The Minnesota Timberwolves are the most gif worthy 19-33 team in NBA history. Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine could have their very own SportsCenter top 10 each week. They are no doubt extraordinary. Towns has the touch, handle, and fluidity of a man a foot shorter.
Wiggins has a textbook turnaround jumper (with the footwork to boot), elite athleticism, and an incredible voracity attacking the rim.
LaVine is as smooth as they come, has endless range on his jumper, and can (almost literally) fly.
These kids are extraordinary in so many different ways. They can make the incredible plays that are necessary to win on the biggest stage. Lebron James is the only man in the world who could have blocked Andre Iguodala in game 7 of the NBA Finals, and Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine are capable of making those type of freakish plays. So why are they 19-33?
Extraordinary is not the Timberwolves’ problem. They struggle with ordinary. For every between the legs, step back jumper Towns hits, there are 3 open shots that he misses because he fails to do something as simple as set his feet. He shoots 35% from three but he is too talented to not be barking at 40%. He often is hesitant whether to shoot or drive and then ends up shooting from an off balance base:
His indecisiveness can get him off balance and he often will miss short or wide. Many simple things, like getting his footwork more consistent on his jumper, can help him move from someone who is getting great numbers but losing, to a true difference maker on the highest level.
Likewise, for every insane Wiggins dunk or Kobe-like turn around jumper, is a blunder defending off of the ball. Wiggins has the tools to be an elite defender and he is exceptionally good in one-on-one situations (although he tends to get overpowered). His biggest issue right now is bringing the focus and technique on defense. He stands straight up on defense, which isn’t an issue in pure one-on-one plays because of his unbelievable athleticism but, he is easily caught up on screens because he doesn’t focus enough to stay in a defensive stance. He doesn’t lock and trail on shooters around screens and gets picked off creating switches and mismatches.
And finally, LaVine might be the most extraordinary, and least ordinary player of the bunch. He can explode for 25 points in a quarter but routinely fails to communicate on defense. In screen and roll defense he fumbles switches and doesn’t talk, conceding easy shots.
By doing something as simple as communicating with Wiggins (and this play is also Wiggins’ fault) they could have snuffed out a very simple action resulting in an open three from a red hot Marcus Morris. Focus is LaVine’s biggest issue. He relaxes off of the ball instead of working to help in anyway he can while remaining in contact with his man. NBA defense is an exceptionally difficult mental exercise in quick decision making and multitasking. LaVine works hard and is getting better but is still nowhere near where he needs to be in this department. This type of play still happens way too often:
The young Wolves have a lot to work on and Tom Thibodeau is probably the drill sergeant they need to enforce good habits and focus on defense. Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine are the most promising young core in the NBA and they are already making incredible plays that contribute to winning. However, in order for them to take the next step and compete for the playoffs and beyond, they will need to focus on the nitty gritty, ordinary things it takes to win. By all accounts the three of them are unbelievably hard workers and it would be a safe bet to assume they will correct and improve on the simple things. It won’t be long until we can enjoy the extraordinary things that they do even more because they will be winning as a result of the ordinary things.
All videos from: https://3ball.io/plays/