The Timberwolves offense was supposed to take care of itself — to be the unquestioned strength of a team with playoff (or at least play-in) aspirations this season.
Instead, offense has been the anchor holding the Wolves down and turning a promising start — marked by surprisingly proficient defense — into a 3-3 record through six games, a span pockmarked with bad home losses and questions about the team's identity.
As Chris Hine and I talked about on Wednesday's Daily Delivery podcast, the Wolves need to figure this out soon. Looming after two more home games — both against the 2-4 Clippers — the Wolves hit the road for four games, including three out on the West Coast against the Warriors, Lakers and Clippers.
Slip up in the next 10 days, and the season will start to slip fast. Get things sorted out and everything will feel different.
But why is the Wolves offense struggling with the No. 25 offensive rating (and in a role-reversal the seventh-best defensive rating) so far? Here are five possible explanations:
Early year sample size: It's only six games. Pick any six games from any year, and a team will struggle in some category. It just gets magnified when it happens during the start of the season. This is probably the easiest and most likely answer because the Wolves have too much proven offensive talent to struggle this much.
Self-fulfilling prophecy: You miss one shot and it leads to two. You have a bad offensive game and it leads to two. You start to believe the narrative and it erodes confidence.
Defense affecting offense: Perhaps the Wolves, in spending so much energy in training camp improving their defense and expending so much energy on that end of the court during games — contrary to past seasons — have neglected their strength?
Too many guys who want shots: D'Angelo Russell said he treated this past offseason like a contract year. Anthony Edwards is trying to assert his place in the Wolves' pecking order and has taken 21.8 shots per game — five more than any other teammate. Karl-Anthony Towns needs and should get his shots. Malik Beasley is making up for lost time. Selfish play has hurt the flow at times.
Tension with a trade possible: Here's where I get to have a little bit of fun. With the Ben Simmons situation getting worse every day in Philadelphia, are Wolves players who could be part of a deal playing tight knowing that they could be changing teams? Yeah, probably not. But you never know.