As the season reaches its end, we're here with one more game. Oddly enough, it's a game of one team with a great player, but questionable future, while the other team sits in the lottery, but pundits throughout the basketball intelligentsia believe this team's days of fishing for ping-pong balls are close to being over. It's the New Orleans Pelicans (30-51) against the Minnesota Timberwolves (28-53). The Pelicans already clinched the sixth slot in the lottery, so, good thing this game doesn't matter in the lottery race.
Since the All-Star break, the Wolves are 27th in the league in defensive efficiency at 109.1 points per 100 possession, while sporting the 13th best offense at 105.5 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com's stats. They're elite at getting to the line - third in the league in free throw rate, but can't keep a soul off the glass, allowing the highest opponent offensive rebound rate since the break at 27.6 percent. So in all, we have some numbers to like, but some that could be improved.
The Wolves are about to finish another lottery season. However, the optimism brimming around this team is everywhere and rightly so as the Wolves have several young players emerging, one likely towards stardom. Karl-Anthony Towns is a monster. He's already one of the best centers in the league, capable of defending the rim and spacing the floor. Per Nylon Calculus' rim protection stats, Towns is allowing 48 percent at the rim, but he's 14th in the league at points saved per 36 and eights in points saved per game.
He's a rookie.
Towns is firmly at the top of the next wave of franchise players, and I firmly believe he could be a top-15 player in the league as early as next season.
Andrew Wiggins is another incredible talent. He needs to work on his shooting, but everything seems to be there on both ends of the floor. Ricky Rubio is underrated at this point, Zach LaVine, not a point guard, is a dynamic player, brimming with ability and I still don't exactly know what Shabazz Muhammad is yet, but he has a wing's body with a power forward's game.
It's painfully apparent this team needs some more shooting on the roster. The lottery should offer someone like Jamal Murray or Buddy Hield.
I also think this team needs a new head coach. Nothing against Sam Mitchell, but with talents like Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine on the roster, I think you want someone who can mold them a bit better. For instance, Wiggins needs to improve off the ball so a coach with more offensive creativity could be a boon to this roster and their development. Candidates like David Blatt and Tom Thibodeau could help them take the next step, and a group wide step forward could result in the team's first playoff appearance since the 2003-2004 season.
Keys to Victory
Force the Wolves to shoot - As I said before, the Wolves are bad at shooting the basketball and they don't take a ton of threes either. Outside of LaVine's 39 percent, the Wolves' main players sit at 34% or below. Rubio is an awful shooter, Wiggins has seen his three-point shooting numbers decline from his rookie season to his sophomore season. Push these guys to shoot threes and work from there
- Let the young guys play - Hey, the young guys are actually pretty good. James Ennis has played well recently, showing a three ball he didn't show during his Miami stint. He should be starting at either shooting guard or small forward, just to let him play against Minnesota's first unit. Tim Frazier has played well, moving the ball well in the second unit. In a game without many ramifications, let Frazier go up into the starting lineup.