Sep. 26, 2016
What's wrong with the Timberwolves?
For as much talent as the Minnesota Timberwolves have accumulated, it was fair to predict that they would win more than the 29 games that they won last season.
Instead, the Timberwolves are poised for a fourth straight fifth place finish in the Northwest Division thanks to a 6-18 start. The Timberwolves have lost four in a row and eight of the last nine.
As the snow and losses pile up in Minnesota, the critiquing has begun. Point guard Ricky Rubio and head coach Tom Thibodeau both say that the Timberwolves do not have the heart of a winning team.
They are not wrong.
The star players are putting up their stellar numbers; the aforementioned three-man core averages at least 20 points per game apiece. That said, they are doing all of the scoring.
While Rubio is right to call out the team, he also needs to do some self-evaluation. He’s fifth on the team in scoring, with 6.7 points per game despite being the highest paid player on the roster. Sure, his 6.4 assists and 1.3 steals lead the team, but Rubio must add to the scoring and take the pressure off Towns, Wiggins and LaVine.
As a whole, Minnesota’s bench is the worst in the NBA, averaging points per game. Nemanja Bjelica has been the best player that Thibodeau sends to the scorers' table. The power forward is averaging seven points per game and has a player efficiency rating of 13.1.
While the talent is there, Minnesota lacks the heart, depth and experience of winners. The skill is obvious, but so is the age. For the Timberwolves to make the playoffs and contend for championships in the future, they need to add some veterans now.
Why not go for a Jeff Green? He’s averaging nine points per game and is a free agent after this season. The asking price would not be high and the small forward would be an excellent shooter to add off of the bench. Sure, the Timberwolves have Shabazz Muhammad already coming off of the bench as a small forward, but he does not have the range that Green has.
Green is not the only option. Ersan Ilyasova is another 2017 free agent with range that can help the Timberwolves’ bench. The 6-foot-10 power forward is averaging 13 points per game and is an upgrade over Bjelica.
Another big name that could be out of Minnesota’s range is Kyle Korver. He’s worth a shot, considering that his Atlanta Hawks have lost 10 of their last 13 and could be headed for a rebuild with him and Paul Millsap both free agents after this season. Korver can spell Wiggins without a drop in offense.
More than anything else, the Timberwolves need a center and point guard off of the bench. Gorgui Dieng is off to a nice start, but he can’t play an entire game and Cole Aldrich is not the answer. Nerlens Noel has popped up in lots of trade rumors lately but is not the answer since Minnesota wants Dieng to start.
The player to keep an eye on is Andrew Bogut. Less than a year after the Warriors discarded him for salary cap reasons, Bogut is wasting away with the 6-18 Dallas Mavericks. With Bogut, the Timberwolves get a solid defender and rebounder. He does not need to score, there are others for that, but he can bring lots of energy off the bench.
As for point guard, the Timberwolves should consider an old acquaintance: Mo Williams. No, he will not score 52 points again like he did two seasons ago for Minnesota, but he can still contribute once healthy again.
He has not played yet this season due to knee surgery in October and because the Cleveland Cavaliers do not have a spot for him. However, in 41 games mostly filling in for Kyrie Irving, Williams averaged 8.2 points per game on .437 percent shooting.
At 33, Williams’ best days are behind him and he is not a major contributor anymore, but his experience and solid shooting would be a welcome addition. He would probably average more points per game than Rubio still.
In a top-heavy Western Conference, the Timberwolves will not sniff a top seed without added depth. They have taken a lot of strong steps forward to contend in the future, but they must make the playoffs this season. No more excuses. Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine are all healthy and at their best. Now, they just need some help.