37-22 If you’re looking for the reason Jimmy Butler is still in a Wolves uniform boiled down to its essence, this is it. That was the Wolves’ regular-season record last season when Butler played. Conversely, they were 10-13 without him. When Butler reportedly announced the Wolves couldn’t win without him via an expletive-laden outburst in his return to practice last week, he wasn’t wrong — and head coach/personnel boss Tom Thibodeau knows it. Awkwardness aside, Butler’s presence in the starting lineup gives Minnesota, at least in the short term, the best chance to win.
7 (and 30): These are oft-repeated numbers from Thibodeau: When the Wolves’ starting five of Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague played together last season, the group ranked seventh in the NBA in defensive efficiency. But the team’s reserves were dead last in that metric. It’s part of a correct narrative that the Wolves had an elite group of starters last season on both ends of the floor. But after woeful contributions from reserves each of the past two seasons — whether because of personnel, underuse from Thibodeau or some combination of both — the Wolves need to improve in that area this season, particularly on defense.
365 That’s the number of three-pointers Anthony Tolliver attempted last season in Detroit, despite averaging only 22 minutes in primarily a reserve role. Nobody on last year’s Wolves took that many threes nor made as many as Tolliver (159). If Tolliver can replicate that production coming off the bench for the Wolves this season, he could transform their offense. No team in the NBA took fewer or made fewer threes than Minnesota last season.
240 Much of the focus on Wiggins’ disappointing fourth season centered around his dip in free-throw percentage — from 76 percent in his career going in, to only 64.3 percent last year. But perhaps more telling: Wiggins attempted only 314 free throws last season after averaging 554 attempts the two previous seasons — a drop of 240 attempts. That’s roughly three fewer attempts per game — both a reflection of his reduced aggressiveness and a factor in his scoring average dropping from 23.6 points to 17.7.
$338M When the dust settles and Butler is traded, the Wolves will resume building their identity, for better or worse, around Towns and Wiggins. That figure represents the amount those two are owed on the massive contract extensions signed last year (Wiggins) and this year (Towns).