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With the season all but over, our Wolves expert Beartrap McManus gives a thorough post-mortem on the team. Highs, lows, disappointments, unexpected highlights, trade deadline non-moves, Towns, Wiggins, the coaching search, hopeful off-season moves, and more.
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Are you disappointed with how this Timberwolves season has shaken out? Did you expect things to go this way? How disappointed are you that they didn't make the playoffs?
It’s been a disappointing season in ways I never could’ve predicted at the end of last season.
At that time, I felt a return to the playoffs was anything but guaranteed, given the nature of how they squeaked in last season (and that their competition in the West was likely to only get better). I had hopes for the team improving with some roster and coaching continuity that it hadn’t had in years, and that retaining Jimmy Butler was a possibility.
That all went out the door by the end of September. Since then, all this season has basically done is disappoint.
There’s little need to re-litigate the Butler scenario, as both he and Thibs are gone, but there’s plenty to be disappointed about since.
It was really disheartening to see the Wolves hold the line at the trade deadline with a team that was highly unlikely to be in the running for a playoff spot (mathematical elimination aside, the writing was already on the wall in huge red lettering by that point). Instead of cashing in some expiring contracts (Tolliver, Gibson, Rose) for second round picks from actual playoff-bound teams looking to add depth, they did nothing. For a team with some serious salary cap issues going forward, they displayed a serious carelessness in terms of asset management, which calls into question their ability to honestly assess themselves and their needs for the future.
What player or players pleasantly surprised you? What players do you think underachieved (other than the most obvious choice, Andrew Wiggins)?
I’m not sure how much of a surprise it actually has been, but it’s been wonderful to see KAT start to actually approach his full potential this season. He’s been incredible, and one of the few steadily burning bright spots of this season.
Thibs, for all his myriad faults, at least drafted well this past off-season. I really like the two high energy, low usage wings he picked up last summer in Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop. Both have been more than pleasant surprises.
As for underachieving, I didn’t like watching Jeff Teague play much at all this year. He’s had a rough go of things with injuries this season, but even when healthy he often dribbled too much, played horrible defense (something that’s never been a strength of his), and regularly dribbled into bad shots after passing up open 3-point attempts. I’m not sure that anyone could look at the season he had this year and be glad to welcome him to their team for the $19 million player option he’ll likely exercise for next season.
What are the positives and negatives of Wiggins' game? Will he ever reach his potential?
I’m not sure what else there’s left to say about Wiggins. He’s had as much of a chance to succeed in terms of minutes and usage as just about any other player in the league since the time he entered, and it’s become painfully clear that he’ll never live up to his max contract and will likely be a salary cap burden even making half as much.
He’s been a low-efficiency volume scorer that seemingly refuses to take steps towards improving in that area. His shot selection remains dismal, as he’s continued to favor long-twos and mid-range jumpers (neither of which he’s particularly good at) over strong drives to the basket and three-point shots. His defensive and rebounding efforts are similarly disappointing, as he’s often looked unengaged and still hasn’t figured out how to box out, even with the game on the line.
Wiggins has had his opportunities. At this point, it’s pretty apparent who he is. Maybe another coach can get something out of him, perhaps by practicing holding him accountable in terms of his playing time. His friend Ryan Saunders has shown he’s not that guy. I’m really not sure what they can do with him at this point. It’s sad, really.
What are your top choices for the Timberwolves coach?
David Kahn. He demonstrated a great aptitude for learning on the job when he was hired as Wolves President of Basketball Operations in 2009 despite not having any relevant experience or qualifications for the job. That didn’t stop Glen Taylor then and nor should it stop him now.
What do you hope the Wolves do this off-season player-wise? What do you think they'll do?
I don’t have any specifics, but the Wolves are heading into yet another off-season with a need for three-point shooting. Locking down Cam Reynolds was a step in the right direction.
They’ll also need to figure out their point guard situation going forward. Even if Teague exercises his player option, he’s only under contract for one more year. They’ll also need to make a decision on Tyus and his future with the franchise as well.
Lastly, they’ll need to find some bigs. I doubt Taj Gibson will re-sign, and that’ll be a significant hole to fill. I’d also like to see them add a physical, defensive-minded backup center to play behind Towns to help with some of the larger opposing centers he’s struggled with.
Beartrap McManus is an NBA and Timberwolves expert. He has been a life coach for Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland since before time, a consultant for Rambling On since its founding, and Timberwolves analyst beginning in Series Five. He resides with his wife and twelve kids in Hurley, Wisconsin, where his wife owns a popular supper club.