Another rough week for the Wolves, and more things that were either good, bad, or ugly.
Defending the 3-point line
Over the course of the last week, the Wolves have had the pleasure of dealing with two of the most prolific 3-point shooting teams in the NBA. The Houston Rockets routinely launch 50-plus threes in games, and the Golden State Warriors broke down barriers with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson changing the way basketball is played with their long-range assaults on the opposition that has resulted in three of the last four championships.
On Sunday and Tuesday night, the Wolves were tasked with having to defend those explosive offenses. Of course, it didn’t go well. In those two games the Wolves were outscored from beyond the arc 120-57. The 3-point shooting has been a problem for a while with the Wolves, and that’s a different topic for a different day.
The 3-point defense is arguably a bigger deal than actually hitting 3-pointers of their own for the Wolves.
For some context, the Houston Rockets lead the league in the average number of 3-pointers hit per game with 15.6 makes per night, the highest number for a team in NBA history according to basketball reference. The league average for made threes is right around 11.
Through 71 games, the Wolves have allowed 15 or more made 3-pointers in 21 games. Yes, in a little less than a third of their games against the Wolves, the opposition shoots as if it’s a historic 3-point shooting team.
The Wolves give up an average of 12.7 made 3-pointers per game. In the history of the NBA, only 10 teams have averaged 12.7 or more makes from behind the 3-point line per game. Think about that for a second. The Wolves 3-point defense isn’t just bad, it’s historically bad. There’s never been a team that’s allowed more than 12.1 3-point makes per game throughout an NBA season. As things currently stand there look to be four teams that break that record this season, and the Wolves are leading the way as the worst.
In the history of the NBA, there’s never been a team that’s allowed over 1,000 3-pointers in a single season. Entering play on Thursday the Wolves sit at 901 with 11 games remaining in this season. It’s a near lock they become the first team ever to allow 1,000 and break last year’s record set by the Chicago Bulls of 990 opponent 3-pointers. The only way they don’t is if one of the other teams close behind them, or the Milwaukee Bucks, who actually lead the league in 3-pointers allowed by two, but have played one more game than the Wolves. Minnesota will re-claim the top spot Thursday in Charlotte.
Andrew Wiggins sleeping
The impact – or lack thereof – made by Andrew Wiggins on a regular basis has been written about extensively. He’s not a good basketball player at this point in his career, and a far cry from what many expected him to be when he was selected No. 1 overall. We’ve been over that time and time again, so instead of picking on just how bad he’s been this season for the Wolves offensively, we’re going to take a quick peak at the defensive end.
On that one, Wiggins was caught sleeping by Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. It’s hard to tell by the clip because it slightly caught the broadcast by surprise, too, but Curry’s pass to Durant traveled roughly 60 feet in the air for the easy bucket, because Wiggins either forgot about Durant, or didn’t have much of an interest in getting back on defense.
These types of things happen with Wiggins far too often. He just floats through games consistently. Even if the box score makes it look like he had a solid game, the eye test tells a different story.
Maybe this summer will be a wake-up call for Wiggins. Maybe he’ll realize the state of his game and see just how much harder he’ll need to work in order to improve. Maybe he’ll get better. But on the flip side, the checks aren’t going to stop cashing.
Chasing Steph Curry around
I’ve already touched on the 3-point defense and the atrocity it’s been this season, but it was pretty mesmerizing to watch Steph Curry light up the Wolves in the third quarter of their game on Tuesday night.
Curry had 22 points alone in that quarter, and watching the way he works off the ball is fascinating. For most dominant players, they’re often the one with the ball a majority of the time. Curry certainly has high-level handles, but he’s probably more dangerous when he’s moving without the ball. And as odd as it sounds, he’s probably most dangerous the very second he gives the ball up.
That means the very second that Curry’s defender thinks it’s okay to mentally relax – even just a little bit – Curry darts around the court like a small child on an ill-advised sugar rush. Both Tyus Jones and Jerryd Bayless had to play the roll of angry father trying to corral their amped up offspring. Neither one could do it.
“He never stops moving,” Jones said. “His conditioning is unbelievable. Just because, literally from the jump ball to the last play of the game he’s non-stop moving. He cuts hard every single time, and I think that’s really where he’s most dangerous. He obviously has great handle, can create his own shot, but I think he’s even more dangerous without the ball, just because he gets himself – they obviously do a great job screening as well for him – but he gets himself wide open shots just from the constant movement, constant cutting. A lot of times when he gives the ball up, it’s passing into a cut or some sort of movement and when his guy relaxes, so yeah. He does a great job and it’s tough to guard for a full game.”
It’s one of the toughest defensive assignments in the NBA, and it didn’t go well, which honestly should have been expected.
Anthony Tolliver was switched on to Curry by a Draymond Green screen prior to the clip picking up, but the second he let up after Curry passed the ball to Andre Iguodala, three points could’ve just been put on the board for the Warriors.
Curry basically just runs in a giant circle here and Jones is the one tasked with chasing him. It’s not fun.
How in the world do the Wolves just not cover the best 3-point shooter in the history of the NBA? I don’t have an answer.
Yes, that’s definitely an illegal screen set by Kevon Looney, but the Warriors set them frequently, betting on the officiating crew not being able to call all of them. It’s worked for the past four seasons and won’t stop working anytime soon.
There may not have been a play on Tuesday night that exemplified Curry’s level of danger off the ball immediately after giving it up. If there’s a sequence that looks like a child had far too many Sour Patch Kids creating a level of hyper-ness maddening to a parent, it was this one, complete with Curry’s celebratory jig following his final bucket of the quarter.
Watching Curry run around the floor towards screens and away from the ball is mesmerizing, and seeing others try to keep up makes them look helpless at times.
Oh, and they’ll get to do it again next weekend!
All aboard the tank!
The Wolves have lost four in a row at *checks notes* exactly the right time. The loss to Golden State put them a season-high seven games below .500, and the best thing for this franchise would be for the losses to continue to mount up over the course of the final 11 games of the season.
While Minnesota hasn’t formally been eliminated from the playoffs yet, it is only a mathematical formality keeping them alive. That dream has been dead for some time, but the further away from the dream of the playoffs the Wolves get, the closer they get to the dream of winning the NBA Draft Lottery.
Entering Thursday night’s game against Charlotte, the Wolves sit a half game behind them for the No. 11 spot in the lottery standings. That spot brings a 9.4 percent chance of vaulting up into the top four of the draft order, and a 2.0 percent chance of picking first overall.
The Wolves not only need to lose as many games as possible down the stretch to improve the possibility of landing a franchise-altering player this June in the draft, but they also need a couple of teams to win games even though there isn’t much motivation to do so.
The Los Angeles Lakers are 1-9 in their last 10 games since their playoff dreams were essentially squashed. They’ve tanked at an elite level in hopes of landing a high draft pick. They currently sit one full game ahead of the Wolves for the No. 10 spot in the lottery order. That position brings a 13.9 percent chance of picking in the top four.
It may be hard to do, but if the Wolves could slide all the way up to the No. 8 position, it becomes much more likely that May 14 – when the lottery is held – becomes a date Wolves fans remember as when the tide turned for the better in Minneapolis. That position has a 26.3 percent chance at selecting in the top four and a 6.0 percent chance at selecting first.
The Wolves have a way to go in order to secure odds like that. They would have to pass the Hornets, Lakers, New Orleans, and Washington to get up to eighth. That makes a Thursday night loss to Charlotte sort of vital. It’s odd to call games “must-lose” but the Wolves don’t gain much of anything by winning basketball games between now and April 10th. A well-executed tank job would be one of the best things this franchise could do.