Timberwolves Half Season Review

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

20-21 heading into the 2nd half of the season sounds a lot better then, say, the last decade. But it's still disappointing. Because it's Timberwolves.

Well.  We've reached the half way point of the season and things are...eh. 20-21 is a lot better then we've seen around these parts for, oh, a decade, but on the other hand, it feels quite disappointing. It's obvious why: their inability to win any close games has cost them playoff position, something we all hoped for when the season started. They are outscoring their opponents by five points a game and have a Pythagorean record of 27-14.  Sadly, they don't give out trophies for that, and thus they are stuck in 11th place in the Western Conference, where it's possible that somewhere between 48 and 50 wins will be necessary to reach the post-season.

It's hard to write about this team. On the one hand, you start digging into the team wide stats, look at that point differential, and find it hard to write non-positive stuff about them. On the other hand...this is Canis Hoopus, dammit. We don't do positivity. And more to the point, they are 20-21, and at this point probably a better bet not to make the playoffs then to actually get there.

Before the season started, I wrote that this was finally the year they get to see the Love-Rubio-Pekovic core that had them over .500 in the lockout season before Ricky blew out his knee.  That they get a chance to show what that group could do. So far so good: that three man group is +5.4 points per 48 minutes. Love has, of course, been an all-NBA level performer, (though he has been a bit less dominant over the last couple of weeks), Pekovic, after a slow start, has been leaving opposing big men in puddles, and Rubio, while not improving as a scorer as we hoped, is still among the league leaders in assists and steals.

I also wrote before the season started that if they were going to be a decent defensive team, it was going to be because of defensive rebounding, forcing turnovers, and not fouling; not  because they hold teams to low shooting percentages. That has also proven true, as they are currently 9th in defensive rating.  They are 5th in DReb%, 2nd in opponent TO%, and 1st in FT/FGA ratio by opponents.  They remain, however, 29th in opponent efg%.

This is more or less what we expected, and the story is the same on offense.  They are in the top five in three of the four factors, but are 25th in efg%. And this is probably the most disappointing single statistic for the Wolves this season (other then record).  I expected bad field goal defense, but I thought they would be a middle of the pack shooting team.

Like I wrote above, it's hard to figure out how to write about this team. I'd like to write about their failures in close games, but for the life of me, I can't discern a pattern (other then J.J. hasn't helped much in the final minutes).  I go back and forth between thinking it's (almost) entirely a matter of bad luck and variance, and thinking there must be a reason the are 1 and whatever in close games. But if there is a reason, I sure can't figure it out.

All I know is, there have been more nights this year when they are clearly the best team on the court then any year I can remember since the KG days, and there have been more frustrating losses (because expectations) then any year I can remember too.

So. Tomorrow I'm planning a piece grading the individual players on their first halves.  Meanwhile, what's your take on the first half of this Wolves season?

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