Wolves Win....but still a long way to go
On Tuesday night, the T-Wolves went into Chicago and got a much needed win. The Big 3 (Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine) combined for 63 points and 27 rebounds, Ricky Rubio looked somewhat competent as an offensive threat, and they played enough defense late in the game to enjoy their 4th road win of the season. But along with the good from Tuesday, this team still has several issues it needs to shore up on both ends of the floor.
Offensively, this team needs to get better from behind the arc. They shot 6-21 (28.6%) on Tuesday night, and that will not cut it most nights, when most teams are averaging 10+ made 3's per night. The main issue stems from the fact that besides LaVine (37%), the rest of this team isn't seen as a threat beyond the 3-pt line....Wiggins is shooting almost 39% from 3, but shoots less than 4 per game, and is more likely to take an 18-footer. Towns is shooting just over 34% but hasn't made more than one in a game in almost 2 weeks. Everyone knows Rubio has a better chance of making a 3-pointer with his eyes closed than with them open. And between Gorgui Dieng (a center who never shot 3's in college), Shabazz Muhammad (23% from 3) and Kris Dunn (shoots less than one 3-pointer/game), teams don't have to worry about the Wolves beating them from beyond the arc. Nemanja Bjelica is a competent 3-point shooter, but plays 16 minutes a game and shoots just over three 3's a game, while Brandon Rush (who was brought in to help with this problem) has played a total of 25 minutes since the end of November. They need to find some people who can knock down 3's consistently, and in a hurry, if they want to even think about salvaging this season.
Defensively, they give up the 8th most PPG (106.7) and according to John Hollinger have one of the lowest Defensive Efficiency's in the league (108.9, 4th worst). They have plenty of talent and athleticism, but that hasn't translated into a good defensive team. Rubio is a solid defender, but his lack of shooting limits him while on the floor. Wiggins and Towns were projected to be top-flight defenders out of college, but it hasn't been seen consistently from either of them yet. Dunn and LaVine are extremely athletic, but still very young (LaVine did look solid against the aging Dwyane Wade on the last meaningful Bulls possession Tuesday night, so maybe he is making strides on that end of the court). Coach Tom Thibodeau is known for his defense, so it will be interesting to see how this team's effort changes on that end of the floor heading through December and into January