Young doesn’t mean they’re not good. The Minnesota Timberwolves beating the Chicago Bulls 102-93 in overtime with another big night from Andrew Wiggins get closer and closer to be a team that’s not just developing, but ready to compete for a playoff spot.
Wiggins scored 31 points as the Timberwolves shut down the Bulls in overtime. They’re one of the top 5 defensive teams in the league right now, and holding the Bulls to 35.5% from the field and opponents to 39.5% from the field so far tells us a lot about where this is heading. The offense is far from consistent, as you’d expect a starting lineup that includes Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince, but it seems that after a year of tanking and giving Wiggins minutes to adjust to the number-one guy role, the Timberwolves are advancing a lot quicker with their next number one (who they actually drafted) in Karl-Anthony Towns.
Towns made a big block on Derrick Rose in overtime, followed by the basket that sealed the deal, off of an offensive rebound. He finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks, all in just 27 minutes. He’s averaging 15.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per game so far and just like we wrote in the headline about Wiggins, he seems like the real thing, who just needs a little bit more experience before he’s considered as one of the top big men in the league.
The Timberwolves got some surprising contribution from another rookie, Nemanja Bjelica. It’s been five years since the Wizards took him in the draft, but the 27-year old was in no rush to make it into the NBA. He’s averaging 7.6 points in 28.8 minutes off the bench, but in 40 minutes against the Bulls scored 17 points in his best performance this season, picking up his first double double (11 rebounds) and his first double digit scoring and rebounding game. The Timberwolves still don’t feel like they’re exposed defensively either when he’s on the floor, as they have the right players to cover for him in other positions.
Playoffs? Well, in the impossible West it’s too soon to tell, and we imagine there’s going to be a drop off. The Bulls are inconsistent and a work in progress, so seeing them drop this kind of game isn’t too much of a shock. The Lakers? A joke. The Denver Nuggets aren’t going far this season as well. The Timberwolves will have more difficult tests this season, which might make the enthusiasm about their above .500 record reduce in time. But it does seem like all the pieces are falling into place, the key ones at least. Whether or not they find the right smaller ones to take this team forward, and eventually break their playoff drought (since 2004) might not be answered by the end of this season.