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Saturday Cup: Notes on Tyus Jones, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns

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Some notes on the Wolves for your Saturday.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

A good Saturday to you my friends.

The Wolves finish up their road trip tonight in San Antonio against the Spurs having won two in a row on the road. The Spurs will, of course, be tough, but had to go to overtime last night to beat the Pelicans in New Orleans, so the Wolves once again catch a bit of a schedule break. Can they take advantage? We’ll have plenty more on this game later today.

There are a bunch of things I’d like to touch on this morning, but let’s start with Tyus Jones. It’s been a struggle for playing time this season for Jones, but he’s stuck with it and is taking advantage of his opportunity now.

Jones looked good in November, when he got on the court due to Ricky Rubio’s minor injury, and proceeded to appear in 14 games that month, earning playing time over heralded rookie Kris Dunn, and finishing the month with a 3.5/1 assist-to-turnover ratio, more steals than turnovers, and good shooting. Furthermore, his +/- was +6.7 per 100 (source: Basketball-Reference.)

Nonetheless, Jones was exiled to the bench for the next two months, making 13 appearances for a total of 74 minutes during December and January.

Now he’s back, playing with both Ricky Rubio and Dunn in lineups that are out of necessity given the injury to Zach LaVine and the Wolves lack of wing depth. And although he’s been shooting it poorly in his last 12 appearances (38 percent from the field, 30 percent from three,) he’s still making a positive impact. A 4/1 assist-to-turnover, once again more steals than turnovers, and a strong plus-minus highlight his recent play.

He just looks like he belongs out there. Not yet 21 years old, undersized, not physically gifted for the NBA, but he makes himself useful. Very few mistakes, good instincts for where to be and what to do, smart plays. He’s showing that he deserves a place in the NBA. It’s been fun to watch.

Another thing that’s been fun to watch is Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins blowing up on offense. They were both monsters in February, averaging over 28 per game while shooting efficiently and carrying very large loads. Whatever their flaws, their ability to churn out games like this every night in the midst of a long season at their ages is incredibly impressive.

Both of them really looked to score in February, even more than usual, and Wiggins especially was relieved of some of his initiating duties, instead getting the ball coming off screens on hand-offs where he was already moving, a much more natural role for him. As a result, both players cut down on their turnovers during February as well as their assists, intentionally taking on more of the scoring burden in the absence of Zach LaVine.

It’s led to some jaw-dropping performances, and unprecedented scoring numbers for players of their age. I cannot find another pair of teammates 22 or younger who played full seasons and both averaged over 23 a night, which is where Towns and Wiggins are now.

Playoff Watch

Last night the Pelicans lost a heartbreaker to the Spurs when they absolutely appeared to have them beat. Kawhi happened. That drops the Pels to 38 losses, and it looks like it just won’t happen for them. Meanwhile, the Mavs won over the Grizzlies and are hanging in there.

At the moment, the Wolves sport the same record as the Mavs and Kings (25-26) which is tenth in the conference. The Blazers sit ninth (25-35) after a solid win over the Thunder on Thursday, and the Nuggets are holding on to the eighth spot (28-33) after annoyingly sweeping a road back to back earlier this week.

Tonight, in addition the Wolves at Spurs, the Nuggets host the Hornets and the Blazers host the Nets.

NBA Draft

I’d like to point out that it’s early March, and we still haven’t published an article about the draft (have we?) That’s good news. I bring it up only to link to this Ringer article about ideal landing spots for a few of this year’s prospects. They seem to very much like Jonathan Isaac for the Wolves. He’s appears to have excellent hair.

*Note for Madisonians:

Trying to organize a get together to watch next Saturday’s Wolves-Bucks game at a bar somewhere. Please let me know if you are interested and feel free to suggest a spot in comments.