6 Thoughts on a 3rd Straight Wolves Blowout Loss

It happened again. After getting beat down in Los Angeles by two of the best teams in the league, Wolves fans assumed a competitive game was in their future with a winless Wizards team coming to Target Center on the 2nd night of a back to back. We were wrong. The KAT-less Wolves continue to lack identity on both ends of the floor, and they will need to implement a fix quickly to avoid the same fate against Denver. Here are 6 thoughts on the loss to the Wizards:

 

  1. The Wolves need to do something about the lack of size in the starting lineup. In two straight games they have started D’Angelo Russell, Ricky Rubio, Malik Beasley, Jarrett Culver, and Naz Reid. Culver is the best defender of the group, so they stick him on the opposing team’s best player. In this case, it was Bradley Beal leaving Russell and Beasley to guard Rui Hachimura and Deni Advija… who are both 6’9″. Hachimura in particular is a load at 230lbs, which makes him about 40lbs heavier than Malik Beasley. He is also most comfortable operating in the mid-post area. The Wizards started the game by feeding him in the post, and he backed down Beasley with ease and when the double-team came he passed to the perimeter for open three point shots. That easy offense got the Wizards into a rhythm, and they never slowed down. Games typically begin at a slower pace with offenses running set plays in the half court, and the Wolves tiny starting lineup makes it very easy for the opposition to get into their preferred offense.
  2. The 2nd quarter was the only period of time all evening when the Wolves looked like they had an identity. They held the Wizards to only 23 points in this quarter, and scored 32 themselves. There was nothing fancy about winning this quarter, they simply played smart defense, rebounded well, and tried their best to score in transition. Jordan McLaughlin, Jake Layman, and Naz Reid were the biggest catalysts for the run in this quarter with D’Angelo Russell contributing offensively as well. Without Towns, this team does not have the offensive talent to execute against a set defense every time down the court so they need to play at a fast pace in transition to score consistently. To play fast, they need to defend. Without individually great defenders, they can still play adequate defense with smart rotations and by being connected. McLaughlin, Layman, and Reid seemed to be the only three willing to establish that identity, and the rest of the team needs to follow suit.
  3. While the 2nd quarter was great, the 3rd quarter was the worst stretch of Wolves basketball so far this season. Losing a quarter 40–14 against a team on the second night of a back to back is a bad look. The identity and level of play established in the 2nd quarter went completely out the window, and ugliness ensued. The Wizards (mostly Bradley Beal) were able to get anything they wanted on offense which made the Wolves play in the half court when they got the ball. They made no attempt to run set plays or move the ball. It was isolation basketball and inefficient shot attempts at the end of the shot clock. When the Wizards rebounded the ball, they flew down the court to attack the rim while the Wolves were still trying to get matched up in transition. The beautiful shot chart that the Wolves generated in the 2nd quarter was completely replaced by a smattering of missed shots from all over the court. It was a pretty terrible display of team basketball for those 12 minutes.
  4. Wolves fans have seen way too much of Jaden McDaniels so far this season. This is nothing against Jaden McDaniels himself, we just thought we would only see him get a few minutes occasionally in blowout wins or losses. Somehow, he has played 24 minutes in the last 3 games. I did not think he would see 24 minutes over the entire first half of the season, but the circumstances of the last 3 games have led the Wolves to empty their bench for nearly the entire 4th quarter in each one. Side note: Now that we have seen him on the court for 24 minutes, I think he has a chance to be a really interesting player. For his height and length, he can move incredibly well and seems to have vertical and lateral explosiveness. He should have value to this team down the road, and possibly as early as next season.
  5. Bradley Beal is incredible. As poorly as the Wolves played for most of the game, the Wizards showed some real connectedness on offense and Beal was at the center of it. He does not get as much love as guys like Luka Doncic or James Harden regarding his ability to run an offense, but he seems to have every bit of the positive offensive impact as those two. He can hit any shot, get to the rim with ease, and makes the smart pass nearly every time. Maybe the Wolves defense made him look better than he usually is, but he seems like a legitimate offensive superstar. If he gets traded to a contending team, we may see him deep in the playoffs very soon.
  6. Something may need to happen to the roster very soon. I typically am not a knee-jerk reaction type of fan. If I see something that is a problem on this team, I trust that the front office and coaching staff is already 10 steps ahead of me, so I do not call for specific moves to be made. With that said, the roster was constructed around a superstar center, and the entire structure has crumbled without him. It is hard to blame the coaches or the rotations because some of the problems they are facing, specifically on defense, are not fixable with the personnel available. Adding size to the lineup with Layman or Hernangomez likely will not fix the defense, and playing the 21 year old Jarred Vanderbilt in the rotation (which I am an advocate for) is not going to magically help the team play smarter. Gersson Rosas waived Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to keep an open roster spot and flexibility prior to the season to give him the chance to make a trade and absorb salary. At that time, Towns and Josh Okogie were healthy and the team weaknesses were not magnified. Circumstances have changed, and if the team wants to show meaningful progress this season, the roster may need some help.
 

-Jerry W.