Introducing the 2nd Annual Ball Eyes North Made-Up Quarter Season Awards! You can check out last year’s version here. Players like Malik Beasley, Naz Reid, and Jaden McDaniels took home some hardware in the dreadful campaign that was the 20–21 Timberwolves season. Sitting at 11–11 at the quarter pole this year, let’s see who wins these coveted awards!
Most Impressive Player: Karl-Anthony Towns
It has to go to the Big Fella. Despite what you may think about his on-court rivalry with the referees it is undeniable that he has been a hyper-efficient scoring machine in the Wolves’ first 22 games.
The Big KAT is averaging 24 points and shooting 54% from 2 and 44% from 3. His EFG% (effective field goal percentage) ranks 26th in the league. That doesn’t sound super impressive until you realize that he has the exact same EFG% as MVP frontrunner Stephen Curry and only 3 players tied or ahead of Towns on the list are also scoring more: Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Nikola Jokić. Impressive company!
Towns’ defense has also been improved in the more aggressive system laid out for him and he is averaging a career high in steals per game. The increased activity has been apparent.
It has not all been perfect for the big man so far. KAT has been fouling out of more games as of late and is having his worst statistical defensive rebounding season of his career (likely due to the defensive scheme). But make no mistake about it, KAT is the most impressive Timberwolves player so far this season.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Edwards
Ant is an easy honorable mention in the “Most Impressive Wolf” category so far. The electric young guard is making an impact all over the stat sheet for the Wolves. He ranks 2nd on the team in points per game, 3rd in rebounds, 4th in offensive rebounds, 3rd in assists, and 1st in steals.
Edwards also leads the team in “holy shit how did he do that” plays by a mile. Ant has a penchant for going nuclear at just the right time to swing games for the Wolves, and it is a treat to watch. Someday soon the 20 year old will overtake KAT for this award.
Most Improved Player: Jarred Vanderbilt
***Note: Ant should probably win this easily, but that’s too boring because OF COURSE the 2nd year former #1 pick has improved the most***
About 2.5 months ago Jarred Vanderbilt was not even a lock to be on the Wolves roster again and now he is one of this team’s most important players. To anoint him as “Most Improved” one must look past most of the typical statistical markers.
In the Wolves new aggressive defensive scheme, Vando has been everywhere. On certain possessions he will seamlessly oscillate between guarding big men down low to perimeter ball handlers up high all while closing out on 3pt. shooters like a banshee. Vanderbilt is an enormous part of the Wolves sustained top 10 defense.
He is actually averaging less points per 36 minutes this season compared to last year while shooting a worse percentage from the field, but that is not where he makes an impact. Vanderbilt has completely dominated in the offensive rebounding category. He is averaging 3 offensive boards per game which equals about 6.5 offensive rebounds per 100 possessions ranking 6th in the NBA. Only gigantic plodding centers are ahead of him on the list.
Grabbing those extra possessions this season has kept the Wolves flailing offense afloat at times. Of course, this is nothing new to JV as he was a rebounding machine in limited minutes last year as well. He is just doing it more this year and with an increased role as well!
Honorable Mention: D’Angelo Russell
DLo would have taken this award if he wasn’t in the midst of a career worst shooting percentage season. The improvement for Russell is purely in the “defensive give-a-shit” category.
Sure he is averaging modest steal and block totals, but it should be clear to anyone watching how much better he has been in this Timberwolves defensive scheme. He has consistently ‘quarterbacked’ the defense by calling out plays and coverages and telling guys where to be. Adding this to his own consistent hustle when closing out to shooters and boxing out big men and he is likely providing the most value of his career defensively.
That is a boon for this Timberwolves team that has been starved for consistent defense. DLo is also having one of his career best seasons in terms of Assist/Turnover ratio. If Russell can keep this up, he will gain a reputation as an all-around point guard instead of the inefficient chucker that he has been labeled as in the past.
Most Fun Player to Watch: Anthony Edwards
I don’t think I need to make too much of a case here. How could it be anyone else? I mean come on…
AND he can do this…
He might be the most fun player to watch in the entire LEAGUE, let alone on his own team. This award is Ant’s for the next decade if he chooses.
Honorable Mention: Jaden McDaniels
This is purely about aesthetics. Part of the reason I love watching basketball is because you get to see some of the most extreme body types doing ridiculously athletic things. Therein lies my affinity for watching Jaden McDaniels play basketball.
Jaden has had a few throwdown dunks this season, and he is always liable to toss someone’s layup into the 3rd row. His limbs are endless yet he somehow moves his feet like a guard.
Sure he fouls too much and has a relatively underdeveloped offensive game, but I just always have a feeling that he could do something awesome at any time. Maybe that will wear off in time, but I’m still on the McDaniels Train.
Best Quote: Chris Finch
A little outside the box here. Partially because this would typically be Ant’s award but we can’t send him home with ALL the hardware.
The head coach gets the award here because of his penchant for setting aside the “coach speak” and telling it like it is:
He was right on the nose with that one. If you watched that specific game, you get it! He also has some real clarity on the state of the franchise and makes no secret of their goals:
For the first time in a long time I actually tune into post game press conferences. I really do want to hear what Finch has to say about a win or loss! Preferably more wins though.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Edwards
Obviously it’s Ant, once again. Even more than just presenting funny or insightful one-liners, he is now starting to hit the right tone after certain games.
Early in the season after a dreadful loss to the Pelicans he was very serious and made it clear that the team’s performance, his included, was not up to their standards.
During the 5 game winning streak he was playful and jovial, but never over-confident. And recently after a loss to the Wizards he was not overly concerned as the team lost under difficult circumstances.
The fanbase should take its cues from Ant’s postgame tones!
The Josh Okogie Sponsored Non-Stop Hustle: Patrick Beverley
It is difficult to overstate the impact that Patrick Beverley has had on this Timberwolves team. He has appeared in 16 games and only started 12 of them, but the turnaround to the Wolves season coincided nicely with his insertion into the starting lineup.
The Wolves have had plenty of “scrappy” players before, but they have almost always lacked the leadership credentials and offensive skills that Beverley possesses. Since becoming a starter, Pat Bev has been the perfect adhesive to stick all of the Wolves’ pieces together on both ends. He compliments Jarred Vanderbilt’s chaotic energy with veteran savvy defensively while moving the ball and spacing the floor for the Big 3 on offense.
Mix all of those skills with his junkyard dog attitude and never-give-up style and you have an easy choice for “The Josh Okogie Sponsored Non-Stop Hustle” award.
Honorable Mention: Jarred Vanderbilt
Vando took this award home last season, and was another contender to take it this year. There really is not a singular reason that Bev got the nod over him other than wanting a way to work Beverley in for an award after his tremendous on and off court impact so far.
For Vanderbilt’s credentials here see his “Most Improved” award description. Like Alexander Hamilton, the man is NONSTOP.
The Top Timberwolves Twitter Trade Target: Ben Simmons
The reigning champion of this award wins again! If it seems like Wolves fans (including myself) have lusted after Simmons for years that’s because we have! Only this season it is finally somewhat realistic as Simmons is VERY available.
I won’t spend time on the trade machinations for a potential Simmons deal, but I will say that Ben is a very interesting trade case to keep an eye on for many teams. He has not played this season for Philadelphia and it is difficult to see when/how he would suit up for them again.
On one hand Simmons is towards the beginning of a massive contract so one would think Philly has the leverage, but on the other hand the Sixers sit at 11–11 and are 11th in a competitive Eastern conference. In my opinion they need to make a decision at some point prior to this year’s trade deadline to salvage what is shaping up to be another Joel Embiid superstar season.
We will see if the Wolves would have enough interest to snag the young star, but for now it is still just a fun topic on Twitter, so Ben takes the award.
Honorable Mention: Myles Turner
The shot-swatting big man for the Pacers has been a popular name thrown out there when Wolves fans talk about how their favorite team needs size. He plays on a below average team and seems to be a bit of an awkward fit next to his front court partner.
I don’t really see Indiana wanting to move Turner as he is relatively young and on a decent contract, but crazier things have happened. I agree that the Wolves need to add a bit of size, but I am not sure they would be willing to pay the price for Myles Turner.