The Timberwolves cracked 100 points Wednesday night for the first time in the 2016 calendar year. They still lost 107-104 to Houston, their eighth consecutive defeat and part of a 4-20 stretch that followed a respectable 8-8 start.
Their offense was better in that game, but the story of the season remains pretty simple: While the Wolves do some things decently offensively, such as getting to the line and making free throws, they generally remain stuck in an antiquated mind-set and offense that leads to a lot of long two-point shots and not enough three-pointers. The Wolves' next game will mark the midpoint of their season. So nearly halfway into 2015-16, these things are true (data via basketball-reference.com):
• Just 18.9 percent of the Wolves' shots this season have come from three-point range. That's the lowest mark in the NBA, and it sags well below the NBA average of 28.2 percent.
• That wouldn't be quite so bad if they were a team driven by high-percentage shots at the rim (either by penetrating guards or big men), but that's not the case. They're taking 28.1 percent of their shots from 0-3 feet, which is below the league average and ranks 20th in the NBA.
• That leaves way too many shots in the middle. Specifically, it leaves a TON of shots in that dreaded long two-point range between 16 feet and the three-point line. For the season, a full 26 percent of Minnesota's shots have come from that distance. That's the most in the NBA, and it dwarfs the league average of 16.5 percent.
If the Wolves maintained their current shooting percentages on long twos and threes but were more around the league average in percentage of attempts in both cases, they would score close to two more points per game and be right around the league average (101 per game).
• Now also consider: Of the three-pointers attempted by the Wolves, only 18.7 percent have been "corner threes," the second-lowest percentage in the league. Those corner shots are from a shorter distance than from other spots behind the arc and therefore are made at a higher rate across the league.
And guess what? The Wolves are REALLY good at shooting corner threes. They're making 41.7 percent of their threes from the corners, well above the NBA average and third best in the entire league. The optimist would say the high percentage and low shot rate means they are being selective. The pessimist would say they are not playing to a strength.
Now, some of the final analysis in all this is a little more complicated than just laying out numbers. What's not complicated is this: The most efficient shots in the NBA right now are at the rim or behind the arc.
Any offense that produces a relatively high number of shots in the other areas of the court is not efficient. Only 47 percent of the Wolves' shots this year have either been at the rim or from behind the arc. And Wolves opponents combined in 40 games are taking 60.7 percent of their shots between 0-3 feet or beyond the arc.
In short, the Wolves have plenty of deficiencies. But at the top of the list still is inefficiency.