NBA.com's David Aldridge writes a lot about basketball on Mondays. The rest of the week he doesn't, so when he writes about your team you should listen.
On Monday, Aldridge wrote a lengthy column on the struggling Timberwolves, digging deep into the veins of a team that he says is a "long, long ways away from being a factor in the West."
Aldridge admits that he is among the large group of experts who predicted the Wolves to bust out of a decade-plus-long slump way too soon. The reason: it takes time time to develop in head coach Tom Thibodeau's system.
Just because the coach is a defensive specialist doesn’t mean that they’re going to get it right away.
Derek Rose, who torched the Wolves on Friday and played for Thibodeau in Chicago for five years, explained what it's like.
“It takes time with Thibs, especially with the effort that he wants on the floor, all the time,” Rose told Aldridge. “He’s a hard-nosed coach. But with that group, I heard he’s taking his time with them, giving them space to make mistakes. It’s going to take time. They’re a young group, trying to figure out what their identity is going to be. Just because the coach is a defensive specialist doesn’t mean that they’re going to get it right away.”
Zach Harper of AWolfAmongWolves.com sees progress. Progress in the way Minnesota has evolved from a team that opened up big leads only to lose in clueless fashion to a team that rallies from deficits and wins or loses at the wire. The latter of which, Harper believes, is much better.
"I still insist that patience is needed with this team learning the discipline that Tom Thibodeau demands, even if the games end up resulting in a Wolves victory," Harper wrote.
But as both Aldridge and Harper point out, defense remains the biggest issue with the Wolves.
The starters – Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng – are getting gored on a nightly basis. But a lineup filled mostly with reserves – Kris Dunn, LaVine, Nemanja Bjelica, Shabazz Muhammad and Cole Aldrich – has been stout the last two games, possibly paving the way for more playing time.
Regardless of who's on the floor, the next two weeks are going to be brutal with three games against the three best offenses in the NBA – Golden State, Toronto and Houston – and all six games against current playoff teams.
- Dec. 6 – vs. Spurs (16-4)
- Dec. 8 – at Raptors (14-6)
- Dec. 9 – vs. Pistons (11-11)
- Dec. 11 – vs. Warriors (17-3)
- Dec. 13 – at Bulls (11-8)
- Dec. 17 – vs. Rockets (13-7)
It's entirely possible that Minnesota comes out of this stretch at 6-20, speeding like bullet towards another top five pick in the draft.