The Timberwolves are a Western Conference-worst 4-11. Not ideal for a team designed to win this season.
So, hot-seat speculation naturally swirls around Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, via Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press:
“I haven’t even talked to (basketball president Gersson Rosas) about that — he hasn’t brought it up, but you’re asking me, and it’s probably hard to tell a guy that you aren’t doing the job when your best guy isn’t playing,” Wolves owner Glen Taylor said Saturday from his home in Mankato.
This isn’t a vote of confidence, like Taylor gave Saunders last year. Taylor is merely saying there isn’t yet sufficient information on which to judge Saunders. The difference seems significant.
Obviously, losing Karl-Anthony Towns (to a wrist injury then coronavirus) is a massive setback. Minnesota is just 2-9 without him.
But at a certain point, the question should become: What’s the affirmative case for Saunders? Despite having such an offensive-minded roster even beyond Towns, the Timberwolves rank a dismal 28th in points per possession. Minnesota is also a predictably bad 26th in points allowed per possession
Saunders was a Taylor favorite when getting the job. In fact, Saunders was on track to get hired even before Rosas. Rosas is smart enough to tread carefully here.
That probably buys Saunders more time, ideally until Towns returns. Maybe that’ll be sufficient to get the Timberwolves back on track. They’ve outscored opponents by 6.1 points per 100 possessions with Towns on the floor (132 minutes). That’s a whopping 9.9 points per 100 possessions better than Minnesota’s next-best net rating with anyone who has played that much. Towns is a top talent.
But the Timberwolves obviously must sometimes play with Towns, even after he returns. Their problems are bigger than his absence.
Their problems are bigger than Saunders, too.
That doesn’t mean Saunders is part of the solution, though.