Where to for the Timberwolves – Part Two

In Part two of the three part series we look at the key players still on the Timberwolves roster, how they went in the 2019 season and what to expect from them next year. If you didn’t read part one you can catch it here.
https://steviecozens.com/2019/05/05/where-to-for-the-timberwolves-part-one/

New President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas had his first press conference at Target Center today. Though not a lot can be taken from an introductory press conference, Rosas is a massive addition for the Wolves. He was a key part of a Franchise that made two Conference Finals. While also acquiring superstars like James Harden, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. He also played a massive part in drafting Diamonds in the rough like Clint Capela and Montrezl Harrell. Rosas may not bring over all of the analytics heavy style that the Houston Rockets play. But the heat will be on coach and players alike to play a style that suits today’s NBA.

Current Roster

Karl Anthony-Towns

Season Stats

24 points 12 rebounds 3 assists.

Shooting

Field 51.8% Three Point 40% Free Throw 83.6%

Karl Anthony-Towns is the centerpiece for the Wolves future. Not only does he carry the weight of being the leader of the team and their best player, he carries the hopes of fans who are expecting a return to the Playoffs and maybe even a championship. KAT recently inked a 190 million maximum deal that kicks off next season. Bar something disastrous happening, this means he is in Minnesota for the next five years.

This was KATs fourth season in the league and arguably his best. The raw numbers showed he truly belongs in the ALL-NBA conversation, 24 points, 12 rebounds and 3 assists. What stood out the most was his efficiency. He was the only center to shoot 40% from three point land, while also taking the second most threes of any center, behind only Brook Lopez. KAT also attempted the second most field goals this past season for a center, while maintaining the fourth best True Shooting percentage. Efficiency coupled with volume represents greatness for shooters, KAT will look to continue this efficiency while potentially taking more threes.

Defensively KAT took a step forward this year, in both effort and execution. Though he led the NBA in personal fouls, he showed enough improvement on this end to think he can be a legitimate defensive center in this league. If he is able to make another leap on the defensive end, this would go a long way towards the Wolves being a perennial Playoff team.

Andrew Wiggins

Season Stats

18.1 points 4.8 rebounds 2.5 assists

Shooting

Field Goal 41.2% Three Point 33.9% Free Throw 69.9%

Andrew Wiggins is the name on a lot of peoples lips this off season. Asked about Wiggins, Rosas said he wants to develop and work with him to try and get some improvement. Even if Wiggins was traded in the off-season, their cap situation would mean they would end up with an inferior player. Rosas was also quoted as saying if they were to trade him they probably wouldn’t get someone with the upside of Wiggins. Also if they did get off future salary by trading him, that wouldn’t improve their situation this year.

Everyone knows how bad Wiggins was last year, a few great games were surrounded by a lot of bad games. His counting stats were very average, but it was his efficiency which really killed the Timberwolves. He had one of the worst shooting season in NBA history for someone of his usage. This type of efficiency means he will make the team a lot worse when he is on court.

Their are two key stats which show lack of effort and confidence. Wiggins first three years in the league he rated in the 90th percentile for his position in drawing shooting fouls. The last two years this has dropped significantly where he is now only in the 70th percentile. The second key stat is his finishing at the rim. Last year he was in the 82nd percentile at the rim, this year he is down to the 41st percentile. Considering his physical tools, finishing at the rim should be the least of his problems. If Rosas and co can fix this issue that will go a long way towards making him more efficient.

They also need to eradicate the long two pointer from his offensive repertoire. He takes 18% of his shots from this distance and only hits on 32% of them. There’s no point focusing on Wiggins deficiencies any longer, but Rosas and co will try and fix these by pushing him to shoot threes and layups only. Attitude and effort will be the other two key work-ons. Only time will tell if they can make any of these changes.

Robert Covington

Season Stats

14.5 points 5.7 rebounds 1.5 assists

Shooting

Field 43.3% Three Point 37.2% Free Throw 77.3%


Robert Covington is the next key piece on the Wolves roster. A premium role player in both contract value and his on court play, ” ROCO ” is the best three and D role player in the league. His steal % this year would have been good enough for third in the league had he not been injured for the second half of the season. He also ranked in the 98th percentile for blocks at his position. Returning from injury this year, he is the perfect piece to push a pace and space style of play that complements the Wolves roster. Covington’s fit on the roster is ideal, his defensive strengths are the perfect example for perimeter buddies Wiggins and Josh Okogie. Here’s hoping they can take his lead to better the team’s defense.

Josh Okogie

Season Stats

7.7 points 2.9 rebounds 1.2 assists

Shooting

Field 38.6% Three Point 27.9% Free Throw 72.8%

Josh Okogie is the next cab off the rank as a cornerstone piece for the Wolves. Drafted 20th last year, he was one of the steals of the first round. At only 20 years old he showed defensive ability that belied his age. He also flashed athleticism around the basket that will encourage fans to look past his shooting struggles. A high point of this season was watching Okogie block James Harden’s patented step back three. Highlight plays like this don’t make a career but he has all the tools to be a great NBA wing. He aggressively looked to finished at the rim rather than settling for contested jumpers, drawing fouls at an excellent rate also. If Okogie can develop a passable shot he can potentially have a reputation and career like his buddy Covington.

Dario Saric

Season Stats

10.5 points 5.5 rebounds 1.5 assists

Shooting

Field 45.4% Three Point 38.3% Free Throw 87.5%

Dario Saric was the other main piece that came over when Jimmy Butler was traded to the 76ers. A versatile player who is an excellent all round shooter, Saric had a tough first year with the Wolves. He struggled coming off the bench, but once he was inserted into the starting lineup he finished the last three months of the season averaging 47% from the field and 41% from three. Dario’s style of play fits well with KAT, he is a good passer and cutter while having good ball handling skills at 6″10.

He can shoot the three from the corner or above the break. He also finishes well around the rim, hitting a career high 68% this season. Not a great rim protector, Saric will need to work on his defense around the rim to increase his playability at the end of games. He will benefit from a full off-season with the team, and potentially a rookie extension.

Keita Bates-Diop

Season Stats

Points 5.0 Rebounds 2.8 Assists 0.6

Shooting

Field 42.3% Three Point 25.0% Free Throw 64.3%

Keita Bates-Diop was drafted 48th in last years Draft. A four year player out of Ohio State, Keita was on the back end of the bench under Thibs. It wasn’t until February that he started playing meaningful minutes. Under the watchful eye of Luol Deng, Keita showed some nice touches on both ends of the floor. When he played between 10 and 19 minutes this season he had a +1.6 net rating. Though his jump shot didnt fall at a consistent rate he finished strongly at the rim when given the opportunity. He didnt embarrass himself on defense, and has the physical tools to improve on this end. On a cheap three year deal, if Keita can be a 10 – 15 minute night consistent player this will provide good value for a team that is likely to be over the cap for the forseeable future.

Jeff Teague

Season Stats

Points 12.1 Rebounds 2.5 Assists 8.2

Shooting

Field 42.3% Three Point 33.3% Free Throw 80.4%

Jeff Teague had a forgettable season for the Timberwolves. In an injury plagued year he played a career low 42 games. His shooting was a struggle for a lot of these games. His three pointer regressed heavily, while he finished poorly at the rim. Interestingly though, Teague fed Towns heavily in those games, and ended up with a career high 8.2 assists per game. Teague may still be a starting point guard in this league, but he looks to have lost a little of the quick first step that got him to the rim so well in his younger years.

After opting in to the last year of his deal, he will be paid 19 million this year. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him traded as his expiring salary could be attractive to a team with cap space. If Teague is healthy he can help this team, but the Wolves are better to give playing time to one of the young guys.

Gorgui Dieng

Season Stats

6.4 points 4.1 rebounds 0.9 assists

Shooting

Field 50.1% Three Point 33.9% Free Throw 83.0%

Gorgui Dieng had an up and down year as the most experienced member of the Timberwolves. In his 6th year in Minnesota he played the least minutes since his rookie year and had a concerning stretch midseason when it looked like he may drop out of the rotation all together. There were reports that Gorgui was very unhappy under Coach Thibs, but he pulled out of his slump under Coach Saunders and had a strong last month of the season. He has been developing his jumper and is still a solid rebounder also.

His defense is the biggest worry for Wolves management. Fouling heavily and making bad reads may have been the reason he played sparingly in the middle of the season. When he started for the team in years gone by, he was always a net positive in the on / off data. The last two years he has been a net negative overall in both seasons, this may be because he never gets to play next to Karl-Anthony Towns. When Towns and Dieng played together in 2016/17 they had a net rating of +1.6 in the season. Rather than use assets to trade Gorgui, they should look utilize his strengths and play him in the right lineups.

Cameron Reynolds

Season Stats

5.0 points 1.6 rebounds 0.7 assists

Shooting

Field 42.3% Three Point 41.2% Free Throw 88.9%

Cameron Reynolds was brought in on a ten day contract in February. After impressing with his shooting prowess he was then signed to a deal for the rest of the season with an guaranteed second season also. A five year player out of Tulane, Reynolds is a 6’8 wing signed purely to shoot the three ball. He flashes some defense in limited opportunities, and has the physical tools to guard opponent wing players. Shooting 41% on 2.7 three pointers was enough for the Wolves to sign him for a bit longer. As his deal isn’t guaranteed for next year they can have a full training camp to look at him and decide if he is worth keeping for the upcoming season.

Thanks for reading Part two. Part three will be out next week with team needs for the upcoming Draft.

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