Timberwolves Thanksgiving Roundtable
Thanksgiving is a fun time with friends and family. But you’ll likely have some downtime to listen to awesome podcasts, eat leftovers and read articles. That’s what we’re here for.
Welcome to our Thanksgiving Timberwolves Roundtable with Kyle Ratke and Katie Davidson.
KR: Before we get into basketball chat, Katie, give me your top five Thanksgiving foods. Go!
KD: Oh, that's tough. All right, first, I've gotta go with stuffing. My uncle makes the best out there. Second, mashed potatoes. Third, ham — I'm not totally sure this is considered a Thanksgiving food. Fourth, green bean casserole. Fifth, hear me out, cranberries.
KR: I will not listen to your cranberry propaganda. I hate cranberries and I don’t think they have a place anywhere in a kitchen. Give me stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, whatever bread is there and then green bean casserole. If for some reason everyone forgets food and we’re trapped for three days, then maybe I’ll give the cranberries a chance.
Now, to hoops talk. The biggest news right now in Timberwolves land is Jeff Teague coming off the bench now. This was his idea, and he worked with Ryan Saunders to make it happen. Teague is a huge fan of Andrew Wiggins, which he said before Tuesday’s practice.
This is the type of sacrifice we don’t see often from veteran players, especially ones that have primarily been starters throughout your career. What was your first reaction when you heard the news Teague will come off the bench?
KD: I was pretty shocked. I feel like we've gotten accustomed to the Wolves waiting to make dramatic lineup changes late in the season when it's too late to make much of a difference or just not at all. Doing it now, before the 20th game of the season, grants Wiggins, Jarrett Culver and Teague plenty of time to get used to their new roles. It's a bold move and one that I think the Wolves need right now.
After getting excited about what this could mean for Wiggins' game now that he'll be running the offense and have easier access to high pick-and-roll action with Karl-Anthony Towns, my attention turned to Teague and how admirable his team-first mentality is. Like you mentioned in yesterday's article about the move, Teague has started in 587 of the 725 games of his career. I can't imagine what it'd be like as an NBA player — or any professional athlete — to come to terms with moving to the second unit after being a perennial starter, but like everyone else has said, Teague has handled the move like a pro. I'm also excited to see what he does with the second unit, especially once Jake Layman returns. If Layman, a reliable scorer who doesn't need the ball in his hands too often, continues his impressive shooting and cutting once he returns from his toe injury, I think he and Teague will continue to be a terrific pair. Teague and Layman have played 111 minutes together as of Wednesday and boast the Wolves' best offensive rating of two-player lineups that have played over 100 minutes together.
How do you think this move will benefit Culver's game, specifically?
KR: Without getting into the numbers too much, I think that it will help Culver simply because it gets him in the rhythm of the game earlier.
Learning to come off the bench is a skill not many players find success in immediately.
Teague even talked yesterday about how he struggled during the first half against the Hawks because he really wasn’t sure how to feel ready when you’re not starting. You come in cold and you want to play within the offense, but you also want to have some freedom as well. Teague figured it out in the second half, but he’s a veteran.
Culver has had an up and down rookie season, which is certainly expected. I think having the ball in his hands early, even if Wiggins will primarily play the point, will help him gain confidence.
And defensively, I think it will help accelerate Culver’s potential as a two-way player. We haven’t seen very many defensive blunders from Culver. He’s generally in the right spot at the right time and his body allows him to guard multiple positions.
I am curiou how things look like when Shabazz Napier returns from a hamstring injury, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
The Wolves are right there in the playoff hunt through the first month of the season. Does this surprise you at all?
KD: I'm not going to lie, it does a little. I think the Wolves' seventh-place spot has a little to do with the Pelican's Zion Williamson, the T-Blazers' Jusuf Nurkic and the Warriors' Steph Curry and Klay Thompson being out, but I didn't give enough credit to the Wolves' "culture change" or Wiggins' potential under Saunders and Rosas before the season started. Seventeen games in, I think the Wolves should definitely be a playoff team if Towns and Wiggins continue to perform at all-star levels. Avoiding injuries as much as possible from here on out would help, too.
How accurately do you think we can really gauge how well this team is doing considering it's already been riddled by injuries throughout the first 17 games of the season?
KR: I’m glad you brought the injury part of this up. While the injuries have been brutal, that also has to have you somewhat excited if you’re a Wolves fan, right? This team is in the playoff battle almost a quarter into the season with Jake Layman, Robert Covington, Wiggins, Teague, Napier, Treveon Graham, Josh Okogie and Karl-Anthony Towns all missing games. At full strength, which no team really is throughout the season, the potential for this team is a lot higher than I expected earlier in the season. A lot of that has to do with Wiggins’ ascension. Not only has he improved on his stats, but his numbers are also All-Star worthy. And it looks like he’s having fun!
Outside of Wiggins and Towns, who is the most important player on this team for the next 20 games?
KD: I know we already talked about him, but I'd have to say Teague. If he can continue to handle his role maturely, which I don't think will be a problem, that will make all the difference for the second unit and help keep the team's chemistry cohesive. I'm really excited to see what he can do with the reserves once he gets used to coming off the bench, as you mentioned.
KR: I’ll go with my guy Bobby Covs. Since moving to power forward, I don’t think we’ve really seen the best of Covington yet. He’s still making elite defensive plays, but he’s been on a minutes restriction after last season’s bone bruise to his knee. I think we’re going to see a stretch of games where Covington absolutely dominates defensively and brings that energy in transition offensively, much like we saw last season when he was traded to the Wolves.
Well, Katie. I’ve got a pumpkin pie that needs taste testing. I’m afraid that’s all we have time for today. Here’s to hoping the Davidson family has an awesome Thanksgiving!
KD: Same to the Ratkes. Enjoy your cranberries!