Last season was supposed to be a big step forward for this rebuilding Timberwolves team. Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and others were finally getting a chance to play together and show what they could do. Instead, the team went 23-49 and the only sample size of what this team could look like are the 24 games Towns, Russell, and Edwards all played in together. In those 24 games, the Wolves went 13-11 and we hear about that all the time. The 13-11 record when the big three play together is great, but how much can we actually take from it?
Here is a very rough recap of how those 24 games were strung together.
- Game 1: Beat the Detroit Pistons 111-101
- Game 2: Beat the Utah Jazz 116-11
- 6 Game gap as Towns gets hurt
- Game 9: Lost to the Spurs 125-122 (OT)
- Towns misses game 10
- Game 11: Lost to the Grizzlies 118-107
- Towns goes down for another month
- Russel goes down right as Towns makes his return on February 10th
- Game 51: Beat the Kings 116-106
- Game 52: Lost to Pacers 141-137
- Game 53: Lost to Celtics 145-136 (OT)
- Game 54: Beat the Bulls 121-117
- Towns misses two games
- The final 16 games are played with all of Towns, Russell, and Edwards
Those 24 games that saw the Wolves go 13-11 weren’t exactly smooth sailing and I’m not sure how they project heading into this upcoming season. The only ones I can really count on are the final 20 played under Finch.
Ryan Saunders was let go after the Knicks game on the 21st of February, the 31st game of the season. Finch took over from there but wasn’t able to get Towns back until game 51. It’s all good and happy from there though, right? Well, how many of the remaining 20/24 games were played with D’Angelo Russel as the starting point guard? I think that’s important because that’s obviously the role he’s going to have this season.
From the day Russell returned from his injury on April 5th up until May 5th, he didn’t start games and only played 27.0 minutes per game. In that same time frame, Towns and Russell played just 17 minutes per game while sharing the floor. For context, In the final seven games that Russell actually started, the duo played 21 minutes per game together.
What a giant, horrible, annoying, unlucky, stupid, mess that whole season was.
Out of the 24 games that form the 13-11 record, I’m willing to take real stock in the final 20 that were under Chris Finch. Anything from the Saunders era is in the trash can, especially the first two games where Edwards was just some guy coming off the bench.
In those final 20 games, the Wolves went 11-9 which is a 45 win pace over 82 games. Let’s say those 20 games are still not evidence of anything for you and you only want the final 16 games where the big three actually played a nice stretch without getting hurt. Well, then it’s a 9-7 record, which is a 46 win pace over 82 games! Still not good enough? Do you only want the seven games where Russell was starting as your sample size? Fine, that’s a 3-4 record but also it’s only seven games so it means almost nothing.
Of the 20 games played under Chris Finch with Russell, Towns, and Edwards healthy, here is how the Wolves did against good and bad teams.
- Vs playoff teams: 4-8 (One win was against Dallas in game 72 when Dallas was resting)
- Vs non-playoff teams: 7-1 (Beating the bad teams is ultra important)
Basically, in that 20 game sample size, the Wolves had a 72 win pace vs bad teams and a 17 win pace vs good teams. One of those is extremely unsustainable but being able to consistently beat the bad teams is what turns a mediocre team into a playoff team. If the Wolves are able to just hover close to .500 against playoff teams and take care of business against the teams worse than them then they’re a playoff team. So much easier said than done.
I think those final 20 games are important, but finally having a full offseason with Chris Finch should prove to be more important. There was never time to really do what Finch wanted in those 20 games, plus Malik Beasley is returning from injury. This Wolves team is actually starting to form an identity and hopefully emerge from the rebuilding group of teams.