Tag Archives: Andrew Wiggins

The T’Wolves: Their future may be bright, but their present leaves something to be desired

Future Western Conference power, dark horse playoff contender, the most exciting team in the NBA (minus the Dubs), these are just a few of the phrases that were tossed around in various season previews for the Minnesota Timberwolves to hype the team of tomorrow. There was promise everywhere as the team had an embarrassment of young talent to show off. The list included: Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, Ricky Rubio, and Kris Dunn. None of these players were over 26 and only Rubio had been in The Association for more than 3 years. This was going to be the year the rebuilding Wolves finally had the depth and chemistry to make a legit run at the playoffs and beyond. Add to the mix the hottest free agent coach, Tom Thibodeau, joining the mix with his defensive genius and all of the pieces were there. It really is no surprise that several experts had the Wolves ending the season in the top 5 in the Western Conference.

Well, we’re currently 43 games into the regular season and that same Minnesota squad littered with talent is sitting in 12th in the Western Conference with a 15-28 record. So where did all that hype go? Well it still appears to be there, it’s just going to take a little longer than the fans in Minny would have hoped. Let’s begin with the positives, there still appears to be A LOT of talent on the Wolves. They have three players averaging near or more than 20 points per game: Karl Anthony-Towns (22.3), Andrew Wiggins (21.7), and Zach LaVine (19.8). And the best part? They are all 21 years old. That’s insane that their three top scorers are all so young and inexperienced and they still have that much room for growth.

To go off of that, Karl Anthony-Towns has established himself already as one of the premier big men in the league. The University of Kentucky product is following up his impressive Rookie of the Year campaign with an even bigger year. He is averaging a slash line of 22/12/3. Those are eye popping numbers for a second year player, especially those three assists per game which shows he’s seeing the court well and understanding the game at a much easier pace. Along with Joel Embiid, Towns has one of the brightest futures for any big guy in the leagues and will surely be in the MVP conversation down the road.

Now let’s take a look at why we’re all pumping the breaks on those preseason expectations and why they sit in 12th in the Western Conference standings. When Thibodeau took over, experts were expecting the defense to improve immediately making them into this young contending squad. However, that has not come to fruition at this point in year one of Thibs behind the bench for the Wolves. They are giving up 104.3 PPG, slightly better than the league average but nothing to write home about. Additionally, they are fourth worst in the league in opponents field goal percentage at 46.9%. This means that they are allowing their opponents easy looks at an alarming rate, which should not be the case under defensive guru Thibs. So what’s the issue? Is it youth, chemistry, effort? Probably a combination of all three but I think there is another issue in play here, tiredness.

Thibs is back to his old ways, running his best players into the ground. This was always a huge criticism of his time during the Bulls would be burning the tires on his most valuable players even when his team was up by a lot. That has not changed with his move to Minnesota as his three best players this year (Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine) are all in the top nine in the NBA in minutes played per game with LaVine leading the way at 37.3 MPG. These guys aren’t used to playing this many minutes and can easily lead to defensive lapses throughout the course of a 48 minute game. Additionally, it’s also not a great plan to run these young athletic players into the ground within their first few years in the league, especially for a team that isn’t going anywhere fast this season.

All in all, this is still a team to fear going forward. At some point, all of this young talent is going to mature and they will get their defensive feet under them with an expert in the subject at the helm. I think experts and fans alike just jumped the gun at how good these guys could be this early. However, if at this point next year the Wolves are still on the outside looking in at the playoff race, then maybe we have to look at the team chemistry and coaching as not a fit for these incredible youngsters. Here’s to hoping they figure it out and can survive the dreaded Thibs minutes.    

Note-A-Bulls: T’Wolves stun Bulls by storming back from 21 down in Thibs return to Chicago

What just happened? In the simultaneously most AND least surprising game of the season, the Bulls (13-11) blew a 21 point lead at home to one of the worst teams in the NBA. The Bulls lost a clunker to Minnesota 99-94. Yes Thibs (making his anticipated return to Chicago) is a good coach, and yes, the Timberwolves (7-18) have some talent with Karl Anthony-Towns (KAT) and Andrew Wiggins, but let’s face it, the Wolves are a bad team. And somehow the Bulls found a way to blow a game where they were firing on all cylinders for the first 12+ minutes of the game. Let’s break down the Bulls worst loss of the season, shall we?

  • The Bulls started on a tear, dominating the first quarter of play and going up 38-22, including a 16-0 towards the middle of the frame. The defense was clicking, the offense was getting out in transition, and the Wolves interior defense was wallpaper thin. It also didn’t hurt that the Bulls were making everything in sight, 16/22 (73%) for the quarter.
  • They also made their only two threes of the first frame, and added only two more to that tally while missing 11 in the process. The Bulls also never scored 20 again in any of the last three quarters of this one to illustrate just how far south this game went. In fact, the Bulls only shot 22/65 for the final three frames, coming out to a putrid 34% over that time frame. I don’t care who you play, putting up those numbers over 36 minutes is going to result in an L more times than not.
  • I don’t know what hoarse nonsense Thibs yelled at his inexperienced squad after the first, but it sure got their attention. The game flipped around the halfway point of the second as the Wolves were able to get back within striking distance thanks to some poor Bulls shooting, 8/21 (38%) and pushing the pace off of said misses. They trailed by only four at the half.
  • The second half was a grind it out affair that saw the edge shift towards the T’Wolves thanks to their speed and ability to get second chance points. While the Bulls were continuing to force up bad shots and turn the ball over, Minnesota was able to get behind the Bulls secondary, err, defense, for an easy two on several occasions.
  • There were some bright spots to come out of this gloomy Tuesday night. Jimmy Butler did Jimmy Butler things en route to a 27/9/6 slash line. He was a playmaker all night but couldn’t make enough plays down the stretch to eek out a win in this one.
  • Robin Lopez (despite his odd -16 +/- rating) played really well on the night. RoLo scored 14 points on an efficient 7/9 shooting night, but it was his defense that stood out in this one. Lopez had four huge blocks and held KAT (one of the most promising young talents) to a 6/21 shooting night and looked uncomfortable the majority of the evening. RoLo’s presence in the middle is a nice change of pace from the stone-footed Pau Gasol Bulls fans are used to from the last couple of years.
  • The more things change, the more they stay the same. Thibs minutes are again the focal point of many of his critics. Coming into tonight, the Wolves had three of the top 19 players in minutes played this year. And again tonight, every starter played AT LEAST 35 minutes! Compare that to only one Bull (Butler) getting more than 33 minutes and you wonder what Thibs is thinking. In a day and age where rest is valued more than in any other era, you would think a smart coach would want to protect his young stallions. Instead, he whips them into the ground almost every night hoping he can get his team one game closer to .500. Color me forever confused on this one.
  • Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine were the two stars for Minnesota in this one. Wiggins scored 23 points and grabbed nine boards while finding different ways to score throughout the night. WIggins can not only spread the floor, but also is easily able to flash his athleticism once he gets into the lane. LaVine on the other hand had a 24/6/6 slash line on 10/18 shooting and was often on the receiving end of those long post routes down the floor for an easy two for the Wolves. He’s beginning to combine his freakish athleticism with some basketball IQ which is a scary thing for the rest of the Association.
  • Up Next: The Bulls try to rebound on Thursday night against Jabari Parker and the Bucks in Milwaukee.

BULLet Points: Bulls blanked by Timberwolves in overtime

It had been a very tight game all evening, so the fact that the Bulls and Timberwolves went into overtime on Saturday was not an especially big surprise. The Bulls somehow managed to spoil every scoring opportunity in overtime and did not score a single point for the first time in team history, leaving the game for Minnesota to win, 102-93. I have a feeling that as the season progresses, this Bulls team is going to be frustrating to watch. While Thursday’s win against the Thunder showed how good they can be at times, the horrible performance at the end of this game showed how bad it can get.

  • Only one of the Chicago starting five had a positive plus minus. Nikola Mirotic managed a +5, but he only scored four points and pulled down three rebounds, so it wasn’t as if he was contributing greatly in any capacity. He was in foul trouble early and his shot looked off all night; an airball three point attempt in overtime was the icing on a bad cake.
  • Jimmy Butler felt like a non-factor in this game. He led the team in minutes but scored just 11 points and had five turnovers. He was also a brutal 0/7 in three point attempts. Butler did not score his first points of the game until the 2:44 mark of the second quarter.
  • There were several times on offense when the Bulls were so spread out that they did not have anyone at the post or near the paint at all. They were fanned out around the three point arc, and then tried to rely on Derrick Rose or Jimmy Butler to drive into the lane and score, which caused a lack of offensive rebounding opportunities. Given that the Bulls shot just 35.5%, they badly needed those chances at second shots. Four times they took the ball down to their side of the court and set up a drive into the lane, only to miss that first shot and leave the ball for the Timberwolves to take. Minnesota won the rebound battle 58-50 overall.
  • Defensively, the Bulls looked flat-footed and lackadaisical at times. There were plenty of possessions when the Bulls were all positioned soundly, but the Timberwolves beat them in transitions frequently and this seemed to prevent the Bulls from being able to properly set up on defense. The Bulls need to improve their transition defense.
  • I am still not sure what you do with Joakim Noah. He has never been much of a scorer, but right now he is averaging just over two points per game, and given that as recently as the 2013-14 season he was averaging a career high of 12.6, the dropoff in offense in him has been pretty dramatic. At least he can still rebound pretty well–he had 11 total and half of the team’s offensive rebounds.
  • Minnesota is a fun team to watch. They are loaded with young talent like Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Ricky Rubio, but they also have a few old-timers, like Tayshaun Prince and Kevin Garnett.
  • Wiggins was about as dynamic on offense as you can be, and even though he missed an opportunity to win the game for Minnesota at the very end of the fourth quarter, his stretch of three pointers in the first half was a catalyst for the Timberwolves. He ended up shooting four for five from beyond the arc, compared to three of 11 for the rest of the team.
  • If not for some early foul trouble, Karl-Anthony Towns – last spring’s first overall pick – would probably have been able to contribute even further. Even with limited time in the first half, he managed a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. He also added four impressive blocks.
  • From here, the Bulls will look to improve to 5-3 in Philadelphia on Monday night against the winless 76ers.

The Midseason Bizarro NBA Awards, Part 1

Happy New Year everyone. As of tonight, 2015 is now upon us. We’re over one third of the way through the NBA season and this is when many experts examine some of the awards races throughout the league. It’s always fun to debate which players are likely to take home these awards at seasons end, but I thought it would be more fun to pick who’s winning each award based on the complete antithesis of the usual qualifications. Welcome to the Bizarro NBA Awards race!

Most Valuable Player

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

This award is not an indictment on the talent that Kobe Bryant possesses, because he is a first ballot Hall of Famer and the second best shooting guard to ever lace ‘em up. But Kobe takes home the award based on his awful performance thus far into the season. This isn’t entirely his fault because he is playing with the likes of Jeremy Lin, Jordan Hill, Ronnie Price, Wes Johnson, and others in the supporting cast who really have no business sharing the court with Kobe, let alone being in the NBA.

It’s like the Lakers are this huge Hollywood movie project. They’ve got all the greatest special effects, good editing and sound mixing, and the film sets are brilliant and massive. But the Lakers didn’t allocate enough in their total budget to make good casting hires. They signed on Mark Wahlberg, the star, but they didn’t have enough money left over to sign any other big names. So they had to hire Mark’s brother Donnie and a litany of other D-list celebrities to play fifteen different roles. The final product just isn’t going to hold up.

kobe vs wiggins

Ridiculous Lakers analogies aside, Kobe’s shooting percentage is way down (37% overall and 27% on threes). With his shooting percentage down, there is also a higher focus on his typically questionable shot selection. There have been many a night so far this season where Kobe will take around30 shots and have very little return in scoring. At this point it’s hard to argue that Kobe is helping this team more than he is hurting it (did you see the Lakers dominate Golden State without Kobe??). By having him out there on a nightly basis, the Lakers have a chance to finish outside the top five of the lottery at seasons end. This is a horrible thing for LA because their first round pick will be given to Phoenix if this comes to fruition. It’s not like Byron Scott or the Lakers front office are going to tell Kobe to sit out the season so they can keep their draft pick, but honestly that is the best course of action. Kobe is not only hurting this team with his overall performance, but he will be hurting the future of Lakers basketball if he is able to regain form and win pointless games for this team down the stretch. If Sam Hinkie was the general manager of the Lakers, Kobe already would’ve been dealt for a 2018 second round pick and the right to swap second rounders in 2019. Bob Dylan once said “the times they are a changing”. However, Ron Burgundy nor Mitch Kupchak ever heard that song.

I’m sorry Kobe, but someone has to take home this award and you’ve been pretty bad this year. But it’s not your fault…

Defensive Player of the Year

The entire Timberwolves team

It’s almost unquantifiable how awful the Timberwolves are on the defensive end; luckily for us sports are all about statistics and we can quantify exactly how awful they really are. The Timberwolves love not playing defense almost as much as ownership loves rehiring Flip Saunders to be their head coach. They’re letting opponents shoot over 49% from the field including over 37% from long distance, as well as surrendering over 109 points per game. You’re just not going to win many NBA games when your opponent is making half of their shots every night and you have to rely on Shabazz Muhammad to lead your team to over 110 points. The Timberwolves are like a hockey team who goes down 1-0 in the first period and then inexplicably decides to pull their goalie for the rest of the game to try and catchup. I mean this is the team that gave the Sixers their first victory of the season; they are no world beaters. The reason I couldn’t zero in on just one winner for this award is because the T’Wolves are so bad at defense collectively, I think it would be unfair to leave anyone out of the spotlight. Flip Saunders the president of basketball operations should tell Flip Saunders the head coach that this team needs to play a little more defense. Or the T’Wolves should just start playing defense like the guys from BASEketball…

Congratulations Minnesota you are the first team to win an individual award!

Rookie of the Year

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

It may be a slightly unorthodox move to give Rookie of the Year to a player that is inactive and hasn’t suited up all year, but this is the bizarro world and giving awards to unqualified recipients is not only accepted, it is encouraged. Normal statistics like points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks are overrated. We should be deciding awards races by how well a person tweets or does the Shmoney dance. Luckily, we have a rookie right in our midst that is absolutely stellar at both.

Andrew Wiggins will likely win the actual ROY award because he can do things like jump really high and occasionally score over 20 points in a game, but we need to measure ROY by more intangible attributes. Joel Embiid has been more entertaining so far from the sidelines than any other rookie has been on the court. Another reason why I personally want to give Joel this bizarro ROY award is because he is also acting as a beacon of hope for my beloved 76ers. He hasn’t even played in an NBA game and yet I can’t stop thinking of how amazing he is going to be. For example, I frequently wake up from nightmares induced from watching the previous night’s Sixers game. When this happens I always head over to my computer and watch Embiid highlights from his time at Kansas to calm me down and ease me back to sleep. This one is a favorite highlight of mine…Dream Shake forever y’all

We don’t know what the future holds, and yes there is always the possibility that he doesn’t live up to the hype. But right now he is carrying a tormented franchise every night while wearing a killer suit at the end of the bench. I think that is significant enough to garner him some credit for this fake award I’m handing out.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 of the Midseason Bizarro Awards. Follow me @jeff_berest for more of my NBA musings and general nonsense and follow @DRosesAndThorns for all your latest NBA/Chicago Bulls news and opinions.