Minnesota’s has risen from a bad to an average team this year. They aren’t the old Minnesota that good teams beat by showing up. Minnesota has already beaten Milwaukee, Miami, Lakers, Philadelphia and Indiana all at least play-in to the playoffs teams last year. Why the change, like most improving teams it starts with defense.
Gerson Rosas, since deposed GM, decided to hire Chris Finch as the head coach. Finch was taken from Toronto’s staff mid year. He was also selected without much of an interview process. The NBA rarely does this. Finch, had the unenviable task of trying to get established players to commit to the team defensively. Minnesota was a team that didn’t like to defend. They had talent with Karl Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and rising young player Anthony Edwards. Most NBA people believe that it is difficult to take veterans who are scorers and not good defenders and get them to make a commitment to defend. As was the case for Russell and Towns.
The Detail Is In The Numbers
Finch, according to the numbers, has been successful so far this year getting Minnesota to defend. Their defense in the first 21 games this year has allowed 106 points per 100 possessions as compared to 116.2 last year. Their offensive production has also decreased this year decreasing from 110.6 to 107.6. Opposing teams are shooting at 50.8 percent this year as compared to 52.3 last year. Minnesota is scoring less but winning more. Minnesota was 23 – 49 last year. This year they’ve already won 11 games. That is almost have of last year’s total. They sit in ninth place and if the season ended today they would play the Lakers in a play-in game. Who could have predicted that.
To further demonstrate the buy in by veterans let’s look at D’Angelo Russell’s stats. Long known as a streak shooter but also as a player that didn’t defend well. Russell has changed the narrative. His defensive rating is 97.8 per 100 possessions. He is one of only six players with a defensive rating under 100. Russell’s rating last year was 116.8. Russell is buying into the defense first attitude that the Wolves seem to be adapting.
Though a small sampling size, 21 games, if the Wolves are to get to the playoffs they need to continue to defend.
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