Eighty-two games have come and gone and another Timberwolves season has reached its end. By the most optimistic expectations, the season was a disappointment. After 12 years of missing the playoffs, fans hoped this season would avoid extending the streak. Unfortunately, the Timberwolves won just 31 games– two more than last season.
This has brought up a lot of discussion about the team. That’s why I thought this would be a good time to do my first ever Twitter mailbag. After all, readers and listeners are why I’m able to do this, so why not have a year-end post answering the questions they have. I solicited questions on Wednesday and received a good number of responses. Some of the questions overlapped but there were some commonalities with what to do in free agency and the future of current players on the roster. Without further adieu, let’s dig in.
How worried should we be about Kris Dunn? – @RossWetLand
I kept meaning to write about Dunn but never got to it. So, now would be a great time to answer this question. It depends on how you view Dunn. If you see him as a point guard, that might be a problem. If you view him as a lockdown combo guard, then you may see a future for him.
The big problem with Dunn is his shooting. He posted a 41.1 effective field goal percentage (eFG)– a metric that accounts for a 3-pointer being worth more than a 2-pointer. If you have an eFG above 50, you’re considered average. However, Dunn is a below average shooter everywhere on the floor: at the rim, from midrange, and beyond the arc. His eFG ranked 31-of-42 rookie guards and only three ranked below him played more than 64 games.
Dunn’s 2.11 assist-to-turnover ratio ranked 14th among rookie guards and just nine of his 86 turnovers were bad passes. He also accounted for 18 percent of his team’s assists when he was on the floor. That’s not great but it’s not bad either.
However, Dunn established himself as a defensive playmaker, posting the second-highest steal percentage of rookie guards. Tom Thibodeau often trusted Dunn with disrupting some of their opponent’s better wing players. That says a lot. Dunn could sustain a 10-year career on defense alone but he is going to need to improve offensively.
We would be wise to remember that a four-year college player is still a rookie and not necessarily NBA-ready. Not everyone can be Damian Lillard.
What should we do with Shabazz Muhammad? – @R_Spencer
This is a big question the team will have to answer. The Wolves aren’t loaded with capable scoring bench players but we may have seen the last of Muhammad in Minnesota. At his best, he hits 3-pointers above a 40 percent clip; that player is worth over $15 million per year. The problem is that he’s inconsistent.
Muhammad shot above 40 percent in December and January but underwhelmed from distance the rest of the season. In the other months, he shot 18-for-78 or 23 percent. He shot below 30 percent in his first and third seasons. In his second he shot 39.2 percent from deep. This season, he shot 34.3 percent on 3-pointers. Four years in and we still don’t know if he’s a shooter or not.
He doesn’t add much on defense, doesn’t move the ball enough, but is a capable rebounder. Given this is the the team’s last summer with space, I don’t think it makes sense to tie up a lot of money in Muhammad. I would let him hit restricted free agency and see what he gets. If he’s offered four years and $48 million, I think you consider that. However, it seems more likely he gets more than that and that’s where I draw the line.
Who is Minnesota’s starting point guard opening day 2017-18? – @bryan_horwath
I get the suspicion it will be Ricky Rubio. Despite his strong play, I think that’s only increased his value to the team. I don’t think three months will be enough to alter his perception around the league and make teams willing to give up much more to get him. Plus, there isn’t an apparent, viable replacement for him on the roster. Not yet, anyway.
What the heck was the whole Lance Stephenson thing? Signed to 2 10 day contracts and injured twice only to sign a 3 year deal elsewhere? – @klasker
I get the sense that the team didn’t want to give him a long-term deal and wanted to let him go to pursue one. They also may have wanted to get a look at Omri Casspi, who unexpectedly became available.
Is there an appropriate replacement for Ricky at PG this offseason?- @THR33_MUNK33Z
There will be some options on the market but some may be unrealistic or have to pay more to lure them. Jrue Holliday, Jeff Teague, and George Hill strike me in the tier below Chris Paul. Holliday has his injury concerns but is productive when healthy. You either love or hate Teague, as a player. Hill has had a great season for the Jazz and it seems like they’ll do what it takes to retain him. In fact, it seems likely that all three will try to keep them.
Maybe there isn’t a starter on the market that could replace Rubio but moving Tyus Jones or Dunn could create space for a good backup. If the Warriors let Shaun Livingston walk, that might be a good fit. Darren Collison would be fine as a veteran backup, too. This team needs an experienced player to run the offense when Rubio goes to the bench. That’s assuming they keep him, of course.
Moving the #1 pick for vet such as [Eric] Bledsoe, Aaron Gordon? – @Tggoogs
I’m not against the Timberwolves moving the pick. It’s not like they need another 19-year-old to develop. Adding a veteran should be a priority. I’m not sure Bledsoe is the move, though. At 6’1, he’s a tad undersized and is an average floor spacer in a good year. He’s also had some injury concerns and is owed $29.5 million over the next two seasons.
I wouldn’t necessarily consider Gordon a vet, either. He’s 21 years old and could add frontcourt depth. But I’m not sure the Timberwolves need another player who doesn’t add a lot on defense and can’t shoot.
Maybe they revisit the Jimmy Butler deal but it still seems unlikely the Bulls deal with Thibodeau.
Is Crunch getting a makeover too?- @TheRealJoeWeum
I would assume he at least gets a new jersey. Other than that, it would make sense since everything from the arena to the court is getting a facelift.
What moves do u think the Wolves must address heading into the offseason? – @jamEsJamalBlk
Honestly, anywhere they can get it. This team was plagued by a lack of depth, highlight by the tailspin following Nemanja Bjelica being out for the season with injury. Bjelica has his moments but a player like him doesn’t derail a playoff team’s season. It was always hard to see them making the playoffs because of their depth.
It’s clear that the frontcourt needs help. Neither Cole Aldrich nor Jordan HIll, two of the team’s signings last summer, contributed much. Adreian Payne doesn’t figure into the big picture. That means finding help behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng.
They still need to figure out if Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins play the same position or not. If they do, then they’ll need to find a starting and a backup wing player. Improving the point guard situation wouldn’t hurt, either.
Overall, this team needs, defenders, rebounders, and shooting. Aside from the core plus Dieng, it seems that nothing else is concrete on the roster. If this was a season of evaluation, the team should put their analysis into action.
In your opinion, who is the #1 FA the Timberwolves should be targeting this offseason?- @Jon_Blomquist
Looking at this list of potential free agents, three stick out to me. Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker of the Raptors could be beneficial. Patterson could bolster the frontcourt rotation and Tucker could bring the perimeter defense. Patty Mills could be a nice, veteran addition to the backcourt since Thibodeau has plucked several former members of the Spurs organization in his short tenure.
Should the Wolves consider Lavine leading the 2nd unit like [Andre] Iguodala or [Manu] Ginobili?- @nated80
Ever since entering the Wolves’ starting lineup in the 2015-2016 season, they’ve had one of the worst benches in the league. The other problem is that Andrew Wiggins seems to thrive as a shooting guard. Moving LaVine to the bench could solve both problems.
It’s worth it to me if LaVine would willingly come off the bench. His skillset would thrive against opposing reserves and could capably manage the offense on most nights. Defense is still a concern but this could be a way to prevent the drop-off we saw when the bench came in.
They’ll likely be able to give this a test run when they ease him back into the rotation next season.