2016 -2017 Minnesota Timberwolves Media Day
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 26: Zach LaVine #8 of the Minnesota Timberwolves poses for a portrait during the 2016 -2017 Minnesota Timberwolves Media Day on September 26, 2016 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Practice Report | LaVine Is Poised To Start Season Off Hot

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager

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The first two seasons of Zach LaVine’s career have started off slow.

The second halves of his first two seasons, though? My, oh, my. LaVine, who teammate Brandon Rush calls one of the best athletes in the entire NBA, has been great post-All-Star break.

Before the All-Star break last season, LaVine averaged 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from the 3-point line.

All respectable numbers.

But after the break, LaVine was even better. The second-year guard averaged 16.4 points and shot 48 percent from the field and an impressive 43.7 percent from the 3-point line.

Why the reason for the jump? Was it LaVine winning his second-straight dunk contest?

Nope.

“To tell the truth the main thing was just consistency,” LaVine said after Sunday’s practice. “On and off the court and then consistency with the coaches as well. Last year, I was getting flipped from being point guard starting, not starting. That takes a toll if you take it from my perspective. That takes a toll on you sometimes.”

We don’t know yet what the team’s starting lineup will be. Chances are head coach Tom Thibodeau will toy with that over the next few weeks leading into the regular season. What we do know is that LaVine will primarily play on the wing and won't be bounced back from point to shooting guard.

Offense will never be an issue for LaVine. He can shoot and he runs the floor with the best of them. Going into this training camp, the goal is for LaVine to improve on the other side of the ball.

According to LaVine’s new coach Tom Thibodeau, so far, so good.

“Good,” Thibodeau said on how LaVine is picking up his defensive schemes. “Day after day, there’s a lot of work to be done. As long as he’s doing the right things each and every day, he’ll improve.”

How many power forwards does the team have?

Thibodeau has been preaching versatility so far throughout training camp. He likes when players can play more than one position and there’s no coincidence that the majority of the players on this roster can do exactly that.

When asked who could all see time at power forward this season, Thibodeau named the traditional names such as Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng and Nemanja Bjelica. But he also hinted to some small-ball lineups, naming Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad and Brandon Rush as candidates to see some time at the four.

“It all depends on what you need,” Thibodeau said. “The key to that is if you do go small, to make sure you’re not sacrificing your defense. The teams that do it effectively, when then go small, they don’t sacrifice that.”

Quick Hits

  • Rush reflected on Minnesota’s 124-117 overtime win over his Warriors squad on April 5 last season in Golden State: “Shabazz had 30-something (35 off the bench) and he was running right past all our bigs and getting dunks and I was like ‘man, these guys are fast.’ They were moving that thing.”
  • The team will be back at it tomorrow before having Tuesday off.

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