The Minnesota Timberwolves (15-34) have now lost 12 games in a row. Their current losing streak began shortly after the Timberwolves went on an 0-11 stretch at the start of December. Only three other teams in the NBA have a worse record. Fans hope a recent trade will turn the Timberwolves around, but until then, they continue to be a lost cause.
The Timberwolves are currently in second-to-last place in the Western Conference standings. Only the banged-up Golden State Warriors (12-39) have a worse record out west. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks are the only other teams in the Eastern Conference that are as awful as the lackadaisical Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves are due for a win, eventually, but gamblers continue to fade them until they show any semblance of competence.
The team should be playing much better than their record indicates. They have talented players in Minnesota, including Karl-Anthony Towns, but the Timberwolves looked awful this season.
One of their biggest problems is defense. The Timberwolves have the fourth-worst defense in the NBA, allowing 115.3 points per game. Once the T-Wolves traded away defensive stud, Jimmy Butler, they were doomed. Butler clashed with teammates because he called them out for being “soft,” and not wanting to play defense.
The Timberwolves also fired defensive guru and renowned hard-ass, Tom Thibodeau, after a 19-21 start through 40 games last season. Once Thibodeau got the axe, the T-Wolves lost their core defensive philosophy. That’s putting it nicely. As one anonymous player said last season, “Once Tibs bounced, everyone stopped playing defense.”
The Timberwolves drafted Karl-Anthony Towns with the #1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. The one-and-done center from Kentucky averaged 18.3 points per game in his first season.
This season, Towns averages a career-high 26.9 points per game. He’s also pulling down 10.8 rebounds per game.
Towns missed almost a month due to a knee injury. He went on the IL in the middle of an 11-game losing streak in December, and returned to the Timberwolves during their current skid. He’s 0-16 in his last 16 games.
“We’ve been on a losing street,” said Towns after their previous loss. “We’re all just trying to find ways to get the win.”
Towns last won a game against the San Antonio Spurs in late November.
The Timberwolves are 9-23 with a healthy Towns. They’re 6-11 without him in the lineup.
December Doldrums, January Skidmarks
The Timberwolves started out hot, with a 4-1 record in the first 10 days of the season. At the end of November, the Timberwolves were 10-8 and looked like they’d battle for the #8 seed in the Western Conference.
But then winter hit and as soon as December began, the Timberwolves became a different team. Since then, the T-Wolves went a puke-inducing 5-26. The Timberwolves started December with an 11-game losing streak. They finished the month of December with a 2-12 record. Their only victories were overtime wins against Sacramento and Brooklyn.
Once 2020 began, the Timberwolves tried to put their losing ways behind them. They started out 2020 with a 3-2 record. Including their overtime wins in late December, the Timberwolves were playing their best basketball of the season by winning five out of eight games. That’s sort of sad when a 5-3 clip is your best ball of the season, but that’s life with the T-Wolves. Since then, they’ve dropped 12 games.
“These losses hurt,” said head coach Ryan Saunders. “We just got to keep pounding the rock. Eventually it breaks. You just keep pounding the rock and that’s not an empty line because if you just keep staying with it, keep being diligent in your preparation and do things the right away, eventually good things will come.”
Timberwolves Big Trade, Help or Bust?
Early rumors indicated the Timberwolves were interested in a trade sending Andrew Wiggins to the Golden State Warriors for D’Angelo Russell. Talks fell apart, and the T-Wolves missed out on a chance at adding a playmaker and scorer to play alongside with Towns.
Instead, the Timberwolves became involved in a blockbuster, 12-person trade with three other teams, including the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets, and Denver Nuggets. The key part of this very complex trade involved the Rockets shipping center Clint Capela to the Hawks.
According to a report by ESPN, the Rockets acquired Robert Covington (12.8 ppg, 6.1 rebounds) and forward Jordan Bell (3.1 ppg, 2.9 assist) from the Timberwolves. Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets acquired point guard Shabazz Napier (9.6 ppg, 5.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds) from the Timberwolves, along with Keita Bates-Diop (6.8 ppg, 3.0 rebounds) and Noah Vonelah (4.1 ppg, 4.0 rebounds).
The Timberwolves acquired shooting guard Evan Turner (3.3 ppg, 2.0 rebounds) from Atlanta and Jarred Vanderbilt (1.1 ppg, 0.9 rebounds) from Denver. They also acquired two, first-round picks.
The T-Wolves quickly dealt one of their first-round picks to acquire shooting guard Malik Beasley (7.9 ppg) and forward Juan Hernangomez (3.1 ppg, 2.8 rebounds) from the Nuggets. Both were former first-round picks.
Will the new guys help Towns? Time will tell. For now, Towns said he was a “confused KAT” on Instagram with regard to the confusing multi-team trade. But if any of the new guys can play defense, it’ll become a tremendous plus.
On Deck: Hawks, Clips, Raptors, Hornets
The Timberwolves have four games before the All-Star break with two easy opponents.The Atlanta Hawks (13-8) fly up to Minneapolis on Wednesday. Trae Young and the Hawks are fun to watch, but they don’t play any coherent defense, and give up huge chunks of points.
If there’s ever a spot to end their skid, it’s against the Hawks. The Hawks are +4 road dog, so even the bookies think tonight’s the night for Towns and the Timberwolves to end their losing streak
Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Clippers (35-15) come to town. Perhaps the Timberwolves can steal a win if Doc Rivers rests both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard due to load management.
Next Monday, the Timberwolves head to Canada to battle the defending champion Toronto Raptors (36-14).
Next Wednesday, the Timberwolves host the Charlotte Hornets (16-35) in the last game before the break. The Hornets are better than the T-Wolves, which isn’t saying much. But by chance they lose their next three games (Hawks, Clippers, and Raptors), they’ll be 0-15 and facing the Hornets in a desperate situation.
At least they have a beatable opponent before the break. When the regular season continues on February 21, the Timberwolves face four, playoff-ready teams, including Boston at home before playing Denver, Dallas, and Miami on the road.
According to the last update by William Hill, the Minnesota Timberwolves are 250/1 odds to win the 2020 NBA Championship.