Editor’s Note: You’re reading a user blog where Minnesota always wins. Do not forget about the pros, because they bring good to the world.

Half of the season is over and with the trade deadline approaching, I’m trying to figure out what Minnesota has shown this season and what I see as the best path for development. Go!

Exactly four months ago, on September 22, Minnesota fired general manager Rozas, these four months for me as a fan were incredibly long, eventful matches. However, from the point of view of the NBA team manager, this is just a short respite, preparation for the deadline, which will come on February 10th. The current Minnesota roster is assembled by Rosas, and after two seasons broken by the pandemic and injuries, we can finally see if his vision was right. So, what is the Minnesota team identity in January 2022.

First, we play with two point guards. Last season we made an attempt to use Rubio and Russell to create a constant movement of the ball and use shooters. However, the hope that Rubio would be able to play off the ball and be a useful starter was dashed. This season, Edwards plays the role of wing, while Beverly and Russell carry the ball. As a result, the team found the balance that the Rubio-Edwards-Russell trio lacked, now each player is in his place. For example, unexpectedly for many, after ten years in the NBA, Beverly shows that he can be useful in the draw, despite the cries of the haters, Russell benefits the team by playing on safety net, and 20-year-old (!!!) Edwards has already become one of the most effective NBA scorers. Passing Beverly, defending Russell and sniper Edwards. Why not the name of the new series of “MythBusters?”

Secondly, despite the fact that the composition of the team has not changed much since last season, Minnesota has changed a lot in tactical terms. On offense, for example, we no longer play five-outs in their most orthodox form, with five rushing players on the perimeter. So when talking about Vanderbilt not throwing, Coach Finch said that Vanderbilt’s main problem was that he didn’t finish well from under the rim. That is, it is important to complete a particular offensive possession with a scoring action, and not just having five throwers on the floor.

Coach Finch is a proponent of “motion offense”. Examples of his work include Denver in 2016/17 with Jokic and New Orleans in 2017/18 with Davis and Cousins. Anyone who is familiar with the principles of “motion offense” understands that the pick-and-roll, involving two players on the team, is just one of the attack options. Therefore, the integration of Russell, who in Brooklyn of the 2018/19 season was in second (!!!) place in the league in terms of the number of pick-and-rolls per game (11.4), is a personal challenge for our coach. At one time, Kenny Atkinson and later Ryan Saunders could not solve this puzzle. Part of the problem with the pick-and-roll is because the starting big Vanderbilts and Towns didn’t create opportunities for Russell on the catch, Vanderbilt has trouble handling the ball on the catch, and Towns is more willing to play pick-and-pop. However, in recent matches, it is clear that Russell is purposefully trying to play partners who open after the pick-and-roll. Townes said in an interview that he also tries to open up more while moving towards the ring.

Minnesota this season provokes a lot of losses from the opponent and willingly runs into an earlier attack, but in a positional attack the team is constantly in a fever. Therefore, Russell, who has found a throw in recent games, which controls the pace of attack and flirts with partners, is a kind of core team attack. As a result, we have the third positional offense in the NBA in the last 10 games. In general, since the beginning of 2022, we have 2nd rating in attack and 13th in defense, coaching work is visible.

Speaking of progress in the attack, it is also worth noting Nowell. Picked 43rd overall in 2019, this comboguard is another example of Minnesota’s fine selection and development of young players. Jaylen comes off the bench and acts as the sixth player. He knows how to play the ball, that is, create opportunities for himself to shoot, play pick-and-roll, in fact, Jaylen, with his versatility, closes several roles in attack at once. His best game of the season was against Boston.

It may seem that Nowell’s most developed skill is the throw, but this is not entirely true. Nowell’s greatest strength is his ability to finish in the paint. To do this, he uses passes from both hands, floaters, short jump shots over an opponent.

This season, NBA players are shooting at a low average from behind the arc, and at some point in the season, Durant was found to be more effective shooting from behind the arc with Buddy Hield, Tatum, Paul George, or Duncan Robinson. Something broke in the statistical machine and now “branded outdated” DeRozan has long been showing the best game of his career, pulling out Chicago over and over again. NBA teams have long learned to push opposing players into mid-range to make awkward shots. Therefore, just as team defense improved in the fight against scorers, shots from the middle distance became the privilege of elite scorers who are able to beat the first guard, and then calculate the situation and, if necessary, beat the safety net. Nowell is already a top scorer when it comes to players shooting within four meters of the rim. That is why he is able to single-handedly pull out the team in the clutch when the opponent does not provide simple opportunities.

Lastly, to understand the potential of the current team, we can look at the main problems identified in the first half of the season. The first problem in my opinion is the unstable bench play and the lack of veterans.

We regularly miss the opponent’s runs, which can be explained by the structure of the current composition: we are first in the league in the number of three-point attempts, but only twenty in the percentage of shooting, while we are third in the number of turnovers, twenty-eighth in defensive rebounds and first in the number of fouls. In the current league with plenty of three-point shots, the opponents can easily win back a 10-point gap if we miss from behind the arc, lose the ball, foul on several possessions in a row. At the same time, our starting five, and in particular our three leaders, play together at a high level.

However, the bench players cannot scale the game of the base players and cannot offer an alternative. For example, when Beverley does not play, then without a stopper on the perimeter, we cannot develop success in defense, when Towns and Vanderbilt do not play, we lose the fight on the shields.

The second problem is penalties. Suffice it to say that Towns leads the league in personal fouls, with McDaniels in fifth place. And if everything is clear with the young and inexperienced McDaniels, then Towns, committing another offensive foul, substitutes the team, as this is the worst case scenario: in this case, we lose possession 100% (as opposed to a simple miss, where there is a possibility of rebounding in offense or interception), plus a key player (Towns) is fouled. This is an element of the game that Towns needs to work on individually, with coaches and be more disciplined: set more accurate screens, control his footwork on the shot and talk less to the referees. It is believed that Towns is under pressure from the feeling that the referees are not whistling mandatory fouls at him, and therefore this is reflected in his relationship with the referees. Here is a little context on how fouls whistle on other stars.

Jokic – 4 games with 10 or more free throws in 38 games, .303 box rate (.296 career), 27.8% of his shots within one meter of the basket, 3.1 passes per game

Embiid – 21 games with 10 or more free throws out of 33 (5 games with 15+ free throws), .594 frequency of going to the box (.542 career), 21.2% of his shots within one meter of the ring, 4.1 passes per game

Doncic – 5 games with 10 or more free throws in 30, .296 free throw frequency (.386 career), 12.3% of his shots within one meter of the basket, 20.1 passes per game

Morant – 8 games with 10 or more free throws in 34, .329 free throw rate (.351 career), 29.3% of his shots within one meter of the basket, 20.0 passes per game

Trey Young – 13 games with 10 or more free throws in 40 (1 game with 15+ free throws), .338 box rate (.405 career), 17.1% of his shots within one meter of the basket, 18.7 passes per game

Towns – 5 games with 10 or more free throws in 38, .351 free throw frequency (.319 career), 32.4% of his shots within one meter of the basket, 6.8 passes per game

Edwards – 1 game with 10 or more free throws in 39, .187 free throw rate (.211 career), 27.5% of his shots within one meter of the basket, 11.1 passes per game

Three conclusions can be drawn from this: the first is that the referees whistle enough fouls at Towns for star status, but this season Carl has become much more active in the pass and the frequency of fouls called on him does not correlate with the frequency of passes. The second conclusion is that Embiid is openly pulled by the League. And finally, the referees ignore the fouls on Edwards. In order to improve in this aspect, both Towns and Edwards need to learn how to play the episode to the end, regardless of the bias of the judges.

Last, Minnesota ranks ninth in the league in conceded points per 100 possessions, backed by four top defensemen in the roster.

The problem is that key PoA defenseman Beverley has already missed 13 of 45 games this season, and that’s not counting the games in which he played mediocrely, getting in shape. It turns out 32-year-old Beverley misses every third game and this immediately reflects for the worse on our game in defense. There is no adequate replacement for Beverly, since Okogi is absolutely not playable in attack.

Thus, speaking about the current Minnesota, we have an interesting, young (4th youngest roster in the NBA), whose manager faces a very non-trivial task to complete the restructuring. Acting general manager Gupta said that the Minnesota will look to strengthen ahead of the upcoming deadline, but will also act in the interests of long-term interests. What this means in practice can be understood by looking at the list of Minnesota players who can be re-signed in the summer of 2022 and 2023.

For example, Naz Reed will be available for re-signing this summer, but if management decides that there will be no playing time for him behind Townes’s back, then we should expect Reed to trade before this deadline. At the same time, Gupta needs to resolve the issue with the position of the reserve point guard, which can be partially resolved by re-signing Nowell, it is necessary to strengthen the bench, where the roles of the combo forward and the overall, protective big are vacant. It can be expected that re-signing issues will be addressed first of all, since salaries in the NBA are expected to increase in 2025, respectively, re-signing made up to this point can be beneficial for the team. I would also like to note that February 22 will be exactly one year since Finch began working as the head coach of Minnesota, in fact, at the moment he did not have the opportunity to influence the formation of the roster, he plays with the roster that he got. It will be interesting to see how Gupta and Finch see the strength of the roster from their experience.

Returning to the question asked at the beginning, I would like to say that in a short time Rozas assembled an interesting squad, which, due to objective reasons, was able to show its potential only this season. Gupta’s task now is to strengthen the team in the long term, while due to the specificity of the composition, it is necessary to find players who can organically fit into the Minnesota defensive and attacking model. For me, the perfect mid-season trade is the 2004 trade of Rasheed Wallace to Detroit. Wallace was the piece of the puzzle that completed Detroit’s transformation into a championship team. In my opinion, there is only one player who will make Minnesota qualitatively stronger at the moment and that is Ben Simmons, arguably the most controversial player in the league. Simmons is an elite stopper, capable of defending in one possession against conditional Trey Young and from the center, Simmons will help on the shields. In the complete absence of the throw, Simmons goes under the ring and knows how to pass as a “short roll” big.

There are two things to consider when talking about Simmons in Minnesota. First, rule changes to allow for more defensive contact. With Simmons’ physique, this is an absolute cheat on the defensive. Second, the combination of passing and the ability to finish near the basket. A recent example is the game of Monroe, who easily went 11-9-6 in his first debut game, without preparation, without knowing the combinations, without playing in the NBA for two years. At the same time, Monroe simply cannot physically play defense on the perimeter, not to mention the “high wall” scheme used by Minnesota along with “blitz/show” and “x-out”. Simmons, on the other hand, will feel like a fish in water in such an aggressive defense.

This is exactly the kind of plan of madness I expect from the deadline, but what will happen next, time will tell (as one old TV show from my youth said). For this I say goodbye, all health and an interesting deadline!

UPD: After today’s victory over Brooklyn, Minnesota officially has the best attack in 2022!

Last, Minnesota ranks ninth in the league in conceded points per 100 possessions, backed by four top defensemen in the roster.

The problem is that key PoA defenseman Beverley has already missed 13 of 45 games this season, and that’s not counting the games in which he played mediocrely, getting in shape. It turns out 32-year-old Beverley misses every third game and this immediately reflects for the worse on our game in defense. There is no adequate replacement for Beverly, since Okogi is absolutely not playable in attack.

Thus, speaking about the current Minnesota, we have an interesting, young (4th youngest roster in the NBA), whose manager faces a very non-trivial task to complete the restructuring. Acting general manager Gupta said that the Minnesota will look to strengthen ahead of the upcoming deadline, but will also act in the interests of long-term interests. What this means in practice can be understood by looking at the list of Minnesota players who can be re-signed in the summer of 2022 and 2023.

For example, Naz Reed will be available for re-signing this summer, but if management decides that there will be no playing time for him behind Townes’s back, then we should expect Reed to trade before this deadline. At the same time, Gupta needs to resolve the issue with the position of the reserve point guard, which can be partially resolved by re-signing Nowell, it is necessary to strengthen the bench, where the roles of the combo forward and the overall, protective big are vacant. It can be expected that re-signing issues will be addressed first of all, since salaries in the NBA are expected to increase in 2025, respectively, re-signing made up to this point can be beneficial for the team. I would also like to note that February 22 will be exactly one year since Finch began working as the head coach of Minnesota, in fact, at the moment he did not have the opportunity to influence the formation of the roster, he plays with the roster that he got. It will be interesting to see how Gupta and Finch see the strength of the roster from their experience.

Returning to the question asked at the beginning, I would like to say that in a short time Rozas assembled an interesting squad, which, due to objective reasons, was able to show its potential only this season. Gupta’s task now is to strengthen the team in the long term, while due to the specificity of the composition, it is necessary to find players who can organically fit into the Minnesota defensive and attacking model. For me, the perfect mid-season trade is the 2004 trade of Rasheed Wallace to Detroit. Wallace was the piece of the puzzle that completed Detroit’s transformation into a championship team. In my opinion, there is only one player who will make Minnesota qualitatively stronger at the moment and that is Ben Simmons, arguably the most controversial player in the league. Simmons is an elite stopper, capable of defending in one possession against conditional Trey Young and from the center, Simmons will help on the shields. In the complete absence of the throw, Simmons goes under the ring and knows how to pass as a “short roll” big.

There are two things to consider when talking about Simmons in Minnesota. First, rule changes to allow for more defensive contact. With Simmons’ physique, this is an absolute cheat on the defensive. Second, the combination of passing and the ability to finish near the basket. A recent example is the game of Monroe, who easily went 11-9-6 in his first debut game, without preparation, without knowing the combinations, without playing in the NBA for two years. At the same time, Monroe simply cannot physically play defense on the perimeter, not to mention the “high wall” scheme used by Minnesota along with “blitz/show” and “x-out”. Simmons, on the other hand, will feel like a fish in water in such an aggressive defense.

This is exactly the kind of plan of madness I expect from the deadline, but what will happen next, time will tell (as one old TV show from my youth said). For this I say goodbye, all health and an interesting deadline!

UPD: After today’s victory over Brooklyn, Minnesota officially has the best attack in 2022!

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