First off, Happy Holidays to everyone. I hope the season has fulfilled all of the cliches laid out in the music that’s overplayed around this time of year (not a grinch).
But on that note, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been delivering on the floor at the perfect time, making things a little more merry and bright. From good defense, to effective floor spacing, the stars are aligning for an anticipated re-acclimation of both twin towers (after the return of Rudy Gobert on Wednesday).
But before that happens, I have list of things that stand out to me while that happens.
A Clearer Hierarchy, With Anthony Edwards at the Top
The idea of “who’s team is it?” between Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns used to be ridiculous and laughably dumb to me. Towns, a three-time All-Star fresh off an All-NBA season, has clearly been the best player on the team, and willingly let Edwards move freely with the seeming knowledge that it was still his franchise. Plus, among his superhero-like late-game bursts, Edwards was way too inconsistent, young, and had a lot to learn before he was deemed “the franchise”.
I’m not making a sweeping declaration that this is “Ant’s team,” but the last couple weeks have told me that it’s time for everybody to get in line behind him. The clear step in consistency and massive playmaking stride he has made (36 assists in the last five games) has shown he can be a heliocentric player when needed that drives winning, no matter how shorthanded the team may be. And with that, I believe his touches are what needs to be the priority moving forward. More so than that, I think you can only be in the “no man’s land” of leadership for so long. This team has gone as Edwards has for the last year, and it’s not a coincidence.
Anthony Edwards ran more pick-and-rolls than D'Angelo Russell only four times in their first 29 games, per @SecondSpectrum.— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) December 20, 2022
Over the last two games:
-37 for Ant, 22 for DLo
-42 for Ant, 29 for DLo
Big change for Minnesota empowering Point Ant.
Pod: https://t.co/sj89YGfPJG pic.twitter.com/j3mPyWh19R
Counting stats in a small period of time aside, the sink-or-swim approach — which has been out of necessity — to Point Ant has paid off, and the further he continues that development makes the writing on the wall bolder.
Towns is one of my all-time favorite Timberwolves. While a little quirky, his dedication to a broken franchise deserves nothing short of a standing ovation. Many other stars would have been gone years ago. He had a stretch at the beginning of the 2019-20 season that looked to be a sign that he can carry the load, but too many single-digit field goal attempt and foul-heavy games have succeeded that, and it’s run perpendicular to the ascension of Edwards.
LET ME BE CLEAR - This is not a call to trade KAT. He has the ability to be the best #2 in the league, and despite the previously mentioned roadblocks to him completely taking the franchise over, he’s a consistent 20+ points per night while efficient 90% of the time. He’s changed his game in some form or another every single season. I would just like to see him do it one final time to complement the piece he has so desperately been missing his whole career.
Michael Grady Lifetime Contract
It was only a few months ago where the entirety of Wolves twitter was up in arms over the departure of Dave Benz as the Wolves play-by-play voice for Bally Sports North.
I was also in the camp of disappointment. Benz was the guy for a lot of my Wolves fan years, and his chemistry with Jim Peterson was awesome every single night.
But the disappointment and vitriol directed at the wrong people was incorrect and premature, and it came before anybody knew what was going to happen. Michael Grady is absolutely fantastic, and I hope others agree. His chemistry with Jim Pete is natural, and he rides the wave of the game perfectly. He locks in on the tone of the fan in the high moments, and mixes it beautifully with scouts and teeing up Jim Pete in a morning-drive radio show-like format when the game lulls. His “CASH!” after a three-pointer has caught on quickly, and oftentimes his “GO-BERT!” rings around in my head.
He’s ultra-talented, and already network (he does the NFL on CBS sidelines among other things). Sure, it was talked about this summer that the Wolves have had a long line of great play-by-play voices, but Grady is the latest, and he’s in that top tier.
An Injury Report that isn’t a Novel Long
I’ve seen a lot of comparisons of the current period the Wolves are going through to the COVID period last season over the course of a few games in which Greg Monroe did a Nikola Jokić impression en route to a win over the Boston Celtics. Personally, I think it’s closer to the 2020-21 season, but with more talent that yields a better record.
If you recall that season, it was off to a great start before Towns dislocated his wrist, spiraling into a D’Angelo Russell knee procedure. Finch came in, Edwards broke out, the team won some games to pull them out of Jalen Suggs territory, but everything was incredibly out of sync.
And that’s how it is now. From the beginning of the preseason, the bigs haven’t been able to play much together, the bench unit has been missing Jordan McLaughlin’s facilitation, and both the bench and starters are desperately missing Taurean Prince’s spacing and defensive toughness. The time without Towns and Gobert looked great; it was a return to what Edwards knew. But he hasn’t had much time to “know” what this drastic overhaul in play style can be when firing properly (if it does), and like that 2020-21 season, the injury report has the rotation staging a surprise on who’s playing on a nightly basis.
Minnesota @Timberwolves Status Report in advance of tomorrow’s game @ Boston:— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) December 22, 2022
Kyle Anderson - Back Spasms
Rudy Gobert - Left Ankle Sprain
Jordan McLaughlin - Left Calf Strain
Taurean Prince - Right Shoulder Subluxation
Karl-Anthony Towns - Right Calf Strain
Last season was relatively clean; let’s hope the new year brings the same.