The Timberwolves' disappointing season can be summed up in many different ways, but we're going to focus on this one: To succeed in the NBA, as a rule these days, a team must either be able to make three-pointers with great efficiency or be able to make up for the deficiency with overwhelming success in other areas.
The Timberwolves -- in part because of injuries -- are an atrocious three-point shooting team. Their latest clank-fest was a 1-for-12 effort from beyond the arc Saturday in a 109-94 loss to Portland. The Blazers weren't red-hot, but their 7-for-20 accuracy from long distance meant they scored 18 more points than the Wolves did on three-pointers. There, in essence, is your ballgame.
And there, if we want to go deeper into the stats, is your Wolves season.
Minnesota is shooting 29.8 percent from three-point range as a team (298-for-1001). That is easily the worst mark in the NBA; in fact, only one team in the past seven years (Charlotte last season) has finished under 30 percent for the season. Phoenix and Orlando, also with poor records, are second and third worst this season.
Seven of the eight most accurate three-point shooting teams are in playoff spots now, including Miami (second best in the NBA at 39.3 percent), Oklahoma City (third) and San Antonio (fifth). Obviously those bad and good teams have other strengths and weaknesses, but sometimes it really is as simple as not being able to shoot straight.
The Wolves are getting outscored by an average of 6.9 points per game on three-pointers alone, but just 2.7 points overall. Let's take a look at how this season might have gone if two of the Wolves' key three-point shooters -- Kevin Love and Chase Budinger -- had been healthy and performed to past expectations.
Based on their recent averages -- Budinger over the past three seasons, Love over the past two -- the duo would be a combined 128-for-338 (37.9 percent) from three-point range at this point in this season when healthy. We crunched the numbers further, and the averages say the Wolves would have made 33 more three-pointers in the same number of attempts (1001) with a healthy Budinger and Love.
Now, they would still be near the bottom of the NBA percentage-wise. But they would have scored 99 more points -- an extra 1.7 per game. That would make their point differential for the season minus-1 per game, about the same as Dallas (which is 26-32 as opposed to the Wolves' 20-36, for example).
So the numbers show what we pretty much already knew: the Wolves miss Budinger and Love a lot (the latter not just for three-pointers, obviously) and they clearly need another bona fide shooter who can make a ton of threes.
If only someone like that was out there. Someone like Steph Curry (45.2 percent on 405 three-point attempts this season), Martell Webster (44.8 percent) or Wayne Ellington (42.2 percent).