The preseason has arrived, and a critical Minnesota Timberwolves campaign has begun. The comfortable tones of Dave Benz and Jim Peterson have once more passed through our ears. Gone are the long hot nights of dwelling over off-season moves and front office drama — there is basketball to be watched and analyzed, basketball that will inform us of what our beloved Pack may look like in this most important of seasons. Sort of.
Yes, yes, as anyone in their right mind will tell you, translating preseason form to regular-season wins is a dangerous game. Like trusting Google translate to get you through a conversation in a foreign land, you might look foolish if you don’t take steps to caution yourself.
So gather your grains and sprinkle that salt all over this column. Things said here may not age well.
Preseason and regular-season games are not 1:1 in value, but they have some value. Even though the New Orleans Pelicans were without direction this offseason and Zion Williamson, there are takeaways aplenty to be had from Monday’s game. Strangely for this team, they are primarily positive.
D’Angelo Russell’s Summer
DLo looks like he spent the summer getting ready for the cold Minny winter the right way: in the sun, growing a beard. What a handsome fella he is.
Aside from his looks, DLo looks ready to at least try on defense and play like the best point guard he can be on offense. The jumper is looking silky, and his court vision is contagious. It’s been said so many times that it is easy to forget how important it is for the best players to play with each other for a team to succeed and for us to judge them successfully. Things looked about as good as could be hoped for in the minutes that Karl-Anthony Towns, Russell, and Anthony Edwards shared the floor.
It’s what we all came to see, and it looked pretty good, if a little frantic. Finch’s new 1-v-1 show-me-what-you-got system seems to be bringing the best out of guys early. I worry that that frenetic energy might turn into a foul pile-up when facing elite offensive players and systems similar to those we have seen throughout Towns’ career and Monday night for Jaden McDaniels.
Still, there is much reason for optimism here. The second quarter, which included a 17-0 run in the Wolves’ favor, is proof that they can succeed when the offense is humming, and the team is getting back on D in an organized fashion.
I’ll talk about Ant a little bit more in a sec, but if his goal of getting two steals a game includes playing the type of team-D it did Monday night, sign me up.
This man is looking to cleanse the Wolves’ 22 jersey of all the pain we have associated with it in recent years. The young players are already looking to him to fill the older statesmen void left by Sir Ricky, and he’s doing it with his zesty flair. Personally, I’d be happy if the Wolves get a few techs this season, as long as they back it up with the type of defensive intensity they showed through stretches of Monday night’s game.
Beverley is what you want to see reflected when the Wolves look in the mirror.
A few quick Ant thoughts:
- He does look big. Bigger than before.
- He looked to pass more than he did last season. I’d have to check the tape, but the pull-up twos that diminished his efficiency and effectiveness last year seem to be out of the playbook.
- Ant could lead wings in dunks this year if the Wolves will be a turnover-forcing defense this year.
The Wolves have shooters now. Rosas may be gone, but his dream of surrounding KAT with shooters lives on. Taurean Prince — who I will not do the disservice of abbreviating his name to initials for obvious reasons — Malik Beasley and D’Lo all have the potential to be elite shooters this year.
We have all been waiting with bated breath to see if JO would get it together on the offensive end enough to justify court time and enable his ability on D to raise the entire team’s floor. It looks like he might have. He was 2-of-3 from behind the arc, both from the corners, and grabbed two steals and two blocks in just under 20 minutes. It was exactly what the doctor ordered.
More Hair: The Pony-Tail Boys
I look forward to Naz Reid and Prince sharing the floor. Both have great pony-tail bounce and cutting instincts that should complement each other.
Long waits often lead to disappointments, especially in Wolves Land. In the case of Leandro Bolmaro, we might be in for some happiness. He is longer than I expected him to look on an NBA floor, and the handle is looking improved even since his Olympic stint for Argentina. If the jumper is steady, I don’t see how he doesn’t end up earning himself some minutes with that winning smile.
Another thing to consider with LB is that as much as Finch can limit Beverley from playing extensive, potentially injury-provoking minutes, he will — especially if Bolmaro looks like he can hold his own.
Nowell didn’t enter the game until the fourth quarter. Is he really this far down the rotation? Time will tell, but if Okogie can play offense with any degree of confidence and effectiveness, Nowell could be seeing a lot fewer minutes than I expected.
The fourth quarter of an NBA preseason game is meant to be a dreary place. Wins and losses are secondary to getting the balance of enough reps and not injuring key players. However, the vibe was straight-up feisty in the fourth. Wolves debuts for a handful of players, including Bolmaro and Nathan Knight, brought cohesive and deliberate intensity from one to 20 on the training camp roster.
Is there a chance that McKinley Wright and Knight are the next Jordan McLaughlin and Naz Reid? Knight looked even springier than advertised in his fourth-quarter minutes, and while he is sure to be last in line for big boy minutes, he is likely to force some consideration if he is simply too good for the Electrolyte League.
Wright, Isaiah Miller, and J-Mac are too small to coexist on an NBA roster, but it sure is nice to think about them waiting in the wings.