The Minnesota Timberwolves have one of the most talented young rosters in the league. Two-time dunk contest champ Zach Lavine is averaging 20.5 points per game, his teammate Karl-Anthony Towns is averaging 21.8, and their small forward Andrew Wiggins is at 22.4. Combine these numbers with one of the best coaches in the league in Tom Thibodeau and you would expect to be a championship contender. Unfortunately, the T-Wolves have started the season with a record of 6 wins and 16 losses. If they continue to lose games then they will probably miss the playoffs again which is very discouraging for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004. Let’s take a look at three problems they need to address before they can become a contender.
1 – Bench Scoring
So far this season the T-Wolves have had the worst bench in the league averaging only 23 points a game. Even rookie Kris Dunn, who was expected to win rookie of the year, has only averaged 4.2 points a game. Many of their 16 losses can be attributed to a bad bench. If Minnesota is going to make the playoffs they will need to trade for a solid bench player. One possibility is Taj Gibson who played under coach Thibodeau on the Bulls. Gibson is someone who has the coaches trust and provides scoring and a veteran presence off the bench.
2 – Finding a Star
Last off-season there were plenty of rumors going around that the T-Wolves were trying to acquire an all-star talent, specifically Jimmy Butler. I think that while the T-Wolves do need a star, this was a poor attempt at fast tracking the rebuilding process. They already have the last two rookie of the year winners on their team. If they made a move for a player who wants the ball in his hands all the time it could force them to gut their roster and end up in a similar situation as Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks, not to mention how disruptive it would be for the other young players on the team. For the T-Wolves to start winning they do need a star but they need him to come from their own roster. The two most likely candidates are Wiggins and Towns and they will most likely grow into better leaders as their careers move forward.
3 – Ricky Rubio
For the last few years, the T-Wolves have been trying to figure out if Ricky Rubio is an elite play-maker or a failed draft pick. After they drafted Kris Dunn, who plays the same position, most people thought they would trade away Rubio. However, the T-Wolves have kept him so far and he has filled the role of starting point guard. Rubio has always struggled with his shot and this year is no different. He is shooting an abysmal 25 percent from three point range and he only averages 6 points a game. In my opinion, the best move would be to make Kris Dunn a starter and have Rubio come off the bench. Having a playmaker like Rubio on the bench might open up more scoring opportunities for everyone else. And Dunn’s defense might help in the starting lineup as well.
The question the timberwolves need to answer is how long are they willing to wait before they start winning? It seems like Tom Thibodeau wants to make some trades and start winning now, but I believe it would be best if they wait and develop their players. Eventually, they will need to make some moves but teams that try to rush the rebuilding process usually end up digging themselves an even deeper hole.