This may have been one of the most fun (and weird) weeks in recent memory of following the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Not only was a four-game win streak capped off by an 18-point thrashing of the Lakers on Friday and gritty Sunday win, but an encouraging uptick in aggression from the franchise’s current best player has everyone hoping more offense can be opened up as a result.
Wait, that isn’t the biggest story that came out of the week?
Before last Tuesday, the single-day high for NBA players entering H&S protocols: five.— Baxter Holmes (@Baxter) December 19, 2021
But there have now been double-digit additions for 4 straight days — and 5 of the last 6 days overall.
As of this writing, 64 players and a coach have entered protocols in the past 6 days.
Five of those players come from the Timberwolves in the form of Anthony Edwards, Taurean Prince, Josh Okogie, Patrick Beverley, and Jarred Vanderbilt. Do some of those players have slightly bigger roles on the team than others? Sure. Does it matter right now? Not really.
It remains to be seen how long all of these players will be out, but with ramped up efforts from the NBA to avoid postponements, there’s one clear task at hand: take precaution and try to avoid an injury report longer than last year’s. Easier said than done? Of course. But with seemingly everyone shorthanded right now, a failure to use the hardship exception could be massive when serious positioning in the Western Conference is separated between in some cases, a half game right now. Here’s to hoping the NBA can come to a resolution that’s safe and fair for everyone.
End string of me saying what you already know. I just want to watch Anthony Edwards again.
Nights like tonight are where the Wolves miss Anthony Edwards.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) December 20, 2021
A nice crowd in terms of size, but they have zero energy and it is reflected in the team's play.
Wolves trail 13-9 at the under 7 media timeout
On A More Positive Note...
Karl-Anthony Towns is back. It’s truly a shame how much Recency bias took place this offseason in the different variations of “player rankings.” Towns seemed to almost have been an afterthought in the public eye as a part of the top tier of NBA bigs (yes, AD was/is widely considered in that tier. See where I’m going with this?).
He started out this season up-and-down, but after more consistent run, how has is he not back in that conversation?
KAT is one of the best offensive bigs the NBA has ever seen. His 7 seasons:— StatMuse (@statmuse) December 18, 2021
18/11 on 54/34%
25/12 on 54/37%
21/12 on 55/42%
24/12 on 52/40%
27/11 on 51/41%
25/11 on 49/39%
24/9 on 51/42%
He has 4 seasons averaging 20 on 50/40% — every other center in history has no more than 1. pic.twitter.com/Aas5KTmi44
A couple notable things from KAT’s last three games against Jokic, Anthony Davis, and Porzingis/Powell/whoever the Mavericks threw at him:
- 28.0 PPG
- 55% FG (17.7 attempts)
- A positive (1.75) AST-TO ratio
Yeah, not too bad. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s the only player in the NBA to average at least 20 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field, and 40 percent from three.
KAT hitting Anthony Davis with a “too small”. Oh dear. pic.twitter.com/9PwTPMkB8W— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) December 18, 2021
Numbers say one thing. Intangibly, this is the most locked-in and aggressive KAT has been since the beginning of the 2019-20 season. Only this time, it looks like he won’t wear out due him being almost the only person on the roster that can score points (ahem, Treveon Graham, Shabazz Napier).
"I'M OUT HERE!"— ESPN (@espn) December 18, 2021
KAT was fired up vs. the Lakers. pic.twitter.com/GkzyjjutMK
This is something I have to get used to? Twist my arm.
I wrote last week about the streakiness of this team. It’s been year so far of pure highs and pure lows, and it doesn’t seem like that’s going anywhere.
In fact, the last time the Timberwolves had a standalone win or loss was November 26 at Charlotte. Continued consistency from KAT will be incredibly important. Until more height finds its way on to this team, Towns playing at an All-NBA level will be the ticket to this team finding its way above .500. Oh, and one more thing.
I’ll say it again, this team needs more height, and it will be certainly be searching for it until the end of the deadline. But Vanderbilt is doing a great job masking that need right now.
Chris Finch when asked if every team needs a Jarred Vanderbilt:— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) December 20, 2021
"Everyone should have about 10 guys like that."
The Wolves are still 27th in the league in defensive rebounds per game. Spacing can be an issue, but Vanderbilt is a walking possession generator. Offensive boards, the ability to draw loose ball fouls, and keep the ball on the other end of the floor is what he does best. The Wolves also are one of the best contested rebound percentage teams in the league as well.
Two things can be true: yes, a move will need to be made for height, and yes, a player like Jarred Vanderbilt can mitigate that need by making it not look like an incredibly blatant and glaring hole on a nightly basis.
Outlook for this Week:
1-1 would be a nice way to go through the week pending the status of players as the team travels. With Luka Doncic already ruled out for Tuesday’s game, and Porzingis marked as questionable, the Wolves should be able to keep the good times rolling (despite missing more than half of their starting lineup).
Can the consistency continue for back-to-back road wins?
I’ll say before closing things out; I attended the Friday game as a proud member of the nosebleeds. In the last few seasons, I was a quiet spectator of average-at-best, sometimes good basketball.
Friday was not the case. Although amplified by a near-20 ball and maybe a couple adult beverages, it was the most excited I have been watching this team since the last game of the 2017-18 season. That says a lot. They’re fun, they try, and when they’re hitting shots, it’s downright electric at Target Center once again. How can you not enjoy it?