6 reasons why the Wolves are off to a hot start

Even the national media is in on Minnesota's hot start.
Author:
Publish date:

The Timberwolves are 3-0 to start the season and starting to turn heads on the national level.

After most outlets pegged them to be outside the top eight in the Western Conference, Minnesota has jumped into the top five of power rankings on NBA.com (No. 5) and CBS Sports (No. 3).

Nearly everything is clicking right now for the Wolves, and these are among the reasons why they're off to their best start since 2013-14. 

Towns playing out of his mind

Towns has been a monster through three games. Entering play Monday, Towns ranked third in scoring (32.0), sixth in rebounds (13.3), second in steals (3.0) and is averaging the second most 3-pointers made per game (5.0). 

Fans have seen Towns' offensive game expand in his previous four seasons but the big man – at least early on – is starting to make strides on the defensive end.

NBA.com noted that Towns has been the best him protector in the league with opponents shooting just 34% against him.

3-point attempts

We saw in the preseason that the Wolves were finally to starting to adopt a heavy 3-point philosophy and they've carried that over into the regular season.

Through three games, the Wolves have attempted 42 threes per game (a 42% increase from last season), which is the second most in the league.

However, the Wolves are converting just 30% of their attempts, which ranks 26th in the NBA. Regardless of the percentage, clearly the uptick in attempts is leading to a more versatile offense. 

Towns and Jake Layman are the only players hitting at least 37% of their attempts but players like Robert Covington and Andrew Wiggins, who are attempting a heathy dosage, should see their shots start falling more.

Wiggins' clutch moments

Speaking of Wiggins, his 3-point barrage on Sunday against the Miami Heat was seriously a top-three highlight in his six-year career.

After being benched earlier in the game, Wiggins came alive in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 points over four-consecutive possessions, including three 3-pointers putting the game out of reach. 

Wiggins previously had missed his first 13 shots from behind the arc before going 4-for-4 against the Heat. 

The former No. 1 overall pick also knocked down some clutch shots in Minnesota's season-opening overtime win against Brooklyn.

Although he's still had some frustrating moments sandwiched in between this season, hopefully he's turning a corner for good because the Wolves can't afford for him to be the player he's been the past two seasons.  

Balanced offense and defense

Through three games, the Wolves offense is one of the best in the league and their defense has been right in the middle.

  • Offensive rating 111.6 (5th) 
  • Defensive rating 102.4 (14th)

Minnesota has only played Eastern Conference teams so far and will obviously face better competition as the schedule heats up. 

But let's put this in a vacuum for a second and if the Wolves are fifth in offense and 14th in defense by year's end, that's probably good enough to be in the playoff conversation.

Second-chance points

When you have a force like Towns on the glass, grabbing up offensive rebounds is almost unfair. 

Through three games, the Wolves are picking up the third most offensive rebounds (13 per game) in the league, but their 17.3 second-chance points per game are the most in the league.

Maybe what's more surprising is Wiggins is leading the team with 2.7 offensive rebounds per game. For someone who's averaged four total rebounds per game in his career, it's another huge stride for Wiggins.

Bench is dialed in

The Timberwolves' starting five of Towns, Covington, Wiggins, Treveon Graham and Jeff Teague are still trying to gel, but Minnesota's bench has seen multiple players step up.

Josh Okogie has been Ryan Saunders' sixth man and rightfully so. Okogie brings the exact kind energy and efficiency this team needs.

Meanwhile, Layman's been hitting his threes and backup point guard Shabazz Napier has been as advertised when subbed in for Teague.

Entering play Monday, all three of the aforementioned reserves are in the top four in the league for plus/minus, which is exactly what you want to see from your bench.

  • Okogie + 45 (1st) 
  • Layman +40 (3rd)
  • Napier +38 (4th)

Minnesota will look to improve to 4-0 when they play at Philadelphia Wednesday night. 

Next Up

Cam Talbot

Wild improve to 4-1 with victory over Dubnyk, Sharks

The 4-1 win gives the Wild four victories in five games to start the season.

Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 9.08.16 PM

Daughter of MN Supreme Court Justice, Allina Health CEO found dead in Iowa

The 21-year-old was found dead in the parking lot of a sorority, according to police.

Screen Shot 2020-09-04 at 8.42.40 PM

Federal charges: MN marijuana lobbyist threatened U.S. representative

"I want you to be as scared as possible," the voicemail allegedly says.

coronavirus, masks, covid-19

Wisconsin Republicans aim to end governor's mask mandate

They've introduced a resolution to remove the governor's emergency powers.

Ted Schweich

Community group hopes to install billboard to get neighbor a kidney

A group called "Team Ted" aims to raise $5,000 to find their friend a kidney donor.

Andrew Palmer

Charges: Coach raped teenage girl on Minnesota basketball team

The 33-year-old head coach has been charged in connection to the alleged crimes.

radio station, microphone

WCCO Radio's program director leaves the company

It's not clear why John Hanson and the station parted ways.

Minneapolis skyline

Minneapolis a step closer to banning facial recognition technology

There are concerns about it leading to a surveillance state, and that it could harm disadvantaged communities.

covid-19, coronavirus, PPE

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Friday, January 22

Nearly 50,000 Minnesotans have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Related

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 9.26.42 PM

Kyrie Irving scores 50 but Wolves outlast Nets in overtime

Minnesota led by as many as 17 points in the first half.

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 8.50.33 AM

5 things to watch for as the Wolves open the season in Brooklyn

Minnesota opens the season at Brooklyn Wednesday night.

Screen Shot 2019-10-15 at 8.59.42 AM

Do the Wolves have the horses to be a legit 3-and-D team?

If the preseason is any indication, the Wolves will be launching a ton of threes.

Andrew Wiggins

Nuggets smother Timberwolves in overtime loss.

The Timberwolves shot just 6-for-44 from three-point range.

Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins' late explosion lifts Wolves to 3-0 start

Wiggins began the season missing his first 13 shots from beyond the arc, but came alive in the final three minutes for a string of 11 straight points in the fourth quarter.

Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins shines again Timberwolves beat Pistons

The Timberwolves beat the Pistons for the first time since 2014.