Timberwolves Made-Up Quarter Season Awards
It is time to present the Minnesota Timberwolves players with their awards now that we are 1/4 of the way through this weird 20–21 NBA season. Instead of offering the traditional awards such as MVP, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, etc, we will give awards that fit the current team’s situation a little better. We need to get creative to reward players on a 4–14 team in the midst of a pandemic, so without further ado here are the Made-Up Quarter Season Award winners:
Most Impressive Player: Malik Beasley
This award is going to Beasley as the player who has generally looked the best for the duration of the season. He picked up right where he left off last season by starting all of the games so far and scoring 20 points per game while shooting 50% from 2, 38% from 3, and 90% from the free throw line. Those percentages put him only a few made 3pt. shots away from the hallowed “50/40/90” club, which is typically reserved for the best scorers in the league. With the team’s best player, Karl-Anthony Towns, missing most of the season so far, Beasley has taken on a heavy scoring load but has still been able to maintain efficient offense play. Malik has a motor that seemingly never stops as he flies around the perimeter to find his shots, and jets up the court when the team has a transition scoring opportunity. He has been truly impressive to watch on offense.
There is still plenty of progress to be made on the defensive end for Malik. While he brings energy and relishes guarding other great perimeter players, he does not yet have the strength or defensive IQ to be a truly impactful defender in a positive way. Still, he has not been a large negative on that end, and his sterling offensive resume has made him a net positive overall for this team. Beasley deserves to be named the “Most Impressive Player” of the Wolves.
Honorable Mentions: D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns
Russell is scoring fairly well averaging 20 points per game and shooting 38% from the 3pt. line on 7.5 attempts per game, but turnovers and lack of defensive intensity hurt him in the award voting. Like Beasley, Russell is shouldering a heavier load in the absence of Towns and his overall efficiency has suffered because of it.
The Big KAT is unquestionably the most impressive player on the Timberwolves this season, as he has been for several years, but unfortunately he has not played enough games to qualify for our fake awards. We still love him, and if we had a Most Valuable Player award it would clearly be KAT’s because of how much the team struggles without him.
Most Improved Player: Naz Reid
I lied, we are actually giving away a traditional award, but in a season where we HAVE to look for those small improvements this award fits the team perfectly. Naz Reid (otherwise known as “Big Jelly”)is taking this trophy home. While there are other players who have had larger statistical improvements than Naz, his overall skill and awareness improvements give him the edge. After going undrafted in the 2019 draft and signing with the Timberwolves, Naz spent the first half of his rookie season in the G League. He clearly had some skills that the Wolves front office were fond of, but his athleticism and basketball IQ made him a long term developmental project. Naz has already started 8 games in the 20–21 season, and seems to improve with every minute he spends on the court. While his raw counting stats are not much improved from the games he starting in the 19–20 season, his shooting percentages have proven that he is a vastly superior player this year. Naz is shooting 61% on 2pt. attempts (up from 46% last season) and 39% on 3pt. attempts (up from 33% last season). Add in his 7% increase in his free throw percentage and it all equals a 12% increase in his effective field goal percentage (47% in 19–20 to 59% in 20–21). His efficiency increase along with a better understanding of the offense has made him a far superior offensive center this season compared to last.
Naz Reid’s improvement as an offensive player have been crucial for the Wolves, but have been relatively expected as he always seemed to have the skills to excel on that end. His defensive improvements have been more encouraging in my opinion. Minor increases in statistics such as block percentage and defensive box plus/minus are encouraging, but Wolves fans can see the strides on the defensive end just by watching the games. Naz is fouling opponents less, and his technique contesting shots is becoming fairly advanced for a 21 year old. He uses his strength and balance to shift himself into the right position very well. Combined with more comfort in the Wolves “drop scheme” defense, he is getting closer and closer to becoming a positive asset on defense. He still has a long way to go in terms of becoming a “plus” rebounder at the center position, but I have no doubt that he will find a way to improve in that area as he has with almost every other facet of his game.
Honorable Mention: Malik Beasley
If this award were to be based off of pure statistical improvements from year to year, Malik is likely the winner. In this case we are looking more for specific skill improvements. Malik showed last season that he has had the skills to succeed, but he just needed an opportunity to play a large role. Kudos to him for seizing that opportunity, but he comes in 2nd place for the “Most Improved Player” award.
Most Fun Player to Watch: Jaden McDaniels
Before the start of the 20–21 NBA season if you would have told Timberwolves fans that Jaden McDaniels would be the most fun player to watch, they would have assumed they were watching the Iowa Wolves instead of the NBA squad. It just so happens that the NBA club has been decimated by injuries and ineffective play, so the young rookie is getting real rotation minutes. The best part is that he seems to be taking full advantage of this opportunity to play in the NBA, and the 20 year old’s game looks like it is translating just fine. McDaniels is truly a one-of-a-kind player. He went into college as a top recruit at 6’9″ with a smooth offensive game, but disappointed in his lone season at Washington University. That caused him to slide down to the 28th pick in the 2020 draft where the Timberwolves selected him. Now he is getting a chance to show off his ridiculous physical tools along with some of the scoring skills he showed off in college. Jaden burst on to the scene against the Orlando Magic when he registered 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks including an amazing sequence where he stuffed Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon within a matter of seconds. He showed an incredibly bouncy athleticism for a player with his height and length, and impressed with his speed in flying down the court in transition. It is truly amazing to watch him play when he has it going, and he has earned plenty of rotation minutes moving forward. Wolves fans should be excited to watch him now and in the future.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Edwards
Anthony Edwards finishes in a close 2nd place in this award mainly because of how much hope Wolves fans have for his future, and his ability to provide highlight reel plays at any time. The results have not always been pretty, but the high-flying 19 year old is likely going to provide fans with years of entertainment.
Best Quote: Anthony Edwards
This is probably the least surprising award winner. Ant has been “A1 from Day 1” with the media so far in his NBA career. So many young players that come into the league are coached on their responses to interview questions so we end up hearing the same regurgitated responses from them. Ant has clearly been encouraged to be himself, and it has produced some wildly entertaining results. The first interview to gain national attention was his Wolves+ debut with Marney Gellner, where he declared himself to be great at any competition, and said he would bat cleanup in baseball. What a gem. My personal favorite quote though comes from a media session on January 5th:
“It’s not too much pressure on me because it’s not my time yet. When my time come, then I’ll try and come out and score the ball… I don’t really be trippin. I be chillin. Just trying to help the guys win. For real, for real.”
Incredible perspective from a barely 19 year old player on a struggling team. Ant has a way of keeping it all in perspective. For a guy who provides entertaining quotes, there is often deeper meaning to some of the things he says. I feel lucky that we get to root for a player with his type of charisma and ability to keep it real. Keep on ‘chillin’ Ant, and congrats on the Best Quote award.
Honorable Mention: Ricky Rubio
Ricky has provided some scathing reviews of the team after blowout losses. It is not typically fun to hear, but he seems like a leader on the team that will help to hold the team and himself accountable. For his pension for being 100% honest with his answers, he earns an honorable mention.
The “Josh Okogie Sponsored” Non-Stop Hustle: Jarred Vanderbilt
It has to be Jarred Vanderbilt. We will likely need to rename the award to include his name by the end of the year. This guy plays as hard as I have ever seen from a player of his size. At 6’9″ he leaps for every single offensive and defensive rebound. Even on the rebounds he has no chance of getting, he still goes for them. That type of energy and effort is not only contagious to his own teammates, but also can be annoying to opposing players causing them to commit silly errors or fouls. Recently his non-stop effort while rebounding caused noted hustler Draymond Green to take a pretty heavy swipe at Vanderbilt’s head when Jarred was grabbing an offensive rebound. This was during a stretch of play where JV was particularly keyed up and becoming an annoyance to Draymond. This outburst gifted the Wolves a technical foul free throw, all because Vanderbilt refuses to offer anything less than 100 effort. While that energy is typically an asset on defense, it can also be used against him. In several situations he ends up guarding a smart perimeter player that uses Jarred’s aggressiveness to draw fouls or get him out of position. It is certainly a two-way street when you have a player who gives as much effort as Vanderbilt, but a Wolves team that can lack energy at times is in desperate need of a player like JV. He is the deserving winner of the “Josh Okogie Sponsored” Non-Stop Hustle award.
Honorable Mention: Josh Okogie
Another obvious one, as the award is named after him! Even though Josh missed a few games with a hamstring injury, he still brings that patented “non-stop” hustle to the lineup. He defends any player on the court, and does it well. Josh is also learning to harness his effort and aggressiveness to play more in control. He will likely be in contention for this award at the end of the season, but for now he comes in 2nd.
The Top Timberwolves Twitter Trade Target: Ben Simmons
Otherwise known as the “TTTTTT” award. Simmons has topped the wish list for fans’ trade targets basically since the team was able to acquire D’Angelo Russell. He is obviously an awkward fit in Philadelphia (although they still make it work) and would be an objectively perfect fit as a front court partner next to Towns who can also operate as a ball handler on the perimeter. No matter what the Wolves would have to give up, outside of Towns, fans are mostly willing to do it to bring Simmons in. A trade very soon is unlikely, but if/when the time comes the Timberwolves may be an obvious fit in a deal with Philadelphia and a 3rd or 4th team, looking something like this:
The 76ers are looking for a star player to pair with Embiid… Someone like Bradley Beal from Washington
The Wolves could send a stockpile of young players and picks to Washington to help them kickoff a true rebuild, Beal would head to Philly, and Simmons to MN
Philadelphia’s President of Basketball Operations is Darly Morey, who just so happens to be a long time friend and mentor of Gersson Rosas, who holds the same position in Minnesota
While Philadelphia would not love the idea of parting with a young All-NBA caliber player like Simmons, it would make it much easier to stomach if they are receiving a superstar scorer like Beal in return AND sending Simmons to the Western Conference
Washington may prefer to take Minnesota’s stockpile of young players who have showed potential AND a treasure chest of draft picks… The Timberwolves have a pretty checkered history, and the Wizards may take the bet that their future picks will end up being much more valuable than most other franchise’s picks
With the aggressiveness of Gersson Rosas and his front office, I am sure they have already and will continue to explore all trade options on the table, including deals for Ben Simmons. Wolves fans dream of a deal like this being pulled off.
Honorable Mention: PJ Tucker
Momentum for a Tucker acquisition has slowed a bit since the James Harden trade, but he was certainly a hot topic of conversation for a little while. Tucker would be another incredible fit next to Towns, however he is coming up on 36 years old and would most likely be a short-term rental.