A new era: the Timberwolves begin resurgence under new management
October 28, 2021
Timberwolves fans had all the reason to be excited about their team’s future at the start of this NBA season. Exemplified by the $1.5 billion deal done by Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore to acquire the ball club, this season is the beginning of a new era in Minneapolis. However, even the most passionate Wolves fan wouldn’t have expected a start quite like what has occurred on the court in the first two weeks of the 2021 NBA season.
At the time of writing, the Timberwolves have lost only a single game, a close nine-point loss to the Zion-less Pelicans, but they have also had some impressive wins in this early NBA season. The best of which came against the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee, in which the big three of Edwards, Towns and Russell combined for 79 points. Still, perhaps the most impressive part of their early season success has been on the defensive side of the ball.
Through their first four games, the Timberwolves have allowed 102.5 points per game, which is sixth-best in the entire NBA. In addition, they have been lockdown in closing out shots, letting opponents shoot at a 41 percent clip which is fourth-best in the league. This is beyond just a simple improvement from last year, as much of the team’s frustrations came on the defensive side of the game.
Last year, the Timberwolves allowed 117.7 points per game and had the third-worst defensive rating in the league, partially due to their horrendous start under former head coach Ryan Saunders. Now, current head coach Chris Finch has turned the team’s trends around completely, even going back to the second half of last season.
Part of this trend is due to the acquisitions the Timberwolves have made in the most recent offseason. Patrick Beverley, known for his defensive prowess, has been immense on the defensive side of the ball and for the growing bench depth. In just over 21 minutes per game, Beverley averages 8.0 points per game, 5.0 assists per game and 1.3 steals per game. This spark off the bench has turned the team’s depth issues upside-down and now the Timberwolves look more like a full unit rather than an unbalanced rotation. A true NBA veteran now at 33-years-old, Beverley has more than lived up to what NBA fans now expect from him, intense and in-your-face perimeter defense and driven leadership, which sometimes evolves into questionable antics. We’ve even already seen an example of this in what was his very first game for the Wolves, when Beverley walked into Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas while he was taking a free throw, leading to technical fouls for both players after a small skirmish.
Yet another reason for this miraculous evolution on the defensive side the ball has been the development of second-year player Jaden McDaniels. The 28th overall pick in 2020 didn’t turn many heads in his rookie season. Even if he wasn’t necessarily bad, there weren’t many reasons to be calling him “good” either but this narrative has all changed now.
Jaden has started each of the first four games, averaging 29.3 minutes per game and has been a menace on defense. McDaniels currently holds the second-best defensive rating on the roster at an 88.1 but also has been averaging 1.8 blocks per game and 1.3 steals per game. This fast start from the youth is exactly what the Timberwolves needed to push start their new regime but the youthful energy doesn’t just stop at defense.
Possibly THE key so far for the Wolves has been the star power from last year’s first overall pick, Anthony Edwards. The 20-year-old has had a blistering start to the 2021 season, averaging 25.3 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game and 3.5 assists per game on improved shooting percentages across the board. After being passed up for the rookie of the year award last season, Edwards has come out with a vengeance for his sophomore campaign, and looks to be blossoming into the #1 star on a team that already boasts an all-star in Karl-Anthony Towns.
At the very least it’s so far, so good for the Timberwolves and their youthful roster. Chris Finch has still yet to coach a full seasons-worth of games for the Wolves, but has seemed to already tap the potential of this incredibly young team, which has made the outlook for the organization a whole different story than if we were to talk about their situation even one year ago. Things are on the up for the Minnesota Timberwolves, from top to bottom. Sometimes change can be scary, but the changes Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore have made in their months in the driver’s seat have already been paying off. With a team as young as these Wolves, the sky’s the limit and they are just cracking the surface going 3-1 to start the season.