Minnesota Timberwolves: Should they tank?

Head coach Flip Saunders is upset over allegations that Zach LaVine and the rest of the Timberwolves are tanking the 2015 season.
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

By Brennan Kelly

Earlier this week the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Utah Jazz in overtime win, which was upsetting to Utah broadcast announcers who said that it was sad that the Jazz lost to a team that was clearly tanking for a better draft pick. This was very upsetting for Timberwolves head coach and team president Flip Saunders, who quickly called for the two men to be fired for their accusations.

Flip Saunders was not this happy after the game against the Jazz

Saunders said that the Jazz broadcasters saying that the Timberwolves were tanking was “irresponsible” and than cited beating the New York Knicks and almost beating the Charlotte Hornets as evidence that the Timberwolves are not tanking. What set the Jazz announcers off in the game was the fact that the Timberwolves only suited up seven players in the game, as Kevin Martin, Kevin Garnett, Ricky Rubio, Gary Neal and Nikola Pekovic were all out with injury. The Jazz announcers were upset as they felt this was unfair to fans coming to the game and said it was something the NBA needed to fix.

To be fair to the Jazz announcers that is a small number of players to have for an NBA game, however Garnett has had his knee injury for a while and Rubio and Pekovic have both dealt with injuries all season, so it is not like these injuries came out of thin air.

Also while it might not exactly be tanking, the Timberwolves management is probably not looking to rush guys back just so opposing team fans can see them play and won’t rush people back just so the Timberwolves can win a few more games and hurt their draft position.

Saunders can be upset that the announcers said that the Timberwolves were tanking, but to call for them to be fired is sort of ridiculous, as from the outside it certainly looks like the team is tanking. One thing that should be noted is that there is a difference from trying to lose as a coach and not fielding a team that can be competitive.

The Timberwolves are the latter, as they currently can’t compete with most teams with so many injuries, and it would be foolish to try to play any of the injured players until they are fully healthy. For the Timberwolves, wins just hurt the team in the lottery, a system which has historically not been kind to the Timberwolves, often favoring other teams in a system that is definitely questionable in its execution.

The Timberwolves are trying to win games with the team they have, and while that might look like tanking to some people with the trade deadline over, there’s not really much the Timberwolves can do to improve their roster. If the Timberwolves really wanted to tank they would stop playing Andrew Wiggins so much, which would be easy to do since he is playing around 40 minutes a game with so many Timberwolves players out with injuries.

So while the Timberwolves certainly didn’t try to drastically improve their team at the trade deadline, accusing them of tanking because they won’t hurry players back from injury is ridiculous. No team out of the playoff chase will rush their star players from injury, such as the Utah Jazz with Gordon Hayward’s shoulder injury, as that risks hurting the team’s future along with the player’s future for a few wins that don’t matter.

 

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