Four Reasons You Should Believe in the Red Hot Timberwolves

Photo: Sarah Stier – Getty Images

It’s been quite a stretch for the (8-9) Minnesota Timberwolves, who have won four-straight games and played very well for nearly two weeks. Some would even argue, myself specifically, that their defense has been pretty good for the entire season, even when they were losing.

While they still have a long ways to go on both ends of the floor, and even more to prove to a fanbase that’s currently in the “indifference” stage of grief, the last handful of games have been a glimmer of hope for those who crave basketball success in this town.

There are a lot of reasons for hope but I’m only going to go through my top-four (in order of importance). I bet you can guess #1.

1.) Effort and Defensive Buy In

Both effort and defense need to be in the same category because without one you can’t have the other. And the Wolves’ change in defensive mentality is far and away the most important part of their early mini-turnaround.

I wrote my blog on the Wolves’ improved defense before they started on this win streak. You just knew success would come if they continued to play hard on that side of the floor. They’re just too talented and athletic. Since then, their defensive metrics have only gotten better and, recently, the wins have come along for the ride.

Team DefenseOPP
FGM
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FG%
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3PM
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3P%
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MIN League Rank3rd4th3rd1st10th7th4th3rd4th
via NBA.com

Because of the regular effort, energy and defense that Minnesota has put forth during their four-game win streak, all four victories have come in blowout fashion. In fact, all of them have come via double digit margins and total a +86 total point differential.

2.) Vanderbilt in Starting Five

Chris Finch made a small starting lineup change after the Wolves lost to Golden State a couple of weeks ago and fell to 3-7 on the season. For the next game vs the Lakers, he took Jaden McDaniels out of the starting lineup and replaced him with Jarred Vanderbilt.

Finch’s reasoning? He needed better rebounding out of the starting-5 and help in the paint for KAT. McDaniels wasn’t playing very well either and the head coach thought he’d feel more comfortable coming off the bench, where he wouldn’t have to defer to the “Big 3” of Ant, KAT and DLo as often.

The Wolves are 5-2 since the change and both Vanderbilt and McDaniels have thrived in their new roles. So has the team. Swapping Jarred and Jaden has made both the first and second teams much more consistent and, barring any injury misfortune, could provide sustainable plus figures going forward.

3.) Chris Finch

Minnesota Timberwolves new head coach, Chris Finch, will someday get the credit he would rightfully deserve if he helps turn this aching NBA franchise around. But right now, Finch mostly flies under the radar.

But when “Finchy” talks basketball, people listen. He has a calm, cool and collected demeanor but knows how to get his teachings across in a clear and concise manner.

As a fan or media member, you can see it in his interviews. I can only imagine the way he opens his mind to Wolves’ players and staff members. One thing is for sure, he has the ear and respect of everyone within the Minnesota Timberwolves organization.

D’Angelo Russell, who’s had some strained relationships with previous coaches, actually talked about how great of a basketball mind Finch is and how much he has already grown to respect and love him.

4.) Kool KAT

I want to give Karl-Anthony Towns his due in this blog because he deserves it. He’s the only piece left from the last time we had any hope in this town and he claims to still like it here. Not only that, but Karl has handled the rise of Anthony Edwards with class and appreciation, unlike what we’ve see play out in this franchise’ past.

That’s important because we will need both Ant and KAT if these Wolves are really going to hit their ceiling. Towns has gone to a new level on the basketball floor too. His offensive numbers might not show it but that’s not what needed improving.

KAT has made leaps and bounds on the defensive side of the floor and the mental side of his game has even taken a positive swing of late.

Nobody’s perfect

We’ve still seen some tantrums. Nobody can flip a switch and never show their old-self again. But Towns has made an obvious effort to stop bitching at officials and crying whenever he doesn’t get a foul call. When upset, he seems to internalize better and actually use that emotion as fuel on both sides of the court.

Everybody has emotions but the best basketball players are able to channel that emotion and use it for good. Coffee apparently helps too.

Grieving Stages Over?

I’m pretty sure “indifference” is the 25th stage in the grieving cycle. Most probably move on before getting to that point. It’s a thin line between “quitting” and “indifference” that most relationships, especially those between a professional sports franchise and their fanbase, never have to walk.

But Wolves fans have lived in a sad reality for a long time, myself included. In the 2nd grade lunch line, you could find me doing stump speeches on why Stephon Marbury should have been awarded Rookie of the Year over Allen Iverson.

I was wrong back then, which still happens occasionally, but the point holds. I’m a Minnesota Timberwolves lifer who has been injected with hope that I’m trying to project onto others who don’t feel it yet.

In a semi-unrelated note: I still believe Iverson’s individual accolades (96-97 ROY) are a huge reason why Marbury demanded out less than 1.5 seasons later. He wanted to be AI and that wasn’t possible with KG here.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan