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What Do We Want To See From the Timberwolves Over The Next Few Months?

Now that the NBA season is just over half done let's take a look at what we as fans want to see from the Minnesota Timberwolves as they finish up another disappointing season.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With the 2015 portion of the 2015/16 NBA season firmly in the rear view mirror, the Minnesota Timberwolves find themselves once again thinking about the draft and summer free agency as a means towards some much needed improvement. In this article I'm going to focus not on what's happened up to this point but instead turn my sights to the next 30 some games and what I personally am hoping to see from my favorite sports team.

Some readers may already be taking issue with my proclamation that this season, a season in which the team is on track to out pace last years squad, is a disappointment. I stand by my statement and here is why: despite some impressive wins early in the year, this version of the Wolves continues to string together long stretches of losses including several "bad losses" to teams like Philadelphia and Milwaukee. In addition to this I still find myself sitting down to watch games against top teams with a nagging belief in the back of my mind that the Wolves are highly unlikely to win the game. Two goals of mine entering the season were to shore up the "bad" losses and to feel like we could win any given game. These goals have not been met, at least not to this point, so I am disappointed. It's as simple as that.

Anyway, the purpose of my putting these words to "paper" is not negativity about the current state of the team so I do not intend to dwell on this disappointment. I only bring it up to clarify my thinking. I also understand that the Wolves began the season under sad and unexpected circumstances  that undoubtedly has contributed to the results I am reacting too. Still, even with that, I expected it to be better and am comfortable being disappointed. I'm not angry, I'm not depressed, I was just hoping for more. I don't believe I am alone in this. Let's cleanse ourselves with a song and move on to what I really want to talk about which is what I need to see moving forward in order for me to feel good about the second half of the season.

Ok, that was fun wasn't it? Some obscure Finnish band that my wife turned me onto. Some sidebar advice: if you are into music, and decide to partner up, pick someone who is into good music that is different that what you usually listen to. It helps expand your range and keeps things interesting. Or you can just listen to the same CD's you bought in college over and over again. It's totally up to you.

Here are some of the things I want to see from the Wolves over the remainder of the season:

Let's See What KAT Can Do

Look, at this point it's pretty clear that Karl-Anthony Towns is legit. He can rebound, block shots, pass, and he might be the best shooter on the team. He has also shown some ability to handle the basketball and has looked good at times on the pick and roll. Hopefully the team can use the rest of these games to really see what they have in Towns. Run pick and rolls with him and Ricky, him and Zach, him and Wiggins, him and Bjelica. Everyone. Pick and Roll forever! Why not? And when you are not using him to run pick and rolls, throw him the ball on the block and let him work on that sweet jump hook or set him up in the high post where he can be a triple threat. Last season exaggeratedly high usage helped Andrew Wiggins shine over the second half of the season, why not do it again with an even more dynamic player? I'd like to see Towns shoot some threes, drive to the hoop, pass the ball, and anchor the defense on his way to rookie of the year (or runner up if the dreaded "big market bias" tips the scale to Porzingis). It's my opinion that this is Karl-Anthony Towns' team so let's give him the keys and see what he can do. I think he's ready. Hell, he seemed ready on opening night.

Speaking of Andrew Wiggins

Another possible path for this team making the kinds of steps forward that many of us fans are anxious to see is clear and consistent improvement from Andrew Wiggins. I know that many fans feel that this has already occurred while others remain unconvinced. So it goes with young players who struggle to maintain consistency from game to game. At this point I think most people view Wiggins as a pretty good basketball player with an ability to, at the very least, be a high usage scorer in this league for a long time. This is nothing to be ashamed of. What I would like to see from Wiggins is a little more productivity in the non scoring columns on the stat sheet. Concentrate on getting some rebounds, make a point of passing the ball to open teammates, become the defender I think many of us believe he can be. Frankly, I'm not 100% sure how to quantify what I want to see out of Wiggins over the remainder of the season other than to say I will know it when I see it and it's damn important to the future of this basketball team.

Help Zach LaVine Be Successful

Much discussion, and more than a little fan angst, has already gone into the debate about which guard position best suits Zach LaVine and I'm not particularly interested in revisiting that here. That said, Zach is another very young player who's development could potentially jump start the Timberwolves into the future. LaVine has looked confused at times while other times he has appeared over confident. I'm unsure what to make of this from the comfort of my living room chair other than to assume that he himself is feeling some of the same uncertainty I am regarding his role. I'd like to see the team help Zach decide when to take good shots by setting more screens for him. I think he could be a successful catch and shoot basketball player and that knowing these shots are coming his way might help him avoid some of the poor shot selection he continues to exhibit with far too much frequency. I don't know what Zach's future as an NBA player looks like and I don't think anyone else really does either. This time last season it wasn't clear that he even belonged in the NBA. Earlier this season some wondered if he was a better prospect than Andrew Wiggins. Today it seemingly swings game to game. Let's help this young man find some sustainable success that he can build on while also keeping in mind that he is going to have to show some major leaps forward in order for me to feel safe not acquiring a serious back up point guard next summer.

Is Gorgui Dieng Going to Be Worth the Money?

Dieng's rookie contract goes through just one more season after this which means that it is probably time to start seriously thinking about his future as a Minnesota Timberwolf. I have expressed some frustration with his game recently but that does not mean that I do not recognize his value. In fact, he continues to look to me like the player I have always viewed him as -- a second string center who can spot start if necessary. This is a valued player in the NBA and, as such, Dieng is going to get paid. That he has played some minutes at power forward, and it has not been an abject disaster, only increases his value. My fear is that Dieng will not be worth his next contract -- at least not for the Timberwolves. I could, of course, be wrong on this, and the rising salary cap is going to force us all to readjust our thinking related to contract value. Still, if some team is going to give Dieng a substantial raise, as I suspect some team will, the Wolves will do well to use this time to really decide if he will be worth it relevant to team needs moving forward.

What's Up With Shabazz Muhammad and Nemanja Bjelica?

I might not be 100% accurate on my recollection of these facts but it is my understanding that the Timberwolves first drafted Nemanja Bjelica during the first term of the George W. Bush administration and have been trying to get him to join the team ever since. Well, this year he finally did. Conversely, Shabazz Muhammad joined the team via a much more traditional path. I only link them here because they are both players who appear like they could be useful but whose role on the team has not always been clear this season.

After initially looking pretty good Bjelica disappeared for a large chunk of games following a knee injury. More recently he has re-emerged and has looked pretty competent on offense and defensive rebounding -- both of which has been nice to see. Muhammad too has enjoyed a recent renaissance of sorts thanks to an increased allotment of minutes, but even this seems fleeting and comes with the constant threat of revocation.

I think it will be important for the Timberwolves to use the time left in the 2015/16 season to really evaluate what they have in these two players. Each seems like a candidate for extended and useful minutes on a good team while also seeming like they might be better suited for spot minutes with the second unit. Can either be a full time starter? It seems possible doesn't it? Bjelica has shown he can shoot from range while also acting as a second facilitator from the elusive "point forward" position, but can he keep up with the speed and athleticism of the NBA on a nightly basis? I'm not sure yet. Similarly, Bazz appears to have an endless motor that at times comes with too singular of vision and doesn't always translate to the defensive half of the court. Each player has the potential to be a fan favorite for years to come or an additional chip in a larger trade, and it's my opinion that this team will benefit from some on court investigation into this intriguing conundrum.

Some Additional Avenues of Inquiry, Bullet Point Style

  • What exactly does the team have in Tyus Jones?
  • Can Pek stay healthy enough to contribute in future seasons?
  • Will Flash Seats destroy us all?
  • Is there a smart Kevin Martin trade to be had?
  • Is the song Sweet Caroline driving away the fans?
  • Is Adreian Payne worth a roster spot?
  • Should the Target Center court be opened up for a pick up game between Wolves bloggers?

So there you have it folks, a look at some of the things I will be looking for with the Timberwolves over the next several months. I didn't bother getting into issues related to ownership, general manager, and coach, but obviously clarity in these areas will also be of immense importance heading into the NBA summer. I said at the top of this that I'm disappointed in this season, and I am, but I am also hopeful. These can both be true. There is a lot to look forward to with this team right now and we obviously have a lot of entertaining basketball still coming our way this season. Hopefully the day will come in the near future where the draft and free agency period is little more than an opportunity to tweak a mostly set roster but unfortunately that's not yet the case.

Thus summer is, once again, very important for our favorite team and, as such, I believe it is imperative that the decision makers down at Mayo Square use these remaining games to glean as much useful information as possible in order to make good decisions regarding the 2016/17 roster -- a roster that I hope will help the Timberwolves take a significant step forward towards breaking the longest playoff drought in the NBA.

Go Wolves!