As the Minnesota Timberwolves’ season ends, it is now time to look back at the year and take stock of how each position group performed. After already doing the point guards, next we’ll look at the shooting guard spot.
There were two players who received the lion’s share of minutes at shooting guard for the Timberwolves this season: Zach LaVine and Brandon Rush. We’ll examine each of their years and see what their future looks like with Minnesota.
The third year man out of UCLA made major strides on the offensive end this season and showed flashes of his potential as an all-around dynamic threat.
Throughout his time in the NBA, LaVine has been primarily known for his highflying athletic ability. He has won back to back dunk contests with unbelievable efforts like this. LaVine can also translate this ability into live games as seen by this moment, where he stuffs Alex Len into a body bag.
However, being primarily known for dunking means that your game probably lacks refinement and that you are mostly coasting on sheer athletic ability. This was LaVine’s problem for much of his first two seasons in the NBA as he did not develop his skills because he did not really have to.
In his third season though, he took a step forward and developed into a legitimate threat from beyond the arc. The Renton, Washington native almost doubled his attempts from the three-point line, going from averaging 3.9 to 6.6 threes per game while maintaining a 38.7% clip. This was a major contributor to his jump from averaging 14 to 18.9 points per game.
On the defense end though, LaVine still has major issues. He often lacks the discipline to be locked in for a full 24 seconds and has momentary lapses that allow opponents to get easy buckets. He should continue to get better on this end with time, but it is troubling to see that he racked up a defensive rating of 110.1 last season, which ranked 405th in the NBA.
LaVine’s promising season came to a crashing halt in February though as he suffered a torn ACL during a game. He underwent surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, but may be robbed of some of the explosiveness, that made him so special. LaVine will also likely miss the beginning of next season and make his return in December.
LaVine’s future with the Timberwolves is murky because the team’s defense vastly improved with him out and the offense did not seem to miss a beat. He is a prolific scorer on a team that already possesses two other gifted scorers in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. It may be in the best interest of the franchise to trade LaVine for players that better fit the team’s needs.
Rush was signed this past offseason to be a veteran presence and three-point shooter off the bench. He fulfilled both of those roles dutifully, only averaging 21.9 minutes per game for the season, but launching 2.4 threes per game.
His role increased significantly once LaVine went down as he slid into the starting lineup in LaVine’s place and held his own. Rush was a valuable floor spacer on a team that lacked much outside shooting, which opened up driving lanes for point guard Ricky Rubio and Wiggins.
Next season will likely see Rush in the same role as this past year. He will be a solid role player and steadying locker room presence, both necessary jobs on a team this young.
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