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Monday Musings: First Quarter Trends

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Stats to keep an eye on as the first quarter of the season draws to a close

Portland Trail Blazers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Although the Wolves have had such an incredibly turbulent year, we are almost a quarter of the way through the season. The Wolves are not the only team that has been seemingly all over the place, as the Celtics and the Jazz have utterly failed to live up to the expectations built up over the offseason. The Rockets and Thunder have had slow starts before ripping off some early win streaks. The Wizards seem to be plunging further into dysfunction just as the Wolves were able to make a course correction.

However, point being, we are still a quarter of the way through the season. It’s a good time to check-in on a few things that we were curious about at the beginning of the season and a few other things that have cropped up.

Andrew Wiggins Shooting Woes

Although this issue is a bit like a broken record at this point, it is hard not to talk about Andrew Wiggins. While Wiggins is having a great start shooting beyond the arc, hitting a career-high 36.5 percent, he is shooting career-worst numbers inside the arc at 37.8 percent.

This number is being depressed by his shooting percentages from 16 feet to the three-point line, where he is shooting an abysmal 15.6 percent, which accounts for nearly 18 percent of his shot attempts. While Wiggins has lowered the number of shots he is taking in that area through the years and increasing the number of threes, he still takes a maddening amount of long-twos. As has been the usual trend, the uptick in three-point attempts is matched by the lower percentage of shots at the rim.

In the evergreen note about Andrew Wiggins, his advanced statistics are, once again, abysmal, somehow dropping below his typical numbers to a negative WS/48 of -0.015 and a BPM of -3.6.

Watching the games, it certainly seems like Wiggins has had bright moments and is taking small imperceptible steps towards becoming more effective, such as the game against the Pelicans were he soared in for the late dunk. However, those games are matched by the ones like two nights ago, where Wiggins failed to make a shot.

Point Guard Foibles

The Wolves point guards not named Derrick Rose are having terrible years. Jeff Teague has had games where he is the best player on the floor as well as games where he is the worst one. This may be due to a lingering knee injury, but regardless, his shooting stats are terrible, as he is shooting 40 percent from the field and 31 percent from beyond the arc.

Tyus Jones is having a similarly bad to the year. In what could have been a great opportunity to prove his worth in a contract year, this slow start could cost him significant dollars. His three-point percentage has dropped from 35 percent to 27.5 percent and he is shooting 33 percent from the field, far below his 45.7 percent from last year. One of the things I was curious about with Tyus was his ability to finish at the rim, as last year he was incredible there, making a career-high 68 percent of his shots from 0-3 feet. This year, he is making just 43.5 percent of those shots, well below his career average.

One would hope that both of the Wolves point guards can bounce back towards their career averages.

Derrick Rose Playing Well

While the problematic nature of Rose playing with the Timberwolves remains true, he is putting together an unbelievable run of games in the beginning of the year. Many of us, myself included, mocked the Wolves were talking up Rose over the offseason, as we pointed to his unsustainable three-point percentage numbers from the playoffs where he shot career-highs across the board.

But yet, Rose is playing the best basketball of his career since 2011-2012. He is hitting 47.8 percent of his threes on nearly 4 attempts per game and shooting 49.2 percent from the field, a career-high. Rose is still a negative on defense and will take ill-advised shots throughout the course of the game, but the Wolves are severely lacking in players who can attack the defense on the dribble at the moment. Jeff Teague has had awful games, Wiggins still struggles to break down a defense, and while Tyus Jones can act as a distributor, he is the definition of gun-shy when looking for his own shot.

Rose’s stats may fall back to earth or his body may start betraying him once again, but for now, the Wolves have direly needed his ability to score.

The Wolves shoot threes now?

In one of the most surprising developments of the year, the Wolves are basically a league average team when it comes to three-point attempts per game, taking 29.8 per game. This was the case even before Butler was traded for Dario Saric and Robert Covington, both of whom are willing to let it fly from deep, so this has a pretty high likelihood of remaining true for the rest of the year.

Mid-Range Shooting

While the Wolves are taking more threes, they are taking the third most long-twos (from 20-24 feet). They are making those shots at a reasonable 36 percent clip, which is about league average. However, they are only shooting an awful 29.6 percent on shots from 15 to 19 feet, which they take about 10 of per game.

Post-Jimmy Notes

Since Jimmy Butler was traded on November 12th the Wolves have gone 5-2. A few of those wins have come from beating up the Nets without Caris LeVert and defeating the Bulls last night, but the Wolves still notched good victories against Western Conference rivals of the Pelicans and Trailblazers. While this would be an incredibly astronomical improvement, the Wolves have the 2nd best defensive rating in the NBA over this stretch. That is almost certainly not sustainable, but it is likely that the addition of Covington and Saric will help the Wolves field a defense that does not rank the worst in the NBA, which after essentially five years of being the worst defensive team in the league, that would be a marked improvement.

As we expected once Butler was traded, Karl-Anthony Towns has exploded on offense. It is fair to say that he has not even had a particularly good game yet, as he has been struggling with turnovers and fouls, but he is still averaging 22.4 points and 14.9 rebounds per game while shooting 54.6 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc. He is going to put up crazy numbers this year.