Tag Archives: Karl-Anthony Towns

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.    

BULLet Points: Dunleavy’s return leaves something to be desired

Mike Dunleavy is back! Mike Dunleavy is back! Mike Dunleavy is back! (The Bulls lost), but praise be, Mike Dunleavy is back! There are a lot of story lines here in a game that would otherwise be relatively uninteresting: Jimmy Butler‘s MRI came back negative (more praise be); Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg‘s homecoming to Minnesota after spending seven years with the Timberwolves as both a player and a coach; injuries decimating both teams – Butler, Noah, Mirotic for the Bulls and Garnett, Martin, Pekovic for the Wolves; the first season sweep of the Bulls by the TWolves since ’08-’09; and of course: The Return of Mike Dunl3avy. Before I get into the excitement that is #TheReturn, let me break down some BULLets:

Dr. Evil

  • The Bulls are 2-4 on an easy road trip where they have been outscored in nearly every second half so far – tonight was no different. The Bulls carried a lead into halftime, and were up five points with under 2:30 to play, when the Wolves went on a 12-0 run to finish the game. The Wolves only shot a paltry 8.3% (1/12) from behind the arc compared to the Bulls 40% (8/20), but out rebounded the Bulls 45 to 31, which made the difference. The Bulls’ inability to close out teams in the second halves of games and late in the 4th quarter has been a recurring theme, and has sadly crept its way into the norm: a loss in Utah after leading by three with 18 seconds left after the clutch Rose three, the loss of the 16-point fourth quarter lead in Denver, and several losses to abysmal teams: Charlotte (2x), Timberwolves (2x), Phoenix, and Brooklyn. I find myself, instead of being angered by these losses, in an apathetic acceptance:

dr evil

How much Jimmy will be missed

  • Despite a double digit lead in the third, the Wolves found their way back in the game in the fourth, as most teams do. As the game got tighter, the Bulls were without a go-to scorer and ball-stopper on the defensive side. Andrew Wiggins took control against the smaller E’Twaun Moore and Derrick Rose on consecutive plays – exchanges that would not have taken place would Butler have been on the floor. The Bulls reverted to isolation play or one-pass-and-shoot opportunities. Against a team that was 15-36 and hadn’t won two games in a row since December, there’s really no excuse for not stepping on their throats. Jimmy’s absence leaves a gaping hole in this team, despite what looks like a talented roster on paper.

Positives

  • Derrick Rose had another solid performance, following up his 30-8-9 game in Denver with his first double-double of the season in Minnesota with 18 points and 10 assists. He was only 6/20 on the game, but was attacking and got to the line seven times. He booked eight or more assists in three consecutive games for the first time since April 2012.
  • E’Twaun Moore stepped into the starting role in lieu of Butler and had himself a nice game: 17 points and seven assists on 7/13 shooting.
  • Pau Gasol wrapped up the injured left hand and toughed it out, keeping the Bulls energized with 25 points and eight boards, and appearing to be the only one with fire in the huddles down the stretch.

The R3turn of Mike Dunl3avy

  • It’s been too long. With Mike Dunleavy’s return to the floor, playing his first game all season due to a recovery from back surgery, we got a glimpse of what we can expect as his minutes expand (only 14 tonight, easing him back in):
  • Back-cuts and slashing. Mike’s veteran play shouldn’t be overlooked or understated. His off-the-ball movement is second to none on this Bulls team, and has a savvy presence that will greatly benefit these Bulls down the stretch. It should be noted that on his first back-cut of the season, Mike Dunleavy managed to dunk the ball before Derrick Rose.
  • Three point prowess. He followed up his slam with a three ball in transition. His presence bring one more guy the defense will have to pay attention to on the perimeter, and since Mike doesn’t make a habit of standing around like some of the other guys, his movement will bring an effective new texture to the offense.

Timberwolves

  • Minnesota big men Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng combined for a dominant 50 points and 30 rebounds to contribute to that gapingly large 45-31 rebounding margin. Wiggins took control down the stretch, and the rest was history.
  • Coming up: The Bulls head to Charlotte as the road trip continues.

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.