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Examining The Athletic’s NBA Player Poll Through a Wolves Lens

The Athletic polled over 100 current players on various topics regarding the league and there’s more than a few Wolves mentions.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Minnesota Timberwolves Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

After originally having a one-and-done appearance in 2019, The Athletic brought back their Anonymous NBA Player Poll in 2023. With the help from writers, podcasters, and media-relations teams, The Athletic was able to survey over 100 players from all 30 franchises in the Association on various questions regarding the league and its’ players, coaches, and referees.

A few Minnesota Timberwolves players had their names sprinkled throughout the poll, as well as a couple mentions of you. Yes, you. Timberwolves fans found themselves in this poll as well. So, let’s dive into these polls and find some takeaways that are relevant to the Timberwolves.

Best Defender

via The Athletic

The first relevant Wolves mention comes when players were asked “Who is the league’s best defender” and 5 of the 98 who were polled chose forward Jaden McDaniels. Of note, McDaniels finds himself above 2020 Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo and this year’s DPOY Jaren Jackson Jr.

He also tops former DPOY’s Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, and Rudy Gobert (who doesn’t receive a single vote). Gobert has never really been one to have the respect of his peers, but the fall off from him being a 3x DPOY to not getting a single mention is stark.

Also of note, Utah Jazz rookie center Walker Kessler, you all may remember him as part of the trade for Rudy Gobert, received one vote for the league’s best defender. Old friends Kris Dunn and Jarred Vanderbilt also received a single vote. So that’s fun.

Most Overrated Player

via The Athletic

Rudy Gobert finds himself squarely in the top 5 of voting for the league’s most overrated player. I’d venture to guess that this mostly has to do with opposing player’s lack of respect for his defensive impact and his extremely limited offensive repertoire. No other Wolves find themselves on this list, which is something to take comfort in, I guess.

Also, if you know which one of Klay Thompson or Draymond Green voted for “the Grizzlies” as the most overrated player, I’d love to know.

Most Underrated Player

via The Athletic

The results for the NBA’s most underrated player have a ton of Timberwolves connections. Jaden McDaniels finds himself fifth on the list and Anthony Edwards rolls in tied for ninth. Of course, these two players have been the fun, young, and exciting players on the Wolves for the last few year, but the fact that they’re getting some shout-outs from their peers is cool (I am choosing to ignore the possibility that their own teammates could’ve been voting for them).

In the “other” category, we also see that both Timberwolves point guards from this season -D’Angelo Russell, now a Laker, and Mike Conley who the Wolves received for Russell - also received one vote each.

GOAT Debate

via The Athletic

Players were also asked who they believed was the greatest player of all time. Not much to say here, other than I’m surprised that neither Luka Garza nor Matt Ryan received a vote, though I suppose it may be a bit early in their careers.

Best In-Arena Fans

via The Athletic

Over 100 players voted for which arena had the best fans, and Target Center only received one vote.

Thanks, Karl-Anthony Towns (probably).

On a serious note, when the Timberwolves are rocking, the crowd at Target Center is fantastic. Shout out to those of your who’ve stuck around throughout all the ups and downs that this franchise has put you through.

Worst In-Arena Fans

via The Athletic

The “best fans” list isn’t the only one that Wolves faithful find themselves on. They also received one vote for the “worst fans”.

Thanks, D’Angelo Russell (probably).

Most Desirable Coach to Play For

via The Athletic

The players were asked which coach they would most like to play for, aside from their own. No surprise to see the legendary Gregg Popovich atop this list. He’s one of the greatest of all time and garners immense respect around the league. Current Timberwolves coach Chris Finch does not find himself on this list, not even in the “other” category.

Least Desirable Coach

via The Athletic

Players were also asked which coach they would least like to play for. Again, no surprise to see who winds up in the number one spot here. Former Timberwolves and current New York Knicks Head Coach Tom Thibodeau clearly is not a favorite of players in the league. Perhaps it is his demeanor or the fact that he plays his guys too many minutes. Regardless, players likely will stray away from New York.

After finding himself omitted from the list of coaches players would most want to play for, Minnesota Head Coach Chris Finch also finds himself missing from this list. Seems like the players are indifferent about him, which makes sense as a newer coach in the league.

Quick Hitters

That pretty much sums up the Timberwolves related pieces from the player poll, but there were a few interesting tidbits to mention here.

  • Tony Brothers and Zach Zarba topped the list for “best ref”, followed by “None.” in third place.
  • Scott Foster was the most common answer for “worst ref”. Old friend Ed Malloy also received a couple votes. “All of them” received a vote as well.
  • Draymond Green and Patrick Beverley accounted for over 50% of votes for “talks the most trash”. “The Memphis kids” got a few votes also, which is objectively hilarious if all 3 voters specifically called them that. D’Angelo Russell received one vote as well.
  • Officiating, load management, and too many rules that favor the offense were the most common responses for “biggest issue facing the league”. “Too much player empowerment” received some votes too, which is interesting coming from... players.