Talent isn’t enough in the NBA.
It’s the start of a good team, maybe a great team. But it’s just that. A start. Players need to buy into their teammates, the style of play and the coaching staff.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have had themselves a busy offseason, and as far as most-improved teams in the league go, the Wolves appear to be right up there. On paper.
The Wolves traded for three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler along with signing Jamal Crawford, Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson.
To combine that with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, that’s a lot of offensive fire power.
Towns averaged 25.1 points last season. Butler averaged 23.9 points. Wiggins averaged 23.6. Teague averaged 15.3. Crawford averaged 12.3. And Gibson averaged 10.8.
That right there is more than 100 points and that doesn’t include players like Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz. Surely there will be sacrifices that will need to be made.
“I think it just comes natural,” Wiggins said after Saturday’s practice in Shanghai. “Guys just find their groove and see what the team needs.”
And so far, Wiggins has been right. In two preseason games, eight players have hit double digits. Of course, it’s preseason, but it’s something that wasn’t discussed among the Wolves. It just happened.
“When everyone is buying into a system and puts their ego to the side, that’s when greatness happens… I see that with us,” Towns said. “I see us having that win-first attitude.”
New teams with new players tend to struggle early offensively. It’s hard to get a major read on how the Wolves are adjusting and of course two games is a small sample size, but so far things look good. And there’s a chance Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden found a combination that has clicked faster than most players would.
“I think basketball is basketball,” Butler said of his new teammates meshing. “You put guys who know how to play basketball the right way on the floor, you’ll have some hiccups here and there, but all in all, if you put some really good basketball players out there, somehow you’re going to figure it out.”
The Wolves are facing a team in China who has figured out the sacrifice of the equation with Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. But you could argue the Wolves are deeper with Muhammad, Crawford and Dieng all coming off the bench.
It’s interesting the Wolves themselves have never talked about sacrifices they’ll have to make with each other. Chances are it doesn’t mean Butler, Towns and Wiggins each score 20 every night. Of course, that would be ideal, but it’s probably unrealistic. Instead, it probably means one goes for 30, one for 20 and one for 15. And then the next night it will switch to another hot hand.
The regular season hasn’t started yet and there will be some road blocks, but if preseason is any indication, the Wolves should be just fine putting egos aside for the greater good of the team.