The Minnesota Timberwolves are sitting at 34-24 and have already surpassed the 31 win mark of last season. They are on pace to win at least 45 games and will be making a massive jump this season in production, after a summer filled with free agent acquisitions and trades.
With all the activity over the summer, Minnesota looked like a team that would have been interested in making a midseason move to keep the foot on the gas pedal as they push to the top of a Western Conference in which they find themselves ranked fourth.
Instead, they stood pat, electing to remain on as originally assembled. Was it the right move?
The refresher course for the Timberwolves activities: Jimmy Butler joined via a trade. Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague all came in free agency.
Butler has made obvious improvements for the team on both ends of the floor, (he is an All-Star and this was expected) along with changing the locker room culture. While Crawford has been a troubling presence on defense, he is still the only player on the Timberwolves averaging north of five 3-point attempts per game, giving the team essential outside shooting off the bench. Gibson has been a solid double-double grinder that does not suck up too many shots while offering more veteran leadership. Teague has been the only newcomer with whom the jury is still out, as he has been both explosive and non-existent on offense depending on the game.
Some Obvious Needs
While the Timberwolves offense has been impressive all season long, ranking sixth with 109.6 points per game, the team ranks 19th in 3-point shooting percentage (35.9)and 31st in attempts (22.2).
Both are abysmal marks, especially for a team with the expectation of playing in a fifth seed in the playoffs.
The big problem for the Timberwolves on the flipside of the ball is defending the deep shot. From 20-24 feet out (keeping in mind the 3-point line is 23.75 feet out at the key, 22 in the corners) the Timberwolves allow a 38.9 percent shooting average, in the bottom half of the league. From 25-29 feet out, they allow 36.7 percent shooting, putting them at 23rd.
With the numbers assembled, the Timberwolves desperately seem to need a 3-and-D man. Someone to help spread the floor on one end, while locking down the outside on the other.
Why They Did Nothing
(1) The Timberwolves already attempt 85.7 shots a game, 15th in the league. With that many shots, one of two undesirable things would happen if another shooter was introduced.
Either a player who needs the shots because he is getting paid too much not to shoot (Teague or Andrew Wiggins) or a player who is just better at basketball (Karl-Anthony Towns) would be losing shots in an offense that already is having trouble finding enough to go around.
Or another player who contributes would need to get his minutes cut, forcing a growing team to try and adapt yet again.
(2) Minnesota did not need to spend what others were asking for to get talent. Young talent like Tyus Jones and Justin Patton are hard to part with, especially on a roster that wants to be good for the next five years, not just the next two. But outside of young talent and midlevel picks, Minnesota only has some bad contracts to offload for new contributors, meaning they would have to part with some pieces on the team they do not want to be moved.
(3) This team is really talented, despite some depressing losses to the likes of the Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic and others. On pure talent alone, this is one of the best 10 rosters in the league, which means as they continue to grow together, the sky is the limit. Moving players around in year one is a hasty play in a long game. Something this young roster can work for the foreseeable future.
The current problems can be solved without something so drastic or costly as a trade.