By: Dan Slaubaugh
Good morning Wolves nation. It's gameday, and Friday. Life is good. After an exciting, emotional, come-from-behind victory against the LA Lakers Wednesday night, the Wolves are set to take on the Denver Nuggets tonight at the Pepsi Center.
As of today, the Wolves sit at the 7 spot in the Western Conference and are looking to move up with a win tonight. It would be a huge confidence and momentum booster heading into the home opener Monday against Portland. This is Minnesota's first divisional matchup of the season. Here's what you need to know.
What: Wolves @ Nuggets
When: 8:00pm CST
Where: Pepsi Center. Denver, Colorado
Where to watch: Fox Sports North Plus
Where to listen: 830 WCCO Radio
What to watch for:
Andrew Wiggins back issue. Will it linger? It was obvious it bothered him Wednesday night, as he just scored 9 points shooting 2/10 from the field. Start working your magic, Arnie Kander!
Was Denver's thrashing of Houston a fluke? The Nuggets crushed an almost-for-certain-playoff-bound Houston Rockets basketball team, 105-85. If they continue to play this well, they will be a much improved basketball team. Gallinari led the team with 23 points and 8 rebounds, along with 3 assists. Kenneth Faried had a nice night with 18 points and 9 rebounds. Mudiay had a very impressive NBA debut finishing with 17 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds. He did have 11 turnovers, however, which was 8 more than anybody else on the floor.
More Lavine at the 2. Please Sam, we all want to see it; Rubio and Lavine sharing the backcourt together - for extended minutes! It was further proved Wednesday night that Lavine is more comfortable, and effective, with Ricky running the show. WE NEED TO SEE LAVINE MORE WITH RICKY.
Sam's rotational use. There's no real reason for Sam to feel the need to play everyone. Not everyone needs and deserves to play. I'd like to see Bazz and Bjelica off the bench first, and then Dieng and Kmart soon after. Lavine should come in last out of the 2nd unit because of how important Ricky is on the floor. I just ask that Sam doesn't get too fancy. Stick with the guys you know that can and will be effective.
Ricky's sharpshooting. Will it continue? He shot 10/17 from the field, and 2/4 from three point range, finishing with 28 points, and 14 assists. He also had just 1 turnover, which is incredible. #DimeDropper
Points: Ricky Rubio (28)
Rebounds: Karl-Anthony Towns (12)
Assists: Ricky Rubio (14)
Steals: Rubio-Lavine-Dieng (1)
Blocks: Gorgui Dieng (2)
Points: Danilo Gallinari (23)
Rebounds: Kenneth Faried (9)
Assists: Emmanuel Mudiay (9)
Steals: Gary Harris (3)
Blocks: Danilo Gallinari (3)
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Andrew Wiggins
SF: Tayshaun Prince
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
PG: Emmanuel Mudiay
SG: Gary Harris
SF: Danilo Gallinari
PF: Kenneth Faried
C: Joffrey Lauvergne
Probable: Andrew Wiggins (upper back spasms)
OUT: Nikola Pekovic (recovering from surgery on right achilles)
Probable: Wilson Chandler (hip)
OUT: Jusuf Nuric (knee)
Thanks for reading! Enjoy the game. #WinForFlip
By: Drew Mahowald
When I was just six-years-old, I was able to attend my first Timberwolves game. I remember a lot of it vividly. The score of the game was 120-102 in favor of the Wolves, and Wally Szczerbiak lit up the Lakers for 30-some points. But neither the score nor Szczerbiak's big game is the first thing I remember from that game.
I was fortunate enough to be able to sit courtside during warm-ups for that game with my parents and my little brother. As I'm sitting there, in awe of everything -- the massive arena, all the seats, the scoreboard, these giant human beings shooting baskets -- Flip Saunders walks over and hands me a basketball.
Now, I was six years old. So, no, I didn't recognize him as the Timberwolves head coach. EA Sports' NBA Live 2001 didn't feature Saunders on the game, so that's my excuse.
Anyway, I knew this man must've been an important figure because he was just on the court talking to the Wolves players and other coaches. So I thought this was pretty cool, as any other six-year-old kid would.
Then, Flip told me to stick up my finger like I was "number one". He proceeded to spin the ball on his finger and then transfer it to my finger with ease. I don't remember how long that ball was on my finger, but it felt like a really long time.
Unfortunately, at the time, I didn't recognize how cool that moment was. And, frankly, I never really did recognize that until I heard the news that Flip had passed away. As I look back on it now, it's one of the coolest sports moments in my life. The head coach of an NBA team took the time to mess around with a six-year-old kid before he had to go coach a game. And that coach was Flip Saunders.
The story I've shared seems to agree with every single social media post or online article I've seen regarding Flip Saunders as a person. The abundance of NBA personnel, whether a current or former player, coach, or other executive, that voiced their sadness for this loss just goes to show the kind of positive impact Flip made on such a wide range of people.
The most gut-wrenching social media post I saw today was from Kevin Garnett's Facebook page. It was Garnett, sitting in a parking spot marked with "Flip Saunders" on the wall, head bowed down. Garnett's post reads, "Forever in my heart...". Ugh.
On the court, there was no doubting Flip's knowledge of the game of basketball. Even as a player at the University of Minnesota, he displayed a high basketball I.Q. as the team's point guard. Mychal Thompson, Flip's college teammate, raved about Flip's basketball mind this afternoon during ESPN's tribute program.
Clearly, Flip carried that knowledge over to his coaching career and eventually his executive career. As a coach, Flip posted a career record of 654-594 while his team qualified for postseason play 11 times. He was also one of just ten men to coach in both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.
However, what Flip Saunders has accomplished for the game of basketball in the state of Minnesota will never be able to be measured. In a state dominated by hockey, basketball has stayed plenty relevant through the years, and most of that is due to the work of Flip Saunders.
Flip's most recent project dealt with rebuilding a Timberwolves franchise that, frankly, went downhill quickly when he left in 2005. In his second tenure with the Wolves, Saunders built a rock-solid foundation for a team that possess limitless potential. So far, Flip's earning an A+ on the project. I mean, for a team that finished last season with a 16-66 record, there were a lot of people that cared about the Timberwolves. There's no telling what this team is capable of in the future. But, one thing is for sure: when this Timberwolves team starts to have sustained success in a few years, Flip Saunders' fingerprints will be all over it.
My thoughts and prayers are out to Flip's family and friends during this awful time. Cancer sucks, there's no doubt about that.
I never knew Flip Saunders personally, but I really wish I did. From what I've heard about him not just today, but for years before this, is that Flip genuinely cared about people and made it a priority to make people feel good. People like this don't come around often.
Needless to say, the basketball world and the state of Minnesota lost a great one. RIP Flip.
What are you looking for out of Andrew Wiggins this season?
Jonah Steinmayer (Howlin' T-Wolf): Some might be expecting a monster season out of Wiggins, but I like to play the role of the realist. Because he's yet to even scratch the surface of his potential, I'm curbing my expectations to see plausible, consistent improvement for Wiggins across the board. I want to see his turnovers decrease, his 3 point shooting percentage increase, and a more prominent leadership mentality. Wiggins had a great rookie season but there's so much potential there, I'd rather see him improve in stages than to try to morph into the top-five player many believe he can be. Let's just be realistic with expectations for the 20-year old.
Dan Slaubaugh (On The Prowl): What I am looking for out of Wiggins is that he stays aggressive throughout the entire season. If he has that "aggressive" mentality, rather than a passive one, he should improve in a lot of areas. Andrew said he really worked hard to improve his ball handling skills this offseason, which I think (if improved) will vastly open up his driving game because it will help him get to the rim easier. I expect Andrew will once again lead the team in minutes played and will have every opportunity (as he should) to improve in every aspect of his game.
Andy Grimsrud (Punch-Drunk Wolves): More three-point shots. Last year, in his rookie season, Wiggins only shot 1.5 threes per game. I'm hoping that number triples this year, with Ricky Rubio setting him up for perimeter shots that are both worth more points and take less of a toll on his body.
Zach More (On The Prowl): This year I am looking for Wiggins to become more consistent with his aggressiveness. At times last year he would be aggressive and it looked like he turned the corner, then the next game he was back to playing passive. I am also looking for more 3 point attempts and a better percentage from him this season.
Drew Mahowald (Dunking with Wolves): What I'd like to see from last season's Rookie of the Year is simply more development, especially on the offensive end. Last season, he was a pretty inefficient scorer and he also didn't showcase much in terms of passing. If he can show improvements in those two areas, I'll feel really good about where his career is headed.
What are your expectations for Karl-Anthony Towns this season?
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): I may have bigger expectations from Towns than I did with Wiggins in his rookie season last year because he's playing on a better team. There are aspects that will be as difficult for Towns as it was for Wiggins last year, including the fact that he's now the best shot-blocking big on the team. He also possesses this 3 point shot that no one's really seen from him against real competition. To me, it's realistic to expect him to start the majority of this season's games at center and lead the team in blocks. The rest is just gravy to me.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): I expect him to steadily improve as the season progresses. The experience part will be the greatest value he will receive, just as it is for every rookie. I fully expect him to struggle offensively against elite defensive centers (M. Gasol, D. Jordan, Gobert) early in the season and that may come with some frustration because of the fact that he has always had his way down low. One of Towns attributes I believe will most impress people is his passing. I can already tell he understands whether to take the shot (when posting up) or kick it back out for a three pointer. That is something many young bigs struggle with early in their careers. When the season is all said and done, I expect his stat-line to look something like this: 11 ppg, 7rpg, 2apg, 1.5bpg.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): I expect Towns will struggle on defense, particularly adjusting to NBA rules like "defensive three seconds." On offense, I think it will be a mix of the coaching staff trying to force-feed him the ball on the block (like they did last year) and Towns trying to fit in with the playmakers around him. He will have some 20 & 10 nights, and some "Towns looks lost" nights. He's a very young rookie whose future will be a lot more important than his present.
Zach More (OTP): I think Towns will start off the season as a starter for sure. He will get a lot of minutes and will be able to play through mistakes. Numbers wise, I would assume somewhere around 8pts/6rbs/1ast/1blk. I believe in the second half of the year his numbers will look considerably better than his first half, as he learns the NBA game.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Towns should make an immediate impact on the defensive end for the Wolves. As we've seen already in the preseason, his tremendous shot blocking ability has carried over from the college level to the NBA. Offensively, I think it'll take a little longer for him to make a big impact but he should be able to make solid contributions right away.
Will we see a major improvement in Zach Lavine this season?
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): After news broke that Sam Mitchell prefers Zach Lavine as the starter over Kevin Martin, I have all the confidence that Lavine will breakout or die trying. He's an all-or-nothing kind of guy, but he just has too much talent to fall completely flat. I've always said that Lavine has more star potential than Wiggins but a much lower floor, and as the starting 2-guard and the only player who can truly score points in waves on the entire team, I think Lavine has the chance to bloom.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): That is such a hard question to answer because of my original expectations for him and how poorly he's played this preseason. If I had to guess, I would say he does improve, but very slowly. I don't believe he will entirely hit the sophomore slump, or breakout to score 15+ points per game. I'm projecting somewhere around 10 points, 2 assists per game if he gets 22-28 minutes per game.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): I hope so? It's hard to know what to expect from Lavine. His athleticism suggests an upside that is difficult to put a ceiling over. He's a 6'5" guard with a nice shooting stroke, decent handle, and the most impressive jumping ability in the league today. But he was completely overwhelmed last year as a 19-year old who may not have been a good college player, had he stayed there for his sophomore season. In April - the heart of Timberwolves tanking season - he was averaging per-game stats (21.1 points, 6.6 assists, 5.8 rebounds) that looked more like Brandon Roy in his prime than anything we ever could have expected from Lavine, so soon. But again, that was in a terrible, losing context. I'll be happy if Lavine improves his defense and shot selection this year. Baby steps. He could be great in 3 or 4 years. Or not very good at all. Hard to say.
Zach More (OTP): Yes, but it will be slow. Judging by the preseason so far, very slow. I think the more minutes he gets the better he will get. Zach really needs to stop settling for long 2's and contested 3's. With his athletic ability he should be looking to attack the rim, which will open up his jumper.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): I have no idea what to expect from Zach Lavine this season. In the month of April last season, he played like a future start putting up 21 PPG, 5 RPG and 6 APG in eight games. However, he has struggled mightily this preseason as he's shooting 23% from the field through 5 games. Whether Lavine ends up as the starting SG or not, I really don't know what to expect from him at this point.
What kind of things are you looking for out of Sam Mitchell?
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Stout defense and 3 point shooting. I mean, that's the recipe to success in the league right now, and the Timberwolves are starting to construct a roster that's capable of doing just that. Now it'll be up to Mitchell to put those pieces in play and formulate a winning structure for this season and beyond.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): More threes - around 20 per game, and improved defense. It's no secret that the recipe for success in today's NBA is elite three point shooting and defense. I'm not asking for a top 15 defense - just somewhere in the 18-24 range. Also, I don't want him getting too fancy and start tinkering with lineups too much, like he has done in the preseason. Yes, I understand it's the preseason, but some of the decisions he has made have baffled my mind. To sum it up - don't get too fancy.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Mostly whether he can rebuild the Wolves offense of Ricky Rubio's passing, and whether he can teach defense in a way that provides hope for this team's future. A team built primarily around Rubio, Wiggins, and Towns should be able to get stops, at least in a couple years. There should be some evidence of progress on that front, starting very soon.
Zach More (OTP): I'm looking for Sam to coach a lot like Flip, but we will see more emotion from him on the sideline. With Sam knowing the NBA game is changing, I think we will see more 3 point attempts. Sam will preach defense and I look for the Wolves to be improved in that area.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): So far, Mitchell has shown a willingness to play his young guys a bunch of minutes. Moving Lavine into the starting lineup before preseason is a sign of this. I'm interested to see ow he distributes the minutes between the veterans (KG, Prince, Miller, Martin) and all the young guys.
How realistic is it that the Wolves have a fighting spot for an 8 seed this year? Possible at all?
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Definitely possible. The key to me is a huge season from Ricky Rubio and everyone staying healthy, two huge what-ifs. But if the cards fall into place, then it's absolutely possible.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): I'll say there's a slim chance, just because I don't want to completely shut the door on the idea. In order to make the playoffs, Ricky would need to stay healthy the entire season and improve his jumpshot, Wiggins would have to take a huge leap (scoring 20+ points per game), Towns would need to be ROY material, and much more. Bottom line: A LOT of things would have to go right.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): I don't think so; not unless they redesign their offensive sets to allow Rubio to create everything, and then Rubio steps up into an All-Star level of play. I don't necessarily expect either of those two things to happen, so I think playoffs are out of the question, this year.
Zach More (OTP): Not possible. Just not enough experience from the players that will see a majority of the minutes. Sam made it clear the developing the young guys is the main objective for the season.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): I mean, in the words of Kevin Garnett, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! But, yeah, the Wolves won't be in the playoffs this season. There's just too much youth and inexperience.
How much help can Nemanja Bjelica bring to the table?
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): I'm not sure how to describe it..."TONS!" "LOADS" "EVERYTHING!". One of those has to work. After watching Bjelica this summer, I'm officially a believer. Some might make fun of me because I flip-flopped on him as much as Donald Trump, but I'm a firm believer (Until he sucks or something). Bjelica is the perfect player to play 20-25 minutes behind Garnett at the 4 and brings completely different toolsets, especially on offense. He's definitely going to be a player to watch this season.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): A ton. After watching him in the preseason, it's clear the transition from Europe to the NBA will be smooth. Minnesota's offensive flow is much, much better with him on the floor with his elite passing skills. The spacing he provides offensively opens up opportunities for Wiggins and Bazz to attack the basket. He also might be our best 3 point shooter. Add it all up - and you've got something special.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): It's still early, but he seems to be one of the team's best players. His unusual combination of skills for a tall player - ball handling, shooting, and setting ball screens himself - seem to open up the floor for his teammates and encourage a modern style of play. He might be good.
Zach More (OTP): Bejlica can bring a lot to the table for the Wolves in a lot of different areas. He has the ability to be a top 4 scorer on the team. Could lead the team in 3 point percentage and will create a lot for this offense.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Nemanja Bjelica has been impressive so far in the preseason, and there's no reason to believe he won't make a big positive impact on the Wolves. He's a sharpshooter form deep and has the court vision of a point guard. When he's in the game, it should help spread the floor and allow guys like Wiggins and Towns to operate.
We know that this is a make or break season for Ricky Rubio, what can he do to justify he is worthy of a starting point guard position in the NBA?
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): I think he's already justified himself as a starting point guard in the NBA. The question now is how good can he be. I still believe he can be really good' he's already a great defender and distributor and still just 24 years old. All he really needs is an average shooting percentage and, oh yeah, to stay healthy! That's the biggest key for Rubio, he must stay healthy for a full season.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Stay healthy. It's that simple. If he can play 75-82 games this season, things will take care of themselves. He is only 24 years old, and is already an elite passer and defender. He's always struggled finishing at the rim, which is something he needs to work on. If his shooting improves , I'd expect him to average around 12 points per game. All in all, he is literally the most important player on this team right now and the team's competitiveness will be determined by his health.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): We know that this is a make or break season for Ricky Rubio, what he can do to justify he is worthy of a starting point guard position in the NBA? --> People say that type of thing about a lot players and teams, every year. I read that this is a "make or break" year for the Clippers, even though they should remain a title contender for at least a few years after this one, assuming Chris Paul stays healthy. I think Rubio is already a starting-caliber point guard in the NBA, based on his impact (easily measured over the course of his career) on both ends of the floor. Whether he takes another leap into All-Star consideration is the question I have. In order to do that, he just needs to shoot a little better, and develop better scoring instincts when he drives into the lane. He's already an elite passer and a very good defensive player. His strengths might be more highlighted by an athletic roster, like this one figures to become, that what he used to be surrounded by with Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic.
Zach More (OTP): Number one thing Ricky has to do is stay healthy. I think if he is healthy for a full season, his game will prove he is a starting point guard. He will never lead a team in scoring for a season but he can contribute so much to the outcome of the game with his defense and passing. If Ricky can make his open shots and finish around the hoop (develop a floater, please!!), he will be the starting point guard of now and the future.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): I don't think Rubio has to do very much to justify his starting position. The Wolves' net rating statistics with him on the court vs. with him off the court tell a pretty convincing story of the kind of impact he he has. He literally makes the Wolves a competitive team just by playing. However, I will acknowledge that he can improve his shot and make himself more of a threat to sore. That definitely wouldn't hurt.
Lets switch the flip to the predictions section of this roundtable.
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Shabazz Muhammad averages more points per game than Andrew Wiggins.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Nemanja Bjelica will finish in the top 5 for NBA Rookie of the Year voting.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): One of Rubio/Lavine/Muhammad ends the season on a different team's roster.
Zach More (OTP): Andre Miller and Kevin Martin don't end the season on the team.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Nemanja Bjelica finishes the season Top 5 in the NBA in three-point percentage.
Most Improved Player
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Ricky Rubio (barring he stays healthy)
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Gorgui Dieng
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Adreian Payne (he's coming from the lowest starting point)
Zach More (OTP): Gorgui Dieng
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Adreian Payne
Who leads the team in scoring this season?
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Kevin Martin
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Andrew Wiggins
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Andrew Wiggins (per game; Shabazz per minute)
Zach More (OTP): Andrew Wiggins
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Andrew Wiggins
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Nemanja Bjelica
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Nemanja Bjelica
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Andrew Wiggins
Zach More (OTP): Nemanja Bjelica
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Karl-Anthony Towns
Most Valuable Player
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Ricky Rubio
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Ricky Rubio
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Ricky Rubio
Zach More (OTP): Ricky Rubio
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Ricky Rubio
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Nah
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): No. However, it's in Toronto - so there's a small chance the fans could vote Wiggins in as a starter.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): no.
Zach More (OTP): No. (Tyus, Lavine, Wiggins, Bjelica will all play in rookie/sophomore game)
Drew Mahowald (DWW): No
Final spot in Western Conference standings (15 teams)
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): 12
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): 13
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): 13
Zach More (OTP): 14
Drew Mahowald (DWW): 12
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): 29-53
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): 28-54
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): 26-56
Zach More (OTP): 24-58
Drew Mahowald (DWW): 32-50
Rookie of the Year
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Emmanuel Mudiay
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Jahlil Okafor
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Jahlil Okafor
Zach More (OTP): Jahlil Okafor
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Jahlil Okafor
Defensive Player of the Year
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Rudy Gobert
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Hassan Whiteside
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Rudy Gobert
Zach More (OTP): Rudy Gobert
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Tony Allen, only because of FIRST-TEAM ALL DEFENSE
Surprise Team of the Year
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Milwaukee Bucks
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Miami Heat
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): New York Knicks
Zach More (OTP): Miami Heat
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Milwaukee Bucks
Most Improved Player
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Otto Porter Jr.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Hassan Whiteside
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Ben McLemore
Zach More (OTP): Otto Porter Jr.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Just for fun, Jimmer Fredette (Hey, he's on the Spurs now. You never know.)
Coach of the Year
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Greg Popovich
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Erik Spoelstra
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Alvin Gentry
Zach More (OTP): Jason Kidd
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Jason Kidd
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): James Harden
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Lebron James
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Anthony Davis
Zach More (OTP): Russell Westbrook
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Lebron, sorry
Eastern Conference Finals Matchup
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Cavs-Bucks
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Cavs-Heat
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Cavs-Bulls
Zach More (OTP): Cavs-Wizards
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Cavs-Bucks
Western Conference Finals Matchup
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Clippers-Spurs
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Warriors-Spurs
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Warriors-Spurs
Zach More (OTP): Warriors-Thunder
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Warriors-Spurs
NBA Finals Matchup
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Cavs-Spurs
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Cavs-Warriors
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Cavs-Warriors
Zach More (OTP): Cavs-Thunder
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Cavs-Spurs
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Cleveland Cavaliers
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Cleveland Cavaliers
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Golden State Warriors
Zach More (OTP): Cleveland Cavaliers
Drew Mahowald (DWW): San Antonio Spurs
By: Dan Slaubaugh
Wednesday night, the Wolves took the court against the Toronto Raptors in hopes of winning their first preseason game of the year. Minnesota's defense had been atrocious the past 3 games giving up 116 points per contest. They looked like a team that wouldn't be able to win 20 games. It was that bad. They were in need of a confidence-booster, and they got one.
Andrew Wiggins and Tayshaun Prince paced the Wolves early in the first quarter combining for 15 points. Andrew had 5. Tayshaun had 10. Halfway through the first, Minnesota trailed 10-9. Shortly after, Bjelica checked in for Towns and knocked down a triple, which was then followed by a Prince triple. Prince, in a spot start in place of Kevin Martin (back spasms), had 10 of the Wolves first 20 points. At the end of the first quarter, Minnesota was shooting 60% from the field, Toronto was shooting 53.3%, and the Wolves trailed 25-23.
The Wolves started out the second quarter with Jones, Lavine, Muhammad, Bjelica, and Deing on the court. Toronto quickly went on a 8-0 run only followed by a pair of triples from Tyus Jones, and one triple from Damjan Rud3z, tying it up at 32 a piece. The Raptors returned the favor with an 8-0 run of their own. At the half, the Wolves trailed the Raptors 54-43. Tayshaun Prince was the leading scorer at 10 points, followed by Towns with 9 points. A familiar face in Anthony Bennett had 9 points and 6 rebounds for Toronto.
The Wolves actually had some nice ball movement in the 3rd quarter, led by a trio of Jones, Rudez, and Bjelica. I'm tellin' ya, the Euro's can really pass the ball. Minnesota was getting a lot of good looks, consecutively, which is something we have not seen this year. They were also shooting more threes, and playing great defense, holding Toronto to just 13 points in the third quarter. At the end of 3, the Wolves trailed 67-60, and were shooting 50 freaking percent (9-18) from downtown.
The 4th quarter lineup of Tyus Jones, Zach Lavine, Damjan Rudez, Nemanja Bjelica, and Gorgui Dieng pushed the Wolves to their first preseason win defeating the Raptors 89-87. Minnesota outscored Toronto 29-20 in the 4th quarter with nice spacing and ball movement.
Played well. Finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Like how consistent he is. Hasn't had much of a rough outing yet. He's a much needed defensive presence in the middle of the lane.
Played alright. Nothing spectacular, nothing terrible. Had a couple nice kick-outs for threes that I was impressed with. Finished with 11 points (3-10 fg) and 3 rebounds. I'm sure he is a little juiced from the defensive workload he's had to deal with the past week and a half (Durant, Butler, Carroll).
Played very well in a spot start in place of Kevin Martin. Finished with 13 points and 20 minutes (5-6 fg, 3-4 3pfg). Was very efficient.
He's more NBA ready than many people thought he'd be. Finished with 12 points (4-7 fg, 2-2 3pfg), 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Still struggles on defense, but can handle the ball, shoot the trey, and facilitate well as a point guard. He's also been working the P&R nicely, hooking up with Gorgui on a couple possessions.
Played well off the bench. Finished with 14 points (6-9 fg) and 3 rebounds. Hit a corner 3 which was encouraging to see given the amount of 3 pointers Minnesota was taking.
Nemanja Bjelica and Damjan Rudez
Wolves are a much better team when these guys are on the floor. Both can pass extremely well, shoot extremely well. Bjelica finished with 8 points (2-5 fg, 2-5 3pfg) and 7 rebounds. Rudez finished with 7 points (2-3 fg, 1-2 3pfg). Both finished in the plus column, which is encouraging.
His struggles continue. Needs to stop shooting early in the shot clock, especially contested shots. Finished with 9 points (3-8 fg, 1-3 3pfg) and 5 assists. The one positive shown from him tonight was his passing as he had a couple nice dishes to Gorgui for buckets.
Didn't play much (12 mins). Just like Lavine, he has unexpectedly struggled. Finished with 0 points. Maybe he's still adjusting to basketball after working on his body all summer in Cali. Idk. Just making excuses and hoping he turns it around sooner than later.
-Shot 50% from beyond the arc (12-24)
-Shooting 43% in preseason (35-81)
The Wolves next game is Sunday vs. the Memphis Grizzlies. Tip-of is set for 5 pm CST. There are just 3 preseason games left (MEM, MIL, MIL) before the start of the regular season. There will be no local TV for Sunday night's game, but both Bucks games will be broadcasted on Fox Sports North.
By: Dan Slaubaugh
Saturday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves were in Winnipeg, Canada to face the Chicago Bulls in the first game of the NBA Canada Series. Ricky Rubio was unavailable, for the 2nd straight game, due to precautionary reasons for his right quad strain. Andre Miller was also unavailable (personal reasons), so Tyus Jones and Lorenzo Brown would have to log heavy minutes for the night. Lorenzo started, while Tyus came off the bench.
The first quarter was once again atrocious for the Wolves defensively, giving up 34 points consisting of way too many uncontested looks for the Bulls. I'm not sure I can pick out 1 player who was terrible defensively -- they were all just terrible together. I should say Chicago started out 2-9 in the first quarter -- but from then on the D struggled. Midway through the first, the Bulls were already 4-8 from outside the line. Most of those shots were uncontested. I would love to say that the Wolves were better on the offensive side of the ball, but they weren't. The offense was a jumbled mess, the spacing was bad, and there were too many clusters. In the first 5 minutes of action, Minnesota had just 2 total points and were 0-8 from the field. At the end of the first quarter, the Wolves were 3-17 from the field and trailing 34-16.
The 2nd quarter was much better offensively, particularly because of Tyus Jones, who led the Wolves with 16 points in 6 second quarter minutes. In fact, he was so good, that he accounted for 24 of the Wolves 26 points. The defense was still bad, but not as bad giving up 31 points in the quarter. Minnesota outscored Chicago 39-31 in the second quarter.
The Wolves started out the 3rd quarter just like they had started out the first, terrible spacing and too many clusters. Midway through the third, Karl-Anthony Towns achieved his first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Minnesota's offense started to flow a little better towards the middle-end of the 3rd, with good ball movement leading to open shots, resulting in buckets.
Minnesota was down by 12 heading into the 4th quarter and could never come within 7 points, resulting in a 114-105 loss. Bazz and Wiggins started to pick things up in the 4th quarter, which was nice to see, but Wiggins needs to learn to have an aggressive mentality the whole game, not just when he wants to.
Pretty poor performances from Andrew so far in the preseason. Needs to be reminded that he is their guy and he needs to act, and play like it. Needs to go 100% at all times. He has it in him, someone (KG?) just needs to get it out of him.
Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince
Grouping these players together simply because they are in a similar situation as far as preseason minutes go. Garnett finished 2 points, 4 rebounds in 10:31 minutes of action. Tayshaun didn't make much of an impression positively or negatively. He had 1 rebound.
Another strong game for KAT with 13 points and 10 rebounds. They're defensive struggles have to be incredibly frustrating for him, considering how dominant Kentucky was defensively last year. A little concerned about his foul rate, but nothing to worry too much about.
Has struggled throughout these first couple preseason games. I don't think it's an effort issue though, just forcing unnecessary shots and thinking too much. Needs to let the game come to him. The 4 rebounds and 3 assists are a positive though.
Has stayed very consistent through first couple games. Finished with 11 points and 9 rebounds in 17 minutes. Can pass and shoot with the best of 'em. The only flaw I have found is that he doesn't always shoot when he is open because he's such a team player, needs to because he is such a dang good shooter.
Had nice stretch in 2nd quarter while in with Tyus. I try not to over-analyze on Kmart because we know who he is and what he will bring to the table.
The most impressive player of the night was in fact Tyus, who finished just shy of a double-double (18 points, 9 assists). Shot 5-9 from the field and 3-3 from behind the arc. Can tell his high basketball IQ is helping him translate to NBA game. Of course, this is just 1 preseason game, but it shows us what he is capable of.
That is all.
I'm officially a believer in Damjan Rudez. He's seriously awesome at what he does best, shooting. He cashed in on 3 triples again and should make the roster, bar a complete breakdown.
Productive night for Gorgui with 13 points and 3 rebounds. Finished in the plus column (+3) which is always a positive. Nobody ever has to tell him to go harder, play harder. He has 1 motor, which is something I love about him.
He passed the ball better, and also shot it a little better. Finished 4-8 from the field and 2-4 from behind the arc. His motor and driving ability were enough to make him a valuable offensive weapon last year. If he can improve his passing and shooting skills, it will only make him a more well-rounded player and that much more dangerous.
Didn't play a minute, and nobody seemed to care.
-Defense is going to struggle, and will take lots of time to improve.
-Shot 4-18 from 3 pt range vs OKC.
-Shot 11-21 vs. CHI, much of an improvement.
That's all I have for this one! The Wolves head to Toronto to face the Raptors Monday night at 6:30pm CT for the 2nd game of the NBA Canada Series.