It’s important to note that, before we dig into why the Wolves have flopped so significantly this season, their star players, believe it or not, have lived up to expectations, if not surpassed them.
The three household names on the Wolves roster coming into the season were Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach Lavine.
Towns is well on his way to taking the next step towards all-time greatness, as he’s averaging over four more points than he put up in his historic rookie season.
Andrew Wiggins also looks well on his way to superstardom. For the second straight season, he’s seeing a significant uptick in his PPG.
And finally Zach LaVine, who, at one point, was known for his ridiculous Dunk Contest dunks, but not much else. He began to make a name for himself on the real hardwood towards the end of last season, and has picked up right where he left off, averaging 20 this year.
So why is it that this group of young, talented players are currently bottom feeders in the West?
The first possible issue is a recurring one in all Thibodeau teams – minutes.
As pointed out by Chris Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight, the T-Wolves have a net rating in the first half of +27.2, a number that’s right on par with the Golden State Warriors.
But it all goes downhill after the break.
Their -30.6 in the third quarter rating is the worst net rating for an individual quarter since the stat started getting tracked. And this could all trace back to minutes.
The three musketeers are all playing career highs in minutes, with Zach LaVine’s situation being the most concerning.
After not playing more than a half hour per game in his career, LaVine now cracks the top five in minutes at a startling 37.2.
Is this the reason that Minnesota struggles to close games? Maybe. But a much more logical explanation lies in Thibs’ defensive coaching philosophies.
He implements a more intense variation of the ICE defensive scheme to defend the pick-n-roll, and, as with anything Thibs-related, takes a lot of work off the the ball, and flawless communication.
Given the experience level of the key players on the Wolves, and we begin to understand why they’ve struggled with such a complex defensive system the requires top chemistry on all levels.
It’ll come with time, but for now, the Wolves will have to learn how to win the hard way.