I've seen some pretty terrible Timberwolves teams throughout the years, we all have, the thing that makes this season different is one word: expectations. The Wolves were expected to be great and yet they're now three games below .500 after another close loss to an inferior squad.
Before the game Adelman hinted that he may look to change his rotations and to his credit he did, however if anyone out there can explain playing J.J. Barea in the crunch time fourth quarter minutes while Rubio sat on the bench--I would most certainly welcome an explanation.
J.J. Barea is nowhere near the player he was for the Dallas Mavericks back in 2011 when he helped them win a title. He's a shell of that player and the worst part about all of it is, that the Timberwolves have a capable reserve point guard who could take his minutes: A.J. Price.
Price did see some court time paired with J.J. Barea for the final few minutes of the third quarter and the the early part of the fourth. I could understand playing Price & Shved together, but J.J. & A.J.? By and large Shved has been one of the best players off the bench these past couple weeks and Barea has been the definite worst.
I know why Adelman stuck with him throughout the second half, but I completely disagree with it. Yes, Barea did score 8 of his 14 points in the third quarter and yes, Ricky Rubio struggled early on, but the last thing I want is Barea playing 'hero ball' with the game on the line as he did tonight. He missed two threes with under a minute to play and also airballed a layup attempt (it may have been tipped).
With a player like Rubio who can have off nights where he struggles to distribute the ball or play good perimeter defense, you need a good reserve point guard to come off the bench. That is why a trade with the Denver Nuggets for Andre Miller would make total sense. The cost would probably be a player like Dante Cunningham, but the Wolves can't keep playing Barea if they want to win.
J.J. isn't the only problem. Adelman's rotations are a problem, Minnesota's terrible shooting percentages, paper thin defense, bad body language and chemistry issues are all problems! That's just scratching the surface of what's gone wrong this year.
It's not a lost season yet, but the Wolves are almost halfway through the year and they sit three games under .500. That would be just fine if they played in the Eastern Conference. Heck, if they play out East they'd be the 7th seed (the 16-22 Nets are the 7th seed and even the 17-24 Bobcats are the 8th). However, the fact is that they're not in the Eastern Conference and if they want to end this playoff drought they've got to find resolutions to all these problems.
I'm a big Timberwolves fan and I've always enjoyed watching the games (even when the Wolves were terrible), but as I said before--the reason why I'm really not enjoying watching these guys play is because they don't seem to be playing to win despite this being the most talented Wolves squad in years. A team VERY capable of making the playoffs, but obviously lacking the drive and desire to get over the hump.
If the Wolves continue to slip over the next month, you can't expect to see even worse basketball as all of the players will check out.
One change that I think would be very beneficial is a rotational change. Just hear me out. Keep Rubio, Martin, Love & Pek in the starting lineup and swap Brewer with Mbah a Moute. Then have a second unit of Shved, Brewer, Budinger, Cunningham & Turiaf as your second unit. Bench J.J. because he's an inconsistent mess. I know the Wolves would be giving up a bit of offense by moving Brewer to the bench, but this way you keep the defense in the starting lineup and give that first unit a bit more rebounding, too. Brewer will thrive in his natural role as a sixth man/role player who brings energy off the bench. The only problem I foresee with this switch would be the ball handling of the reserves. We know that Shved struggles to play without another ball handler out on the court with him, but it can't hurt to get a look at this change. It's just one idea and I'd like to hear yours! Comment below.
I really like Rick Adelman and his tenure as a head coach in this League speaks for itself--he's a future Hall of Famer. That being said, it's perfectly clear in his time here as the Wolves' head coach that he's someone who doesn't embrace change. Unless forced by injuries his rotations stay much the same all year long. In all honesty, it's really not all on Adelman, if you watched the game you know it's the players who should shoulder most of the blame. They're playing 'not to lose' and when you do that...you lose.
Tonight's box score...
The Raptors shot just 43.6% from the field, but they hit 11 three-pointers to Minnesota's 3 and that was the key to this loss. It's almost as though we're watching a team that's afraid to win. I think that's probably the best I can sum it up.
The Wolves will play again tomorrow night vs. the 14-27 Utah Jazz, back at the Target Center. If the Wolves lose to the Jazz there will be a riot over social media and if they win it will mean absolutely nothing--because it's a team they should beat...easily.