can have fantastic first seasons in the NBA, just look at Donovan Mitchell last season, but a big job for rookies in their first season is to learn. Soak up as much information as possible to get a better understanding of professional basketball. Speaking to both coaches, it seems like neither player will have any problem with learning.
When asking about Bates-Diop’s willingness to learn, Holtmann says: “I don’t think he’s thinking about anything else other than that right now: learn from the veterans, compete, and help the organization. I think that’s his only focus. I don’t think he wants to get ahead of himself and worry about anything beyond that.”
As for Okogie, Reveno thinks his head is in a similar spot: “He’s a very good learner. He can be coached hard. He never rolls his eyes and never pushes back.” Reveno continues on by saying: “If you get a veteran that’s willing to take him under their wing and guide him, he will just soak it up.”
For rookies coming into the league, this is a great sign. Guys that are willing to learn and take constructive criticism can help the player in the future. If Okogie and Bates-Diop soak up the insightfulness of several of the Wolves’ veterans, it can make their transition to the NBA that much easier.
Going into the 2018 NBA Draft and coming out of the 2018 NBA Draft, the main topic of discussion with the Timberwolves rookies was their defensive versatility. Okogie and Bates-Diop have the ability to guard multiple positions, something that is very important in today’s NBA.
When talking about Keita’s versatility, Holtmann mentions, “His length and his IQ. I think both really helped him. It’s well-documented. He’s got a 7’3” wingspan, but he’s also really smart. He’s not one of those guys that fouls at inappropriate times.” That length and IQ was put on display throughout last season at Ohio State, helping Keita average 1.6 blocks and 0.9 steals per game.
As for Okogie, it’s no different. The Timberwolves drafted Okogie because of his defensive ability. Eric Reveno summarizes Okogie’s defensive ability perfectly: “His length, his athleticism, and his desire and effort. He’s improved a lot in terms of his technique, and I think he will continue to do that. He’s willing to challenge himself. You tell him to guard a five man, a four man, a point guard, whatever, and he’ll do it.” That mindset on the defensive end of the court has been evident throughout the Timberwolves preseason games. Okogie never backs away from a defensive challenge, no matter how big, or small that challenge may be.
It’s clear from watching the Timberwolves rookies that the two players will improve Minnesota’s defense. Their switchability makes both guys extremely valuable right out of the gate. For a team that ranked 25th in defensive rating last season, rookies that can guard multiple positions is a huge bonus for the franchise.
While the Timberwolves rookies defensive abilities are well-known, their offensive abilities are more unknown, especially Okogie. Okogie is known for his defense, not his offense, that has been evident throughout the preseason. His shot misses badly at times, and he has been missing little bunnies around the rim. However, Eric Reveno sees potential in Okogie’s offensive abilities: “He’s a work in progress. His shot has improved monthly. When our season ended in March, and I saw him shoot in April, it was a better shot with more range. There’s nothing wrong with his skillset, his skillset is very solid and good, it’s just a work in progress. He’s just a young player that way. It’s his age, and it’s the number of reps.” Multiple times while talking to Reveno, he mentioned Okogie’s work ethic. Reveno says: “He’s an old soul. He’s got a maturity about him, and he knows what he wants. He works for what he wants.” Reveno continues on saying: “He has a nice steady pace to him. Every practice he was there early, and every practice he stayed late. We all have good weeks, bad weeks, but he was just really steady.”
As for Keita Bates-Diop, his offensive game is more polished. Bates-Diop brings more to the table right away on the offensive side of the ball. Shooting 35.9% from three last season at Ohio State, I asked Holtmann if he thought his three-point shooting could translate to the deeper NBA line: “Yeah, I do. I think he’s going to have to get used to the line. You saw him in Summer League make shots. Stretched the defense a little bit. So I think that will come. He’ll get a lot of repetitions working on that. But, I think that will come. He’s got really good touch, and I think his touch will only continue to improve.”
While the offensive game may take more time to develop for the Timberwolves rookies, the potential is there on both sides. As both coaches said, it will just take time, as both men are still very young.
The Timberwolves rookies are coming into the season, ready to learn, but they are also going to be expected to perform. With both players expected to play a role for the team from the get go, it will be important for the rookies to never get too high or too low. For Bates-Diop, playing in the Big Ten Conference in college for multiple seasons will help. When asking about how the level of competition in the Big Ten can help Keita this season, Coach Holtmann says: “I think it’s definitely going to help. I think he’s a guy that’s only going to continue to get better. I think he has terrific upside. I also think that he’s a guy that’s playing against really good people, and he’s played very well against really good teams and really good people, so I think he’s a guy that can be counted on and come in and contribute.”
The same can be said for Josh Okogie. Okogie’s defensive ability will give him a chance to make a big impact early in his career for Minnesota. Reveno states: “He’s a really unselfish team guy. He wants to impact the team positively.” And if Okogie and Bates-Diop are asked to sit back and learn, Reveno thinks Okogie will handle it like a professional: “He’s one of the best I’ve seen being engaged in the team and mentally dialed in when not in the action.”
With the Wolves having a lot of big money players on their roster, rookies like Okogie and Bates-Diop that have the ability to contribute don’t come around daily. For the Timberwolves rookies, they seem ready to learn, and if their name is called, they will be ready to perform.
The NBA is at an all-time high. The main reason the NBA is gaining popularity is because of the on-court play. However, the off-court activity has a great impact as well. In addition to the madness during free agency and at the trade deadline, burner accounts have begun to play an interesting role in the NBA. It first started with Kevin Durant replying to a fan from what was supposed to be a second account. Unfortunately for Durant, the message was sent from his main account. Then, this summer, Bryan Colangelo was caught with burner accounts that gave secretive information about the 76ers. So, with all these burner accounts, I decided to create some fake tweets from fake accounts. The first team I looked at was the Minnesota Timberwolves Burner Account Tweets.
The first-year point guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves had an up-and-down season. Long time Timberwolf Ricky Rubio was loved by fans around Minnesota everywhere. What the Wolves should’ve done at point guard is the main topic of the first burner tweet.
The Timberwolves signed Andrew Wiggins to a max contract last summer. Even though the team showed faith in Wiggins, Wigs effort on the court last season remained subpar. Wiggins’ contract and effort provide a great second burner tweet.
At this point, everyone knows about Jimmy Butler’s frustration with the Timberwolves’ young players and their effort levels. That alone made for an interesting Jimmy Butler burner account tweet.
It seemed like Taj Gibson was one of the only Timberwolf players last season that didn’t have an rumors flying around his head. In a lot of ways, Gibson holds the Wolves together, on and off the court.
KAT is one of the most exciting young talents in the NBA. Towns is in line to receive a max contract this summer, after the inevitable meeting with Glen Taylor to make sure Towns is committed to winning. That meeting that Taylor had last summer with Wiggins is where this burner tweet stems from.
If you watch the Minnesota Timberwolves, you know that Tom Thibodeau loves to yell. What is his favorite word? ICE. ICE.
As many Wolves fans know at this point, the Minnesota Timberwolves signed forward Anthony Tolliver to a one-year contract. However, signing Tolliver to his deal came at a cost. The Timberwolves had to let Nemanja Bjelica walk, who ended up signing a one-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. Some fans have been complaining about paying Tolliver more money, rather than holding onto the younger Bjelica. Did the Wolves make the right move? Let’s break it down.
Last Season Basic Stats
During the 2017-18 NBA campaign, Nemanja Bjelica averaged 6.8 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game. Bjelica did so while playing 20.5 minutes a night and starting 21 of the 67 games he appeared in. In his 67 games, Bjelica managed to shoot 41.5% from three-point range, the second-highest percentage by any Wolf last year. The 41.5% from three came on 2.7 attempts per game, not a bad number for a bench player, but Bjelica should have been shooting more.
On the defensive side of the ball, Bjelica was up and down. Professor Big Shots posted a 110 defensive rating, which was the same as Jimmy Butler, but Bjelica was guarding bench players in comparison to Butler who was guarding the opposing team’s star night in and night out. The Timberwolves were a better team on defense when Bjelly was on the court, so there is potential on the defensive side of the ball; however, he will never be a great on-ball defender.
The former Timberwolf from 2010-2012 had a terrific 2017-18 season with the Detroit Pistons. Tolliver averaged 8.9 points per game and 3.1 rebounds per game while playing 22.2 minutes a night. In addition, Tolliver missed only three games last season, a huge plus for any NBA player. In his 79 games played, Tolliver shot a ridiculous 43.6% from three on 4.6 attempts per game. His totals wound up to be 159 makes on 365 attempts from three-point range, a very solid showing.
The defensive side of the ball shows similar production for Tolliver. Posting a similar 110 defensive rating as Bjelica, the Detroit Pistons were a much better defensive team when Tolliver was on the floor. Tolliver’s toughness and sheer hustle forced many turnovers leading to easy baskets for Detroit.
Furthermore for Tolliver, he finished the 2017-18 season on fire. Over the course of the final ten games of the season, Tolliver posted 17.2 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game. Starting in eight of the final ten games, Tolliver proved his worth shooting a scorching 55.1% from long range connecting on 38 of 69 threes.
Last Season Advanced Stats
In his third season in the NBA, Bjelica had a usage rate of 14.3%. With that usage rate, 49.3% of Bjelica’s attempted shots were from three. That may seem like a good amount, but it was not as high as it should have been. Bjelica often hesitated before shooting threes last season. He would put the ball on the deck, when he should really just fire from three. Bjelica was at his best last season when he was not thinking about his shot, and he just let it fly.
The GIF above shows Bjelica at his best. This shot shows Bjelly with no hesitation, and firing freely, something he did not do enough of.
In arguably his best season in the NBA, Tolliver recorded a 14.8% usage rate, similar to Bjelica. However, the big thing that sticks out with Tolliver is how many of his shots are threes. 77.3% of Tolliver’s field goal attempts last season came from three. This will provide the Wolves with a big spark. Tolliver spaces the floor and he fires on his threes at will. Just watch him stroke this three below with no hesitation whatsoever.
This is what the Timberwolves need. Someone who will freely shoot the ball and not worry about his minutes. AT is not going to go to the media and complain about minutes. He will work hard, give effort every night, and hopefully be rewarded with the minutes he deserves.
Anthony Tolliver is the right man for the Wolves this upcoming season. Yes, he is older. Yes, he is more expensive. But, Tolliver is consistent. Wolves fans will be able to know what they will get each game from AT, where Bjelica ranged mightily in his consistency. For example, Bjelica had 33 games last season where he scored five points or less. That accounts for 49.3% of the games he played in. On the other hand, Tolliver had just 21 games where he scored five or less points. And, because he played in 79 games last season, those 21 games account for just 26.6% of his outings with five or less points. The verdict is simple, the Wolves need consistency and toughness. Those two words may describe Anthony Tolliver best.