A lot of NBA experts expected the ultra-talented Minnesota Timberwolves to be one of the NBA's most improved teams this season. But it just hasn't happened yet as they have been one of the worst bets at SBR's top sportsbooks in the Association.
What Needs Fixing?
You can count me among those who thought that Minnesota might make the Western Conference playoffs this year despite finishing just 29-53 last year. Why? The Wolves have a mega-talented young roster led by the past two NBA Rookies of the Year in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Which NBA general manager wouldn't take those two guys ahead of any two guys on their current roster? OK probably not the Warriors' Bob Myers, who has two of the NBA's five-best players in Kevin Durant and Steph Curry. And maybe not Cleveland's David Griffin, who has LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. But I'm thinking every other GM would.
Towns and Wiggins are having All-Star caliber seasons. KAT is a double-double machine who is averaging 22.6 points and 10.2 rebounds. When all NBA GMs were polled back in October which player they would chose to build a franchise around today, Towns was the majority choice over Durant and LeBron. Wiggins is averaging a career-high 22.8 points. Minnesota also has an exciting guard in Zach LaVine, who is averaging 19.8 points and is probably the NBA's best dunker. Ricky Rubio is as good as a ball-handler and passer as anyone in the NBA. Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad are solid contributors.
So why is this team an NBA-worst 6-14 ATS on NBA odds to match its straight-up record? The defense hasn't been great yet, allowing 105.6 points per game, which is 19th in the league and not much better than last year 106.0 ppg. That's not much of an improvement considering the team's new head coach is defensive genius Tom Thibodeau. You could also call Kris Dunn a disappointment. The former Providence point guard was one of Rookie of the Year betting favorites on NBA picks entering the season but doesn't have Thibs' full trust yet (Thibs doesn't much like rookies going back to his Bulls days). Dunn is averaging just 3.7 points in 17.7 minutes per night.
Minnesota is 5-3 with shooting at least 45 percent from the field but 1-11 when not. It's 2-12 when allowing 100-plus points and 1-13 when opponents shoot 45 percent or better. The Wolves are 1-7 when being outrebounded and 2-13 when trailing after three quarters. The Wolves also have lost five games this season in which they built leads of 14-plus points, most recently Nov. 21 vs. Boston.
Another strange statistic is that entering December, the Wolves had the third-best offensive rating in the NBA in the first half of games but the worst in the second. They have improved their second-half numbers of late, although it's not really translating to wins.
Thibodeau is also the president of basketball operations and there have been trade rumors surrounding the team. Rubio, who can't shoot, could be had and you hear talk of a three-way deal of Rubio to the Kings, Rudy Gay from Sacramento to the LA Lakers and the Lakers' Luol Deng and Kings' Darren Collison to Minnesota. Deng is one of Thibs' favorite players from his Bulls days, a good defender and a great locker-room guy. He's also way past his prime and overpaid. Thibs tried to land Bulls star Jimmy Butler at the draft, using Dunn and LaVine as bait but Chicago passed.
While I believe the Wolves will only get better as the season goes on, it's not likely to be a good week for them as they host the Spurs on Tuesday and have dropped seven straight to San Antonio. Minnesota then on Thursday goes to Toronto, where it has lost 12 in a row, hosts Detroit (winnable) on Friday and hosts NBA championship favored Golden State on Sunday.