One of the main challenges about writing about the Wolves this offseason is that it is extremely difficult to figure out exactly what the team is going to play like next year. Sure we have the bones of what the team structure looks like, but there has just been so much change, in terms of personnel, that it is tough to know how different the team will be.
In particular, the changes that many of us assume will be happening are around the 1-3 spot. Jeff Teague will likely have the ball a lot less than Ricky Rubio did and we assume that Andrew Wiggins will dial back his usage a bit and let Jimmy Butler run the show. Butler, for his part, has actually never led his team in usage so we also do not have a good handle on exactly what that would look like.
Matt Moore of CBS Sports just had a great deep dive on these questions, which you can check out here, that he published last week.
One of the most interesting things that Moore discussed, was that the Butler has a weirdly low assist rate for a player who has the ball so much and operates out of the pick-and-roll. The problem was that the Bulls were absolutely terrible in making shots out of passes from Butler.
Enter Karl-Anthony Towns, who is the best pick-and-pop player in the league as well as an offensive dynamo on his own. We all knew the Towns-Butler pick-and-roll will be devastating and it’s interesting to see some of the numbers backing that up. For example, last year Towns had an effective field goal percentage of 72.9 in catch and shoots out of a pick-and-pop. That is the best in the league.
However, Moore also quickly identifies the Wolves problem from the past few years of Andrew Wiggins, who has been using a lot of possessions but not producing in an efficient way.
Jimmy Butler total pick and roll possessions last year: 1190— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) August 17, 2017
passes out of PnR, Butler: 566
Andrew Wiggins: 280
You know how Kawhi started off as a very small-role player, defense and corner 3’s, and then built on it?— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) August 14, 2017
OK, now the opposite, Wiggins.
Point being, if Wiggins is going to succeed in the upcoming year and become more able to play around someone like Jimmy Butler, he is going to have to focus on different skill sets than simply being the primary scorer for a team. Wiggins does have pretty good numbers as a catch-and-shoot shooter, but it will be extremely interesting to see how he transitions into this new role. Of any of the players from last year, his place on the team has the most in flux.
It will certainly be the most fascinating storyline of the year for the Wolves. With a lot of these players, we kind of already know who they are. It’s hard to see Jimmy Butler, Gorgui Dieng, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, or Jamal Crawford really changing how they play. We know Karl-Anthony Towns is going to be amazing and we know what he needs to do to improve. With Wiggins, well, anything can really happen.
Sources: Pacers filed tampering charges vs. Lakers, probe centered on possible impermissible contact between Magic Johnson and Paul George.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 20, 2017
This news broke yesterday and it is very unclear what is going to happen. Wolves fans are all too aware of how drastically this can impact a franchise, as the Joe Smith debacle effectively destroyed several years’ worth of draft picks due to the punishments handed down by the league.
The NBA has been sort of turning a blind eye towards tampering in the last few years, as it has become harder and harder to police these sorts of things, especially with players serving as ambassadors and recruiters during the off-season.
But it does not seem that the Pacers filed these allegations simply out of spite. They must have some sort of belief that a paper trail evidence exists that would pin tampering charges on the Lakers, particularly Magic Johnson. This is somewhat believable, as Magic would not necessarily be fully aware of how his actions could be construed as tampering as a new NBA GM and he is exactly the type of NBA royalty that would never consider the league going after him for tampering.
One theoretical ramification that could be immense, if the Lakers did tamper with Paul George and are now allowed to pursue him in free agency/lose draft picks, does that then change the narrative of LeBron James heading West?
It will certainly be interesting to watch unfold.