Are the Minnesota Timberwolves for actual or American Fiction?

It’s Oscars Week, which appears like pretty much as good a time as any to attract up the NBA storylines and characters which may double as Oscar nominees.The Minnesota Timberwolves’ misleading season has been one of many hottest matters within the West so let’s begin there.

Each dialog pertaining to the Minnesota Timberwolves circles again round to a single query: Are they for actual or a figment of our common season imaginations? The Stagg R. Leigh pseudonym utilized by American Fiction’s Thelonius “Monk” Ellison to current a trope-filled autobiography to the general public is instructive relating to the Timberwolves season. The fatalism hooked up to the Minnesota Timberwolfes is the NBA’s 2024 Pafology.

Outdoors of Minnesota, the Wolves’ pacing the Western Convention standings has been thought of to be as deceptive as Alex Rodriguez’s pigment throughout Black Historical past Month or Karl-Anthony Cities’ generational code-switching. They’re the NBA’s largest conundrum and its best redemption story.

I’ll depart it to the X streets to make a ruling on A-Rod’s short-term invite to the cookout or Cities’ actual voice, however that’s solely a part of what makes this T-Wolves group so compelling. They surrendered extra 15-point fourth-quarter leads than any group in The Affiliation, however led the West from November by means of March. On Thursday, they misplaced Cities for the remainder of the common season. In the event that they’re fortunate, he’ll return throughout the postseason on a minutes restriction. On Friday evening, they surrendered first place within the West to the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder.

Each few seasons a group emerges after years of futility, however the reception in the direction of Minnesota feels completely different by some means.

Their genre-bending lineup is constructed on the bones of a contrarian offensive basis that’s antithetical to the trendy standing, whereas being carried out by an offensive-minded head coach who’s orchestrating a defensive juggernaut.

Tim Connelly and Chris Finch’s experiment is missing in flooring spacers past Cities and Rudy Gobert’s repute precedes him. He’s one of many 4 gamers to ever declare a trio of Defensive Gamers of the Yr awards, and is on monitor to assert a fourth. Minnesota is the NBA’s greatest at defending the paint and at forcing groups into off capturing nights. Nevertheless, the speedy evolution of the sport has created a notion of their defensive anchor as an antiquated determine. Not like modern leviathans, he can’t stretch the ground and he’s not getting any youthful.

The NBA’s prime protection props up a scoring offense that makes an attempt fewer triples per evening than all however 5 groups and ranks 18th in offensive score. Behind Anthony Edwards’ the backcourt is lackluster. As a substitute, they’re reliant on contributions from new age bigs Naz Reid and KAT, plus an anachronistic rim rolling 7-footer in Gobert whose goofball antics 4 years in the past this week made him the NBA’s Affected person Zero of the pandemic.

Cities is the one remnant of the squad Jimmy Butler as soon as shredded with backups in a legendary follow amid his commerce standoff. Even earlier than Cities’ meniscus tear, he was vulnerable to the very best of highs and the bottom of lows within the playoffs. His 42 p.c three-shooting proportion this season was a notch above his 39 p.c profession common. In three postseason appearances although, his numbers past the arc dipped by 9 proportion factors to .333, and his profession efficient discipline purpose p.c of 57.7 p.c dipped six factors within the postseason.

Finch shrinking Cities’ function to make room for Anthony Edwards because the alpha altered this group’s trajectory, however doubts stay. The immaturity Finch known as out on Cities’ 60-point evening in January encapsulated the considerations of working the offense by means of KAT. On one hand, what number of second choices can attain the boiling level it takes to generate 60 factors in an evening? Dame, possibly Harden?

On the opposite, the tunnel imaginative and prescient Cities displays when he goes on the assault contributes to the notion of him as a low basketball IQ stat-chaser. Previous to his knee harm, Cities led the league in turnover price on drives to the cup and was en path to main the league in offensive fouls dedicated for the third time. He completed second to Demarcus Cousins in offensive fouls in two different seasons, which tracks given how Finch as soon as designed the scheme round Boogie and Anthony Davis in New Orleans in 2016.

These causes have factored into T-Wolves skepticism, resulting in Finch opining final week, “I’m unsure anybody within the league fears us… I don’t suppose we actually concern anybody, both.”

Minnesota’s fourth quarter offense has been their Achilles heel, however City’s left knee’s meniscus could spoil their season. His sudden meniscus surgical procedure and prolonged restoration interval means we may by no means know what heights this iteration may attain. Naz Reid, the one JellyFam alum to achieve the NBA, has been thrust again right into a beginning function, the place he’ll get to showcase among the silliest off the dribble strikes you’ll see this aspect of Wembanyama from a giant. A 12 months in the past, he led the league in factors per minute final season after the 2023 All-Star Break.

Whittling the Timberwolves’ prospects right down to tropes based mostly on previous playoff outcomes could also be a mistake, although, if Anthony Edwards locks in. Hours after the disclosure of Cities’ harm rocked the group, Edwards went supernova, scoring 16 of his 44 factors within the fourth quarter of a win over the Indiana Pacers. Within the remaining seconds, he rejected an Aaron Nesmith lay-in into the shadow realm to safe a win and their standing within the West. Edwards leaped so excessive that he bumped his head on the underside of the backboard within the course of.

Then, on the second evening of a back-to-back, Edwards shot 7-for-27 in an additional time loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have been lacking their lone 2024 All-Star, Donovan Mitchell. Cities is off the stress cooker for now, however his burden now falls onto Edwards’ shoulders. If he and Gobert can’t deal with the burden, their quantum leap season will likely be remembered as a mirage.

Discover DJ Dunson on X: @cerebralsportex

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