The Timberwolves are fewer than 10 days from opening the regular season in Brooklyn, and if the preseason is any indication, it's going to be bombs away as Minnesota is finally adopting a 3-point philosophy that might put them among the league leaders in attempts from downtown.
In three preseason games, the Wolves have attempted 124 threes (41.3 per game). They're making just over 29% of them, but it's a good start nonetheless as they get with the times in the 3-point-happy league.
The past two seasons, Minnesota finished dead last in made 3-pointers and ranked 26th and 30th, respectively, in 3-point attempts.
Now let's take a look at two teams who increased their 3-point attempts and were better for it over the last two seasons. The team with the biggest increase in attempts last season was the Milwaukee Bucks and it wasn't close.
- 2017-18: 24.7 attempts (25th)
- 2018-19: 38.2 attempts (2nd)
- Record difference: +16 wins (44 in 2017-18 to 60 in 2018-19)
Before we get too excited here, the Bucks deserve a ton of credit for turning Brook Lopez (36%) into a 3-point machine to pair with Khris Middelton (37%) and Eric Bledsoe (32%), who have always been known for knocking down shots from behind the arc.
And even though he didn't attempt a ton, Giannis Antetokounmpo was their driving force, winning his first MVP award. Plus the Bucks play in the far weaker Eastern Conference whereas a similar approach by the Wolves may not reap such rich rewards in the stacked West.
To be sure, Milwaukee's increase in 3-[point attempts helped them become the No. 1 seed in the East. But their turnaround also had a lot to do with going from the 18th-ranked defensive team (defensive rating 109.1 points per 100 possessions) to the No. 1 defensive team in the NBA in 2018-19 (104.1 points per 100 possessions).
Minnesota has a long way to go in that department, but a 1-2 punch of Robert Covington and Josh Okogie on the wings could be on par with the defensive prowess Antetokounmpo and Middleton provide the Bucks.
A team that increased their output from deep in the Western Conference is the Utah Jazz.
- 2017-18: 29.6 attempts (13th)
- 2018-19: 34.0 attempts (9th)
- Record difference: +2 wins (48 in 2017-18 to 50 in 2018-19)
The Jazz really went all in on 3-point specialists last season, paring Joe Ingles with Kyle Korver (38%) while getting a full seasons out of Jae Crowder (33.1%) and up and coming star Donovan Mitchell (36%).
Meanwhile, the Jazz's defense ranked second in the NBA in back-to-back seasons but they bowed out to the Rockets in five games in the opening round of the playoffs. Houston, if you didn't notice, has led the NBA in 3-point attempts each of the last three seasons, and that's where new Wolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas comes from.
Clearly, Rosas has brought a touch of Houston's offensive philosophies to Minnesota.
It begs the question: Do the Wolves have the horses to be a good 3-and-D team?
– Covington is a surefire 3-and-D stud when healthy.
– Okogie has the D part down but his 3-point game is still in question.
– Andrew Wiggins is not known for defense, but he's flashed potential to be a quality 3-point shooter, and he'll certainly get his shots up from deep this season.
– Jake Layman is a 6-foot-9 wing who hit on 32.6% of his threes last season with Portland.
– Treveon Graham, who is primed to play a big role this season, shot 41.2% from three in 2017-18 before dropping off to 29.7% last season.
Add in Jeff Teague (career 35.6% 3-point shooter), rookie Jarret Culver and Minnesota's top 3-point shooter, Karl-Anthony Towns (40% last season) and the Wolves have the makings to become a legit 3-point shooting team.
The threes will be attempted, no doubt, but the defense is where Minnesota needs to make its biggest strides if they hope to open some eyes in the Western Conference.