Timberwolves Notes: On the season-opening misery

The NBA blogosphere is all over the Timberwolves’ confounding slow start to the 2016-17 season, and we’ve compiled some of the best articles from recent days for your reading pleasure.

The Timberwolves record currently stands at 5-13, and ‘disappointing’ doesn’t quite describe the sentiment of the majority of folks who follow the team.

Yes, the team has a point differential of just -1, which is better than every other non-playoff team in the Western Conference (and even two top-eight teams in the West), while their actual win-loss record continues to stand at second-worst.

But now, the horrors of the third quarter seem to have normalized to some extent, and the Wolves still aren’t winning.

ESPN Insider’s Kevin Pelton delved into this issue, and emerged with a conclusion not too dissimilar to what we’ve largely posted here at Dunking With Wolves: there’s a lot of variance involved, and while the Wolves aren’t quite as good as they pretend to be in the first halves of games, they also aren’t as terrible as they’ve been in the second half so far this season.

Pelton’s piece is an Insider article, so we can’t post too much of it here, but here’s an excerpt that is a portion of his conclusion:

Realistically, Minnesota can’t play like it does in the first half over 48 minutes because the level of shooting is unsustainable. Even with Andrew Wiggins‘ development as a 3-point shooter, the Timberwolves aren’t actually the league’s second-best 3-point shooting team, as they’ve been in the first half.

Think of the Timberwolves’ shooting as like a dice player rolling a pair of dice. In the first half, Minnesota is rolling a 12 and shooting as well as reasonably possible given the shots the team is getting. In the second half, the Timberwolves are rolling a two and shooting as poorly as realistically possible.

Over time, however, Minnesota will keep rolling the dice more times, making it less likely the outcomes in the first and second half continue to be so dramatically different. The odds are the Timberwolves’ first and second halves will look a lot more similar in the future, but not perhaps in quite the way Minnesota fans are hoping.

Indeed, the Wolves are probably something close to an averagey, .500-level team, although they’ll have to put together a stretch of strong play to manage that in 2016-17. They’ve built a significant hole that they need to dig themselves out of, and while the playoffs are more of a prayer at this point than anything, a .500 season is a solid goal for which to strive.

Other solid articles from around the web: FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring gets into the potential reasons for the Timberwolves second half collapses, focusing largely on the across-the-board decrease in shooting percentage, leading to a historically bad run of third quarter performances.

His conclusion isn’t all too different from what we’ve already said: the Wolves are obviously playing well early in games and it’s difficult to pinpoint what changes at halftime. The team’s true ability, at least in this season, is somewhere in the middle.

Lastly, Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post takes a more traditional look at Minnesota’s current blight, featuring quotes from an agitated Tom Thibodeau and hopeful quotes from the likes of Zach LaVine and Karl-Anthony Towns. It’s a great read, so be sure to carve out 10 minutes for this one.

As a reminder, the Wolves look to get back on track on Friday night in New York against the same Knicks that broke their hearts on Wednesday.

No rest for the devastated…

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