Three Thibodeau-to-Saunders Adjustments From the First Three Games

Moore on Monday: Three Thibodeau-to-Saunders Adjustments From the First Three Games

Over the weekend at Goal Middle, the vibe off-the-court definitely had modified. Drake was blaring, the phrase “Flip” might be heard in each different dialog, and other people cheered after the coach was launched. That was totally different. However what would occur on-the-floor remained a thriller. Listed here are three distinctions I observed:

An Acknowledgement of the (Skinny) Logic of Thibodeau’s Rotations after which Adjusting Them

For Tom Thibodeau, enjoying his starters seemingly extreme minutes wasn’t about abuse, consider it or not. In truth, and in his thoughts, it was about enhancing his staff’s probabilities of profitable. The extra you play your greatest gamers, the extra you win. Proper?

“You look around the league at best players — the Hardens, the (LeBron) Jameses — they play,” Thibodeau spewed in early-December of final season when requested about the minute crunch that had shrunk his rotation right down to as few as seven gamers (after Nemanja Bjelica received harm). The flaw in Thibodeau’s logic wasn’t that superstars play heavy minutes. He was proper about that — good. The difficulty was he was treating the whole beginning lineup (save Taj Gibson) as in the event that they have been MVP-caliber gamers, like Harden and LeBron.

This misidentification of stars folded over into this season when non-superstars Andrew Wiggins and Derrick Rose have been persistently being handed unreasonable workloads — specifically marathon shifts that may span two quarters in size. It turned regular to see Wiggins or Rose play 16-plus consecutive minutes. And nicely, that’s not regular — even for Harden and LeBron.

Right here’s the rub, although: Wiggins and Rose have been (and nonetheless are) extraordinarily worthwhile given the assemble of this roster. That is true for 2 key (offensive) causes:

The worth of a number of pick-and-roll weapons

Rose performed his marathon shift as a result of it was extraordinarily essential — and this isn’t a nasty concept — to have a number of gamers on the flooring who might run a pick-and-roll. Having the alternative to run a ball-screen motion with Jeff Teague on one aspect of the flooring after which, if it doesn’t work, possessing the capability to skip it and run one other ball-screen motion with Derrick Rose (or Tyus Jones) was (and can stay) an actual weapon for this workforce.

The difficulty was solely having three gamers who might instigate the pick-and-roll — Teague, Rose and Jones. Due to this, and the benefit it introduced, Thibodeau felt the alternative value of extending Rose’s run was a bonus.

The necessity for scoring

The place the rationalization for Rose’s prolonged run is extra present in that minutia of the pick-and-roll, Thibodeau defined Wiggins’ marathon shifts extra merely: “we need his scoring,” he stated. And that wasn’t improper, both.

With Teague injured, along with Robert Covington, the Wolves offense was missing offensive weapons, particularly of the creation phylum. The staff’s hand was pressured to rely on Wiggins as a creator as a result of, actually, the solely actual offensive weapons on the staff — when it comes to isolators — have been Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Cities. This is the reason Wiggins’ marathon shift prolonged the period of Cities’ first remainder of the half.


Quick ahead to Saunders’ first video games at the helm and these two points, once more, introduced themselves to various levels. It was clear Saunders didn’t need to keep on with the marathons, however the want nonetheless introduced itself. For instance, Saunders begrudgingly stayed with Wiggins past the first quarter of his first recreation as chief decision-maker. Nevertheless, he did seize Josh Okogie virtually instantly after the second quarter began in order to get Wiggins at the first lifeless ball. The scoring was wanted and had Saunders not caught with Wiggins for 38 minutes that night time, he wouldn’t have scored 40 and the end result simply might have modified.

The draw back of this reticence to play Wiggins prolonged minutes additionally introduced itself over the weekend. In Saturday’s recreation (towards the Pelicans), Wiggins was restricted to solely the full first quarter as Okogie subbed in for him to start the second quarter. The offense turned void of creators from the wing after the substitution. Okogie was flanked by the equally dribbling-challenged Anthony Tolliver and the offense stagnated whereas New Orleans aptly proceeded to point out a double on Cities in the publish, regularly with Okogie’s defender (No. 21, Darius Miller).

It must be famous that a lot of this may be solved in video games Derrick Rose performs. Rose sat out that recreation for precautionary relaxation in order to be freed from any common soreness when the workforce performs their subsequent recreation in Philadelphia. Having Rose does present the second-unit offense with a much-needed creator throughout Wiggins’ absences.

Rose’s presence (or lack thereof) additionally brings up the a number of pick-and-roll weapons speaking level. The one recreation Saunders has coached that Rose has been wholesome for was Friday towards Dallas. Which means, in that recreation, the Wolves had their most popular triumvirate of lead guards. Right here, it was fascinating to see how Saunders tailored compared to Thibodeau’s typical stylus.

As an alternative of a marathon shift for Rose spanning the entirety of the second quarter, the answer in Saunders’ eyes was swifter and extra frequent substitutions. Rose was lifted off the bench not 5 minutes into the recreation and inserted at the subsequent subsequent lifeless ball, the 6:30 mark — sooner than his conventional 5:00 mark underneath Thibodeau. Whereas the gamers on the flooring modified 9 occasions(!) by means of Saunders’ substitutions, Rose’s first half stint was restricted to a extra affordable 10 minutes.

One in every of the changes that occurred was particularly addressed the drawback of not having a number of pick-and-roll instigators. Saunders finessed the rotation in a approach that Thibodeau lengthy resisted by enjoying Jones and Teague collectively. After sharing the flooring for a whopping 4 minutes whereas Thibodeau was at the helm, Jones and Teague have shared the flooring in all three of the Saunders-led video games.

There’ll proceed to be an adjustment interval on the subject of these maneuverings by Saunders but when he can toe the effective line of retaining scorers on the flooring together with a number of pick-and-roll initiators whereas additionally offering mandatory relaxation, the logic stands that this shall be an optimum utilization of the rotation. We don’t know that but, although. All that’s recognized is that the rotation is totally different.

Immensely totally different Timberwolves rotation beneath Ryan Saunders:

Rose for Okogie — Four.5 minutes in
Saric for Gibson — 6.5 minutes in
Okogie (again in!) for Wiggins — eight.5 minutes in
Jones for Teague — 9 minutes in
Dieng for KAT — 9 minutes in
Wiggins for Okogie (foul hassle) — 11.5 minutes in

— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) January 12, 2019

Communication — Like, Coach-to-Participant

Now, this adjustment doesn’t fall in the extra conventional “Xs and Os” or “game theory” categorization of teaching technique in the method one thing like rotations or shot choice would, nevertheless it was nonetheless a noticeable distinction, and thus an adjustment. This, like the rotation tweaks, had its strengths and weaknesses. 4 occasions, by my rely, Saunders walked right down to the second-to-last seat of the bench — Taj Gibson’s throne — to discuss with the veteran about boosting or adjusting his minutes.

  • First, there was Friday night time the place Dario Saric was struggling immensely in the first half (Zero-for-Four from the subject and a team-worst minus-17 in 9 minutes performed). Saunders turned his again on an offensive possession to ask Taj, “you good?” It was an inquiry to see if the more and more creaky 33-year-old might muster what would turn into a 15-plus minute workload. Gibson obliged, as the Wolves stemmed the Dallas rush 18-to-17 to shut the quarter.
  • Second, there was Saturday night time the place Saric picked up three fast fouls in simply over three minutes of play. This led to a heftier request, provided that this was the second night time of a back-to-back. Saunders, this time, walked all the method to Gibson, crouched and stated, “Dario’s got 3.” Once more, Gibson obliged and obtained up, three minutes and 22 seconds after sitting down.
  • Third, and associated to quantity two, Saunders reached deep in his bag — upon the suggestion of lately promoted to front-of-the-bench assistant Larry Greer — for Luol Deng. There was no approach Gibson might have mustered 21 first half minutes with out expiring so he stated to Gibson, “get two minutes.” Gibson didn’t placed on his warmup, as he historically does for his prolonged bench respites, and Deng took the flooring. As a result of Deng was stringing collectively a productive run (5 factors in 5 minutes), Gibson’s stead on the bench was elevated.
  • Fourth and eventually, there was the fourth quarter of Saturday’s recreation towards the Pelicans the place Gibson was pulled off the bench to shut the recreation. As Gibson walked to the scorer’s desk, Saric promptly hit a three. Gibson checked out Saunders and waved, signaling depart him in. Saunders mouthed, “OK.”

The communication, nevertheless, wasn’t good with all the TimberBulls. Twice in Friday night time’s recreation Derrick Rose was in the rest room or headed to the tunnel when Saunders needed to insert the combo-guard. *Editor’s observe — The lads’s toilet in the tunnel of Goal Middle is way nearer than the Wolves’ locker room, which might clarify as to why Rose was there and never the locker room for his toilet break. With that stated, 1500 ESPN doesn’t condone taking pictures of others whereas in restrooms*

“When you gotta go, you gotta go” -Derrick Rose pic.twitter.com/R9qzxASq4r

— Barstool Sports activities (@barstoolsports) January 12, 2019

Rose altogether missed one shift and the second time he was run down by Anthony Tolliver who grabbed him in the tunnel solely to be a couple of seconds too late. Play had begun and Rose was pressured to attend till for an additional break in the motion. Protected to say Rose had develop into fairly accustomed to his regimented rotations beneath Thibodeau.

Decide-and-Roll Breakdowns, They’re Baaaack

An enormous cause the Wolves protection elevated to ninth in the league after the Jimmy Butler commerce got here from large enhancements in defending the oppositions pick-and-roll. The Mavs completely decimated the Wolves again line by means of excessively operating ball-screen actions with Luka Doncic and J.J. Barea. The consistency of ineptitude marks a transparent stain on Saunders by means of his incapability to regulate midstream.

Particularly towards Barea, a participant who if he is aware of how the motion is being defended will triumph, it was an oversight to run the similar defensive counter over-and-over. Barea knew the Wolves huge man in the motion (Cities or Gorgui Dieng) would drop towards any Dwight Powell ball-screen so Barea went to work.

With the drop-off, if the huge collapsed:

Or the pull-up if the massive remained in a retreat:

After the recreation, Saunders stated, “our weak side wasn’t pulling in right to bump the roller,” when explaining the dysfunction. True, Saric needs to be there on the first play, however nonetheless, that is an occasion the place an adjustment was wanted. Thibodeau turned more and more prepared to “blitz” pick-and-rolls defensively, amidst quite a lot of permutations — which was, low-key, the greatest adjustment he remodeled his tenure, therefore the defensive numbers uptick. Granted, a lot of Thibodeau’s success was discovered with Covington in the video games and Covington’s presence might have made a distinction towards Dallas, Barea and positively Doncic — who, holy crap, is superb.


General, two-for-three on changes working appears truthful and becoming given that’s Saunders’ win-ratio since taking up. The fourth adjustment — and one that may definitely obtain its correct vetting towards Butler and Joel Embiid on Tuesday night time — is available in shot choice, as Danny Cunningham wrote about this morning.  It’s a protected assumption that Saunders will place his mark there, given the assumption he has inherited a few of his father’s infatuation with the offensive finish of the flooring. However that may require a bigger pattern to parse via earlier than drawing any actual proclamations.

For now, it’s protected to say issues have modified; adjusted, if you’ll. The younger Saunders has begun to tip his hand a bit in simply three video games. And that hand, nicely, it seems much more like a 32-year-old’s.

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