Minnesota has shown glimpses of greatness, paired with nights to forget early in season
The Minnesota Timberwolves revamped their season with the additions of Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague. The team is four games into the season, and there is a lot to discuss already this early in the year.
The team sits at 2-2, and the number one problem for the Timberwolves right now is the illness to Butler. The team’s defense is not strong enough to lose their star defender and it showed with a crushing loss to the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night, losing 130-107.
The Timberwolves were showing marketable change before the exit of Butler, with wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz. The team was soundly defeating the opposition with team offense, with Butler working as a facilitator for Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Before the Butler illness, Wiggins averaged 24.7 points per game. The offense of Butler and Wiggins gave the young Kansas Jayhawk plenty of open looks to capitalize on.
The defense also looked much improved, as Butler’s defense one-on-one with the top player of the opposite team made Wiggins and Towns better as a result, which inversely led to the team looking disorganized against the Pacers. The team was able to keep pace with teams by slowing down the game and letting the Butler/Wiggins combo pick teams apart in the half court. The roster size also allowed them to pick up the tempo, going fast in transition with Teague and Crawford. Towns has had his struggles on defense, but put on an offensive show against the Thunder and can stretch the floor like few centers with his three point shot.
Towns and Wiggins need to be more aggressive on defense. While Wiggins was just misplaying a lot of possessions, Towns may have looked even worse. Towns was tentative and indecisive, making a read and not trusting his instincts or just going up swinging for a block, using his length as an excuse to take bad angles. The Timberwolves need to play crisp defense, especially their stars, at an All-Star level like Butler. The defense needs to pick up some slack as well, with Shabazz Muhammad in the starting lineup and Crawford getting heavier minutes as a result of the injury. This means that the bench needs to elevate their play as well on both sides of the ball.
The Timberwolves need to fix their defense still, but Butler is not injured, and once he recovers from his respiratory illness the team should change with leaps and bounds. The offense is built around Butler’s defense and his playmaking on offense. The team looked really good as a whole, with some offensive chemistry already forming and progression on the defensive end starting to show.
The team’s bench has been looking good as well, with Crawford going for double-digit points in three of the four first games, along with Nemanja Bjelica averaging 10 points per game this season. The one problem with the team is that the absence of Butler has seemed to really thrown a wrench in their scheme. This team needs to be able to rally better and find veterans like Teague stepping up in a big way when players go down.
Upon Butler’s return, this team should get back on track and hopefully stay healthy.