The last time one of these was put out, it talked about how necessary it would be for the Minnesota Timberwolves to avoid mass-COVID protocol entry and try to keep the ship afloat as it went into a tough December and early January schedule.
Well, that ship sailed.
A Greg Monroe, Chris Silva, and reactivation of the Big Three off of protocols later, the Timberwolves are 6-7 since their home win against the Mavericks on December 19. Not only was the ship kept afloat, but done so in the same fashion we have seen from this team for most of the year; streaky.
It’s already been said this year, but stays true moving forward; this is something to continue to get used to. Standalone wins and losses are not as commonplace with this team as others, and it shows.
Now, however, the Wolves are healthy again.
Chris Finch described tonight's win as "much-needed" and said:— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) January 17, 2022
"Now it's time to go. Make a push between now and the All Star break."
Chris Finch’s candor is always appreciated. And I 100% agree.
Think about how much being over .500 would mean to this team. Every time they knock on the door, a bad or lackadaisical loss comes about.
Now, reflect on the season so far. For myself, my eyes immediately go to the infamous loss at Memphis, and the other infamous loss at home to Orlando. Two incredibly easy missed opportunities. We can talk about blowing an early 20-point lead against the Clippers, or other ones in which they should have kept their foot on the gas. All willing, at the base of what we are looking at, it could have been very plausible for this team to be 23-20 and pacing with the red-hot Mavericks, who are 7-1 since Luka Doncic’s return.
My apologies for the unneeded revisionist history. It hurts, but isn’t it a nice change of pace? This team is currently on pace for 40 wins, more than many thought at the beginning of the year. Those losses should hurt, but at the same time these L’s open up how cool it is to root for a good basketball team, especially if the team can hit more of a stride after the NBA All-Star break, as they did last year.
The Timberwolves are second in the NBA in offensive rating (ORTg) post all-star break, at 123.3.— jakes graphs (@jakesgraphs) March 15, 2021
Let’s try to figure out “average.”
Despite all of the above, and now a massive win against the Warriors at home in which Malik Beasley came to the party, landing the plane from here on out will be an interesting task to watch this team take on. We continue to not know what this team looks like, the ‘96 Bulls, or a nightly rolling of the ball against an inferior team. My main hope for the second half of the year, is to hopefully get a more clear answer of what a nightly expectation can be.
Two encouraging signs have shown themselves that we can take forward:
- Jaylen Nowell has arrived... and for good. The bench now has at least one consistent presence that can score, Nowell’s health willing. It was clear in his absence both at the end of the Pelicans game, and in Memphis that he is needed.
- There’s clearly a large plate of contributors that seem to take their turns on given nights. This team’s success is not solely dependent on all of the big three playing well, or the starting five playing flawless.
Those two things have a theme to it; bench production. Who continues to step up and carry the load with Nowell to potentially take this team to the next level? A potential hope of making it out of the play-in? My hope would be Malik Beasley. Another one could be Naz Reid.
D’Angelo Russell fantastic pass to Naz Reid in the two-man game pic.twitter.com/nOjhoTzNot— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) January 17, 2022
Reid has averaged just 12.9 minutes per game over the last five, below his season average of almost 17. He played well in the minutes he got against Golden State, but it would be nice to see him play that way and spell KAT for a little bit longer. At this point, it seems inevitable that the Wolves will be making a late-season push for seeding, and KAT will be needed. Reliability of Reid, along with the ability for him to add height flexibility to the lineup should more height be acquired at the deadline, will be imperative.
As we draw closer and closer to February 10, the NBA trade deadline will once again begin to rear its beautiful head. It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year. For the longest time now, the Wolves have been speculated buyers. Time will tell, but hopefully the next few games can give us a better picture of what “average” looks like.