The poor shooting Timberwolves are proof that NBA rosters aren’t math | Minnesota Timberwolves

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. While this is admittedly a bit of an oversimplification, if we go by definitions alone, a healthy portion of NBA franchises are crazy. The theory that teams are only the sum of their parts – and thus the higher profile and more talented the parts, the better the team – has been disproven time and time again. Sure, having a superstar or two is incredibly helpful (and maybe even necessary) to reaching the highest heights of NBA success, but it’s not a so-more-All-Stars-the-merrier proposition. One need look no further than the smoldering pile of Big Three championship hopes in Brooklyn, or last year’s disastrous Los Angeles Lakers, for proof that more isn’t always more when it comes to superstar talent. And yet, despite that decidedly unsatisfactory track record, teams seem to try this method time and time again.

The latest example of this madness can be found in the frozen tundra of Minneapolis. The Minnesota Timberwolves have been a historically underwhelming franchise to say the least. Going into the 2021-22 season, the Wolves actually held the unpleasant crown of being the all-time losing franchise in North American sports, edging out the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the dubious distinction. Expectations for the team at the time were about as low as possible, which made for an all the more feel-good story as the suddenly gelling Timberwolves piled on improbable wins — and clearly enjoyed themselves — that led to one of only two playoff appearances for team since Kevin Garnett’s halcyon days in 2004. The Wolves’ No. 1 overall draft pick in 2021, Anthony Edwards, appeared to be particularly thriving, with a new coach in Chris Finch and a roster that, while lacking defense, facilitated his growth and gave him room to do what he does best, specifically pounding on people within an inch of their lives.

Their other No. 1 overall draft pick on the roster, Karl-Anthony Towns, also had a stellar regular season last year (tempered by an underwhelming playoff run), resulting in a third All-Star Game appearance, even becoming the third big. man to win the three-point contest. All and all, even considering they lost a hotly contested series to Memphis (in sometimes head-scratching fashion), it was hard not to consider the season a resounding success. On top of that, after years of calling for the boss of Glen Taylor — the franchise’s almost universally unpopular steward — Timberwolves fans had gotten their wish: a gradual changing of the guard to a new ownership group led by Marc Lore and one-time struggling MLB superstar Alex Rodriguez which began just before the start of the 2022 season. All around, the future seemed eminently bright in the land of 10,000 lakes.

Shortly after the Timberwolves were eliminated from the playoffs at the conclusion of the aforementioned first-round series with Memphis, the new ownership group made its first major move: luring GM Tim Connelly away from his longtime post with the Denver Nuggets. The hiring marked the beginning of what would be an aggressive off-season for the team. They were perhaps a little high on their own supply of good vibes: the whiff of success they had mixed with the excitement of new ownership propelled them into a summer of decision-making that seemed based on both a “win-now”. ” mentality and a belief that rising superstar Edwards was ready to be the number one offensive option.

Anthony Edwards (1) and Rudy Gobert (27) of the Minnesota Timberwolves take the field during an October game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Photo: David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

What happened next was the result, it seems in retrospect, of an error of judgement, compounded by several other errors alongside it. To break them down one by one: the first blunder appears to be the assumption that Edwards’ electrifying postseason debut occurred despite, and not in part because of, his supporting cast — several key members of which were sent to Utah in the eventual trade for Rudy Gobert, including Patrick Beverley, who literally wept with joy as they qualified for the playoffs. Second, that Edwards was ready to be The Guy – 28 games of proof so far seems to suggest that perhaps the 21-year-old could have used another year of development. The third, the hubris that one year of overachievement was so promising that it warranted a bold “upgrade” (in quotation marks in light of the results so far) to the roster. The final, and indeed most devastating, mistake brings us back to the insanity component: the vehement belief that trading several key players for a superstar was bound to make the team better, despite questions of fit, and as we’ve already established , years of evidence to the contrary.

That trade for a superstar came with a historic price tag: to acquire Gobert, the Wolves parted with four first-round picks (three of which are unprotected), a draft pick, promising young talent Jarred Vanderbilt, Beverley, Malik Beasley, Leandro Bolmero, and their draft pick from 2022 in Walker Kessler. That’s quite a mortgage for a player who, yes, was named Defensive Player of the Year three times with as many All-Star selections, but who in eight years in the league has never made it as far as the conference finals and has come under fire for his lackluster playoff performances (even on the defensive end where he made his name in the regular season).

The early return on the gamble has not been great. Preseason hype about the new attempt at a super team led to chatter around the league about a safe playoff spot, and perhaps even a chance at a finish near the top of the Western Conference. But after Wednesday’s loss to the LA Clippers, the Timberwolves are two games under .500 with a 13-15 record, and the Natives (fans) are getting restless. The team has looked disjointed, often flawed and simply devoid of the galvanic chemistry that propelled them into last year’s Cinderella story.

In something of a departure from the “Minnesota Nice” trope, these fans aren’t shy about voicing their displeasure with their team’s performance, leading several players to acknowledge the epidemic of booing to the press at home games — though the contrast in their responses is . feels telling. Edwards thought so look inward in response to the bow, said after an early-season loss to the San Antonio Spurs: “We get booed at home, it’s crazy. We have to find ourselves… but the fans are not wrong. We look bad.” Gobert took a less introspective approach, talking about fans to Jon Krawczynski about a month later after a home loss to the Heat drew more taunts from the crowd: “There’s no team in NBA history that just had good moment, so if you are not going to support us in the tough moments, just stay home.”

Many of the losses came even before Towns went down with a calf sprain in late November (he’s expected to miss a month or more). Chemistry and fit issues — and by extension, effort and intensity issues — have clearly plagued the team all season, and the Towns injury is in some ways the least of their problems. I asked head coach Chris Finch after a particularly demoralizing loss at home to Golden State how he felt about the state of his team’s chemistry, and he didn’t mince words. “I don’t think we have good chemistry right now,” he admitted. “I think we’re trying to figure it out. But I just think on any given night we don’t really know how it’s all going to come together.”

For a team that seemed to have a life of their own last year, it’s pretty strong and frankly depressing to see them be truly joyless just a season later. That’s especially troubling with Edwards, as developmental years like these can have such a profound impact on the trajectory of a budding superstar. And the angst-ridden mess is made all the more frustrating by how completely avoidable it was, had the team just taken a more patient approach, valued the role players who gave them identity, and paid more attention to staff alchemy rather than shiny new toys and broad strokes. For as much as NBA owners and GMs like to believe otherwise, successful teams aren’t math: they’re science. Chemistry, to be exact. And doubling, tripling, quadrupling on the contrary? Well, that’s just crazy.

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