The Timberwolves have gotten off to a slow start to the season, but what are realistic expectations moving forward for Tom Thibodeau’s young team?
After a promising preseason, the Timberwolves’ record has fallen to 1-4 to start the regular season. It doesn’t seem to be too early to ask: what should Timberwolves fans expect from the rest of this season?
The Timberwolves looked much better in the preseason, but then again, it’s the preseason. During the preseason, the Timberwolves went 5-2 and won each game rather convincingly, but have followed it up with a 1-4 start, leaving some fans wondering if this is just another year like the previous…dozen or so seasons.
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The preseason is a time to work on new things and to see what works and what doesn’t. Therefore, the wins didn’t mean much. However, it’s the little things that showed during those games that mean the most.
During each game, Minnesota showed something. Whether it was the play of Kris Dunn, Wiggins, KAT, the team as a whole or the coaching staff, a lot of positive things showed up during the preseason.
Now, the team has struggled to win in their first five games, but the problem may only be time. The more this team and coaches work together, the more the team will start to shine.
So, let’s start with the premise that the 29-53 team from last year will be better, but exactly how much better given the route they have already taken this season?
Nov 5, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Kris Dunn (3) drives to the basket in front of Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The Timberwolves have had pretty great luck with their rookies over the last two seasons to say the least.
Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns have given the Wolves back-to-back Rookie of the Year award-winners, and now there’s Kris Dunn. The newest addition has all the ability and opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Wiggins and KAT and win the prestigious award himself.
Of course, Dunn is a much different type of player than the other two; the point guard from Providence is a defensive specialist. He values defense over offense, but that’s not a bad thing and it won’t hinder his chance of bringing the award to Minnesota for the third straight time. As cliché as it sounds, the best offense derives from great defense.
Dunn’s offense will get better as time progresses and his playing time increases. Unfortunately for Ricky Rubio, Dunn now has the opportunity as Rubio has been ruled indefinitely out after suffering a elbow injury in their second game against the Kings.
Prior to that, Dunn averaged 17.5 minutes per game and showed flashes of his ability. And Dunn is certainly confident about it. Per CBS Sports:
“I feel I’ve been getting good minutes,” he said. “I’ve been playing in some tough situations the last two games. And that’s the type of games I like to play in. So Ricky, if he doesn’t have the chance to play tomorrow night, or any other games, I’ll have to step up and be ready.”
Even though the Timberwolves are off to a slow start, expect Kris Dunn to enter the conversation for rookie of the year towards the end of the season. Ben Simmons was supposed to be the runaway winner, of course, but his broken foot leaves room for more players to shine.
Nov 3, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) celebrates during a timeout in the first half against the Denver Nuggets at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Last season, Minnesota won 29 games. While the Timberwolves were far below the .500 mark, there was excitement and potential surrounding the team. Fast-forward to this season, and some folks thought that the Timberwolves could possibly win 50 games.
Inside the league, feelings around the Timberwolves are mixed. They may make the playoffs, and they may not. And while the Timberwolves probably have the ability to win 50 games, it’s more likely that they finish in between 40-49.
The last time Minnesota won 50 or more games was over a decade ago. In the 2003-2004 season, the Timberwolves won 58 games and finished first in the conference. Minnesota, of course, went on to lose in the Western Conference Finals to the L.A. Lakers by a 4-2 margin.
These Wolves can expect to have an opportunity to make the playoffs and end the longest drought in the NBA. A pace like the 1-4 start to the season is not gonna get it done, though. The Timberwolves have to get better at playing with each other, and while dealing with a new coach and a new system can be hard to overcome, they could shock the league if they come together.
The Timberwolves can be 50-win team, but they have to turn their slow start around soon.
Oct 29, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) speaks with head coach Tom Thibodeau (L) on the sideline against the Sacramento Kings during the third quarter at Golden 1 Center. The Kings won 106-103. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Lastly, Tom Thibodeau will be a candidate for Coach of the Year, and the 1-4 start to turning things around to make the playoffs, is going to the ticket that takes him there.
Prior to Saturday night’s game in Oklahoma City and the start of a three-game road trip, Thibodeau held a two-hour film session on Friday to figure out what went wrong in the third quarter, according to Star Tribune.
The former Bulls coach is trying to rebuild a franchise. It’s not as simple as to say they just need to get back to winning because they haven’t done that in over a decade. The Timberwolves are a young team with potential and very little of the potential has even been unlocked.
Thibodeau is trying to coach a bunch of players who’ve for the most part dominated in one season in college and then lost the next few years in the professional league. Time is only going to help, but I put my money on the fact that Thibodeau will figure it out and get his team to the playoffs.
A 1-4 start is no doubt rough on the team and the fans alike, but it’s still very early in the season. The Timberwolves have a long way to go, but the aforementioned expectations are absolutely realistic for the season.