The Wolves were 5-13 when I last complained about them. They have since gone 6-9 (5-4 in their past 9). Not that good, but better.
Of all of my ideas, the Wolves have done the one that is most important. They now run a ton of stuff through Karl-Anthony Towns. They run him into the post early and often and force the opponents to defend him in there. They run a ton of high ball screen action for Towns and Wiggy or Towns and Lavine. The increase in Towns' usage has led to a better team overall.
My concept that the Wolves should dump Rubio has not come to fruition and they still play Kris Dunn over Tyus Jones. I don't appreciate that. You can definitely see why Thibs, a defensive coach, wants to play Dunn. Dunn is a +++ defender for a point guard. He rebounds, gets his hands on balls, helps out powerfully and aggressively on defense. And he is a + athlete from a speed and leaping standpoint.
But Dunn is simply brutal at running an offense, and he is one of the reasons the Wolves' bench is at the bottom of the league in bench scoring. I would suggest that the Wolves' bench lineup should be Tyus/Dunn/Shabazz or Lavine/Aldrich/Bheli (or Payne). It is a small bench lineup, but what NBA clubs have high scoring big guys off the pine? Not many.
Jordan Hill -- should never play.
Thibs has somewhat calmed down, but that may be an offshoot of the fact that the Wolves started 6-18. I mean, you are expected to go 41-41 and you start 6-18. Everything has gone so shitty that basically there are now nearly no expectations on you as a club. It is unlikely that you will (after playing at a 20-62 pace) suddenly go 35-23 and make the playoffs. So you can just go out and play the game. You suck, you are a doormat again. no one expects anything from you. (In the parking garage elevator after one Wolves home loss an opposing fan told me "Gee, I don't think your team is that bad after all, they kept it close.") It hurts to be patronized. This is basically, "HM, you really aren't THAT fat and ugly. I'd consider telling my less attractive niece to think about dating you."
THINGS I SEE THAT I LIKE
1) The coaching staff has settled down by a factor of 25%. It needs to gear back another 25%, but at least there is not panic and screaming on every single play.
2) The staff has some fun out of bounds plays that actually work.
3) The staff has a funky defensive free throw alignment where they line up the SF and SG in the scoring corners and then have the PG race the ball right up the middle. Opponents have terrible trouble with this play and it generally results in a layup or a wide open 3.
4) Lavine has played well. His offensive rating is around 117. He has learned not to dribble greater than 3 times in a possession. He is brilliant at maneuvering to get open 3s and he has very long range. He is a terrible defender (115 DRtg) so he needs to improve greatly there. The guy can touch 12 feet, there is no way he shouldn't get more steals and blocks and maybe even some defensive rebounds.
5) Wiggy is TRYING to improve his rebounding. I mean, look, the guy has terrible hands. They are either super small or they have grease on them or he just never played catch growing up. So it is not only lack of interest/energy that keeps Wiggy at 3-5 RPG, he is also not a gifted rebounder even when he tries. That said, I can see that the coaches are trying to get him to square up the ball between his shoulders, high-point the ball, and rebound with two hands. That way, when the ball squirts out of his hands (as it inevitably often does) the ball is likely to drop right in front of Wiggy and his body can shield the dropped ball from opponents.
6) The Wolves are valuing Gorgui's 17 foot jumper as a weapon. Gorgui, like former Wolf center Mark Blount, has a deadly 15-20 foot jumper when left alone. And he is often left alone. When the Wolves wre good (and yes they once were) Sam Mitchell was the grizzled vet who stood 15-20 feet out, waited for the ball, and drilled the jumper at the shot clock buzzer. Gorgui can do that as well and we are seeing it more.
THINGS I AM SEEING THAT I DO NOT ENJOY
A) The Wolves are pussies. When an opponent has a physically imposing big man who plays hard, the Wolves almost always lose and they almost always give us 115--120 points. If, however, an opponent has no big strong post presence (or that presence is a dog ala Dwight Howard) the Wolves can beat anyone (played GState close, had Houston beat). Your chances of winning should not be based upon whether opponents can manhandle you. An opponent should never manhandle you.
B) The Wolves play harder in some games and less hard in others. Tonight Wiggy wanted to be thought of more highly than his draft classmate Jabari Parker. So we got the great Wiggy (6 asssits, shut down the Greek Freak). But then he will go to Denver and cannot guard anyone or even try to do so. This was a trait of J.R. Rider - J.R. would light up Mitch Richmond and then give up 40 to Eddie Jones.
C) Wolves have almost no bench play. Kris Dunn's PG skills appear to be roughly 15% better than the PG skills that made Lavine into a full time off guard. Offense aboslutely grinds to a halt with Dunn. And his jumper? It is like the shooting equivalent of a random number generator - could be left, right, long, short, air, or it could go directly into the basket. He could make 4 in a rown or airball 4 in a row and neither would surprise anyone. Imagine getting into your car every day and the heater works 100 times out of 300, but sometimes 4 in a row and sometimes not at all for 9 times and some times it causes second-degree burns to you finger when you hit the on button. That is what watching Kris Dunn shoot a basketball feels like for me.
D) Speaking of - after starting the year with a newly-crafted jumper with perfect shot rotation, Wiggins now appears to be back to his old ways of side spinning the ball so it is a swish or nothing. He likes to come across it in a curveball spin.
D) Wolves still don't really understand what they are trying to do on defense. I think the newest strategy on pick and rolls is to show and recover more. I think. It is bad when you cannot tell exactly what the strategy is by watching 99% of the play (as I do either live, on TV live, or on tape).
E) Wolves are really, really, really bad at running shooters off the 3-point line. I mean, my lord, if I have to watch anorther team's 2-3-4 man stand and stare at the Wolf defender for 3 seconds and then hit a three, I will lose my mind. Get up under him or on his shooting hand and make him at least dribble. Yes, if the guy has 11 moves to get a 3 (like Curry or Lavine) it may not work. But allowing a guy to stand, do nothing, then hit an open three in your face? That has to stop.
OK -- all for now. At 11-22 there is some hope of improvement at least. They are at least building toward their 29 win pace of last year. And if they are on pace for 29 wins with 20 to play, they could pick up 4-6 more games as teams try to tank for draft picks.
We shall see.