When the Timberwolves open the season in San Antonio on Wednesday night, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins will be surrounded by three new starters in Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague.
The new, veteran-laden roster figures to be better defensively, tougher and deeper off the bench.
But here’s another area in which coach Tom Thibodeau wants to see improvement: three-point shooting. And that’s something that will have to come from a lot of places.
“We’ve talked a lot about that,’’ Thibodeau said after Tuesday’s practice.
The Wolves shot 1,723 three-pointers last season, Thibodeau’s first at the helm. That was 376 — or nearly five per game — more than the 2015-16 Wolves. Minnesota took more threes and made 146 more, but it was still ranked 30th in the league in both categories.
Thibodeau said he’d like to see the team take five more threes per game this year, too. The keys to that number growing, he said, are transition play, getting threes off offensive rebounds and executing out of double teams.
“We have to take another jump in that area,’’ Thibodeau said. “We worked a lot on that in practice. We’ll continue to work on that. And I think guys have shown good improvement.’’
The addition of Jamal Crawford has given the Wolves a capable three-point shooter. Thibodeau said he expects Wiggins to improve in that area, as well as Shabazz Muhammad and Nemanja Bjelica. He also expects Towns to remain the unique perimeter threat he proved himself to be last season.
Thibodeau knows he has depth with this roster, with the likes of Crawford, Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng and Bjelica coming off the bench.
But, with just three preseason games this fall, Thibodeau didn’t have enough time to settle on his rotations.
“It will be a work in progress,’’ he said. “Every day we’re finding out more and more what combinations work well together.’’
During those three preseason games Thibodeau did a lot of wave substitutions, allowing the backups to play as a five-man unit. That will change in the regular season. But you might see Thibodeau go deeper into his bench than last season.
“Your team tells you what you’re going to do,’’ he said. “My first two years in Chicago we played 10, because of the depth of the team. Last year, with Zach [LaVine] and Bjelica getting hurt, that made us thin. But I think we do have more depth. Obviously you have your best players on the floor, so you start with that. And then it’s who complements those players the best.’’
Rookie center Justin Patton, still recovering from foot surgery in July, has yet to be cleared to practice. And the Wolves are determined not to push him. But once he’s ready, don’t expect him to be sent to the team’s G League affiliate in Des Moines. At least not right away.
“I want to see him in practice first,’’ Thibodeau said. “I want to see where he is. I like to have him here, so he has an understanding of what we’re trying to do.’’
That said, Patton figures to get some time with the Iowa Wolves.
“I think the opportunity comes where he’s not playing a lot, we’re on the road, and maybe there is an opportunity for him to get some playing time, maybe we’ll use it that way,’’ Thibodeau said. “But I want to see him first with our team.’’
New PA announcer
Picked from a search that drew over 400 people, the Wolves have hired Shawn Parker as the team’s public address announcer. A Washington, D.C., native, Parker was most recently the PA announcer at George Washington University and for the Women’s Football Alliance’s D.C. Divas.