I had a chance to chat last night with NBA on TNT and NBA TV analyst Brent Barry for a Q&A that will run in Sunday’s Star Tribune. Barry, who scored more than 8,000 points in his NBA career and has spent a great deal of time watching the Wolves this season, went deep on my first two questions about the local squad, so I wanted to put those out there now in their full form:
Q: What’s your impression of this Timberwolves roster and where they are in their evolution?
A: Did they just establish themselves as a relevant team by beating the Warriors? It kind of felt like it. It felt like, “Wait a minute, these guys have some pretty good young players.” But certainly the roster is filled with young, spectacular players. I’ll start with Karl-Anthony Towns. I think he’s been so impressive this year in terms of how much poise he plays with, how much fire he plays with, his timing, his shooting skill, his passing skill. There’s such a massive foundation that he already has.
I think that Andrew (Wiggins) has really had a solid season. He has learned a lot this year from a lot of different coverages he’s seen compared to what he saw last year. … I read that in his first season last year something like 20 to 22 percent of his possessions originated in the post. That’s an amazing number to put a young guy down there to learn to play not just with his back to the basket — something uncomfortable for a lot of perimeter players when they’re first starting to do that — but to also play with four defenders other than the one guarding you watching what you’re doing eight feet from the basket. Usually a perimeter guy is so used to being at the top of the key or the wing and seeing everything in front of them. To play that many possessions in his first year in that fashion is certainly a learning lesson. This year he’s made tremendous improvement. I think his attacking at the rim, he’s gained some significant confidence in going in and finishing. That’s really when he’s at his best.
His three-point shooting over the last month, along with Zach (LaVine) has been phenomenal. To see that kind of improvement and confidence — some of it is just taking the shots because I know it’s not Sam (Mitchell’s) forte to have guys shoot three-pointers. We know this — but the fact that they have been confident in the ones they’ve taken and improved their percentages is a good thing. Shabazz (Muhammad) has been great off the bench as a guy who can come in and steal you points. Against the Warriors he had an incredible game. Ricky is Ricky. He’s a guy who’s going to distribute the ball and play hawking, tough defense and make important plays in the fourth quarter. You hope he can continue to be diligent in working on his shot and become a decent shooter at some point in his career. But with all that offense around him, his shots just have to be of the spot-up variety and be timely.
Q: Two-part question: Does Sam Mitchell deserve the coaching job full-time and how attractive would the job be to top outside candidates?
A: It’s an interesting decision in Minnesota. Obviously there was so much talk at the beginning of the year with the tragic loss of Flip (Saunders) and his presence not being around — and how much that impacted not only the team but ownership, the community. … It’s going to be an interesting choice for ownership given what they’ve seen this year and given what they’ve seen in terms of the development — and whether they feel like it could be accelerated with the next decision they make.