5 Biggest Mistakes the Minnesota Timberwolves Made This Season
What happened to all of that promise?
Prior to the 2013-14 NBA regular season, one of the most popular choices to make the leap from the lottery to the playoffs was the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kevin Love appeared to be receiving the help that he's needed, and thus, expectations grew.
As the season winds down, however, Minnesota is 35-35 and seven games back of the No. 8 seed. With the postseason again becoming something of a pipe dream, the community of T-Wolves fans are left asking one question.
Where did it all go wrong?
The Public Dispute
There's nothing worse for a team on the cusp of reaching the postseason than revealing locker room tension to the public eye.
Earlier this season, Kevin Love made headlines when he called out teammates Dante Cunningham and J.J. Barea. It was fair for Love to want his teammates to be more engaged during timeouts, but there was a twist: Love aired his grievances publicly.
If and when I did that last year when maybe I didn’t sit out for the game for all 48 minutes ... They would’ve aired me out.
Whether you think Love was holding a grudge or he was in the clear, this is the type of issue that shouldn't leave the locker room.
No one's going to blame Love for Minnesota's up-and-down season—no one in their right mind, that is. Nevertheless, Love made the cardinal sin of complaining to the media instead of solving the issue within the sacred confines of the locker room.
According a report via the Associated Press, Barea agreed with Love's sentiment. He also admitted that he wished Love would've gone to him instead of the media.
Cunningham refused comment.
It could've been forgotten within a day in the T-Wolves locker room, but that was headline gold and it kept a cloud over the T-Wolves during their times of struggle.
Derrick Williams Trade
One way or another, Derrick Williams was going to be let go by the Minnesota Timberwolves. The former No. 2 overall draft choice had his moments, but it became abundantly clear that he didn't fit into Minnesota's long-term or short-term plans.
It proceeded to trade a 22-year-old with upside for a player who's averaging just 13.6 minutes per game in a T-Wolves uniform.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute appeared to be a good acquisition on paper, but it never worked out. The defensive specialist went from what Minnesota needed to a player who has been unable to remain on the court.
Whether you blame Rick Adelman or Flip Saunders, someone made a mistake with this trade. Williams may not have star trade value, but it's hard to imagine that Mbah a Moute was the best the T-Wolves could receive as compensation.
If nothing else, Minnesota should be giving Mbah a Moute more run considering they gave up Williams to get him.
Misuse of Shabazz Muhammad
The Minnesota Timberwolves have spent the entirety of the season searching or answers at small forward. Corey Brewer has been solid, but not the defensive force that he was expected to be, while Chase Budinger is shooting 37.6 percent from the floor.
Somehow, neither of those concerns have led to Shabazz Muhammad seeing consistent playing time.
The T-Wolves went through some trouble to acquire Muhammad on draft night, selecting and trading Trey Burke to get a deal done. Per 1500 ESPN, president of basketball operations Flip Saunders went as far as calling Muhammad a "natural scorer."
In turn, it's difficult to comprehend why the lottery pick is only receiving 7.9 minutes per game.
On Feb. 8, Muhammad scored 12 points in 17 minutes and got to the line with relative ease. Over his next three games, Muhammad received a grand total of nine minutes on the court.
On Feb. 25, Muhammad scored a career-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting in 24 minutes. He's seen more than 14 minutes in just one game since then, when he posted nine points and five rebounds in 17 minutes on Mar. 23.
Rick Adelman may be one of the winningest coaches in NBA history, but he's done a very questionable job of developing Muhammad.
The Lost Trade
It's no secret that the Memphis Grizzlies' front office wants to break up a successful roster as badly as the players want to return to the Western Conference Finals. Management let go of Lionel Hollins after the best season in franchise history and were prepared to deal two critical defenders.
For whatever the reason, the T-Wolves failed to get the franchise-altering deal done.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Grizzlies and T-Wolves engaged in talks before the 2014 NBA trade deadline. The deal was centered around Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince, with J.J. Barea and Chase Budinger serving as compensation.
Minnesota failed to execute. Who's to blame is up for question, but this deal was a missed opportunity.
Hindsight is painful, but missing out on a critical upgrade is what truly hurts.
Prior to the 2013-14 regular season, Allen was named the best perimeter defender in the NBA by general managers, per NBA.com. Allen also checked in as the No. 3 overall defender on that list, and it's hard to argue with that logic.
Minnesota is an elite offensive team, but it ranks No. 24 in scoring defense. More importantly, it ranks dead last in opponent field-goal percentage at an insanely horrendous 47.2 percent and is No. 19 in opponent three-point field-goal percentage.
You'd think Minnesota would be eager to bring in the NBA's top perimeter defender and a still effective lengthy wing at one of its weakest positions.
For perspective, the Timberwolves are allowing 109.1 points per game since the trade deadline. They've held their opponents below 100 points in just two of those 16 games.
Delay in Playing Gorgui Dieng
If you're at all familiar with the NBA, you know that the Minnesota Timberwolves are a terrible defensive team. Thus far, they're allowing an average of 103.6 points per game and rank No. 26 in points allowed in the paint per game, per NBA.com.
At the heart of their issues are two offensive-minded star big men who fail to contribute much on the opposite end.
Thus, one can't help but wonder why it took Minnesota so long to play Gorgui Dieng.
It's a small sample size, but Dieng is averaging 12.7 points and 14.0 rebounds over the past six games. Those aren't just strong numbers, but they're increasingly impressive feats that jump off of the page.
In that six-game span, Dieng has five double-doubles and another outing with six points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes.
Rather than harping on his recent achievements, it's important to note that Dieng has been valuable all season.
Per NBA.com, Dieng has held opponents an even 50 percent shooting when he meets them at the rim. That may not be an elite number, but the only other qualified interior player on the roster who has a better mark is Ronny Turiaf.
It took Turiaf going down for Minnesota to realize that they have an interior force who won an NCAA championship in a defense-first system just one year ago.