The Minnesota Timberwolves took the fewest amount of three pointers last year, attempting just 1223 threes (the Houston Rockets, by contrast, who led the league in threes attempted, took 2680). One might think that this number is indicative of Flip Saunders’ feelings towards threes (well, that number and his comment about not wanting Andrew Wiggins to become a three-point shooter), but Saunders wants everyone to know he loves threes! In fact, Saunders felt so strongly about clarifying his stance on threes that he broke a near 18-month Twitter silence. Because, obviously, the best place to clarify something is on Twitter.
In fairness to Saunders, the Timberwolves’ best three-point shooters were either hurt for a good deal of the season (Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger) or, well, just weren’t that good. After Martin and Budinger, the only other Timberwolf to attempt more than 100 threes were Mo Williams, Zach LaVine and Wiggins. Williams hit 34.7 percent, LaVine 34 percent and Wiggins 31 percent from behind the arc. LaVine sports a nice stroke, and should develop into a good shooter from range, but he wasn’t a dead-eye shooter in his rookie season. However, it would be wrong to blame all of the ‘Wolves’ shooting woes on personnel. Saunders’ sets too often looked cramped and compressed, as if they were designed for the pre-three-pointer NBA. Had they been stretched out just a little bit more, the spacing would have been much better.
Saunders seemed reluctant to let his young Timberwolves experiment, preferring instead that they stay within their range. But experimentation, and the confidence that comes from successful experiments, is necessary in the development of talent. Hopefully Saunders has learned that, and his newfound professed love of the three pointers won’t be mere words but an actual part of his strategy next season.