So, I am new to Canis this year. Wanting to make an impression on the Canis community I spent Saturday night preparing as if it were the first day of school. As the first preseason game approached, I metaphorically spent all day Saturday shining my fresh pair of J’s, ironing my new polo, and perfecting a sculpted ski jump of bangs and hair gel.
I so badly wanted to treat you all as the pretty girl in school.
Much to my chagrin, my new league pass account proved to be useless as neither the Wolves nor the Heat broadcast the game. But I was determined. Not taking “no” for an answer, I dug deep into the depths of google for one of those shady broadcast feeds. And I found it! However, said shady website told me I needed to download the most recent version of Flash. Like a Gorgui Dieng pump fake, I bit.
That was a mistake. My computer was eaten by the evil depths of the internet and has been at the Apple Store since Saturday. I blew it. I simultaneously spilled Welch’s grape juice all over the freshest of Polos and stepped in a big pile of dog goo.
After substantial resuscitation of the ole’ MacBook and the passing of time, a youtube video of the game has surfaced. I have watched the game, and speaking of Dieng pump fakes, that is how the first Wolves possession came to fruition.
I should disclaim: The youtube video has no sound or scoreboard. Judging purely by the reaction of the players, I believe the above play was ruled a travel by Dieng. So, he hasn’t corrected that.
The Frontcourt Under Thibodeau
An interesting note, the Heat opted to guard Dieng with Hassan Whiteside and 6’ 9” James Johnson was on Karl-Anthony Towns. It will be interesting to follow if this is how teams decide to guard the Wolves frontcourt this season.
If this, in fact, is a trend, definitively it will be a concession by the Wolves opponent. The thought process of the Heat Saturday was not wanting to sacrifice the elite rim-defense of Whiteside. In guarding Towns, Whiteside would be stretched out to the perimeter.
When the smaller of the two big men guard Towns this season he will eat in the post. This will, then, lead to a necessitated double team. Seen here with Whiteside coming over to bail out James Johnson from the blender Towns puts Johnson in.
For this reason, it is crucial that Towns does not settle for being on the perimeter. Zach Harper, the forager who dug up this wonderfully confusing piece of jumbotron basketball, pointed out that Towns was often pushed off the block on Saturday.
Wolves struggle to get KAT ball in the post. Willie Reed pushing him out. So he adapts to the situation. pic.twitter.com/F4ktcDQSWr— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) October 9, 2016
The result, or adaptation, was a success in this isolated instance, but Towns’ greatest value comes from working on the block due to the way he can find success but also free up teammates.
Towns was clearly the best player on the floor, but Hassan Whiteside was a problem for the Wolves. The Heat began the game with a heavy dosage of Whiteside-Dragic pick and rolls. Dieng, Whiteside’s primary defender, looked to consistently be on his heels as Dragic attacked the two-man game, often a step slow for the contest as we see here:
The very next possession the Heat went back to attacking Dieng. This time on the right-hand drive, Dragic waits for Dieng to commit to contesting the shot only to drop off to Whiteside for the basket and the foul.
Deciding to guard Whiteside with Dieng rather than Towns is an interesting move. I am sure if Sam Mitchell were the head coach the lambasting of that move would be abundant. Questioning the defensive whisperer that is Tom Thibodeau is a bold move. However, playing Towns on the opponent’s primary pick and roll big man is arguably a no-brainer. Towns has the chops to defend the rim, and the quickness to full on switch onto the primary ball handler. Damian Lillard knows that.
My assumption is that Dieng was simply beginning the game on Whiteside, and that we will see Towns in the epicenter of the defense more often during crunch time. This strategy can often be used to keep a player of Towns’ quality out of foul trouble.
Wiggins (Still) Settling for Jump Shots
Andrew Wiggins was an unimpressive 3 for 11 from the field on Saturday Night. The shot selection reminded me of rookie year Wiggins. When he found little in the way of the rim he settled for jump shots. Less important than the result of the shots was the way it looked - apprehensive and off balance.
That is Luke Babbit switched onto Wiggins. Babbit is historically a terrible defender with a career -2.0 Defensive Box Plus/Minus, per basketball-reference.com. I don’t know if it is supreme confidence in his jump shot or an unwillingness to assess the defense but Wiggins still appears to decide his move before the play develops.
Rubio and LaVine Backcourt
It feels so good to know that the LaVine point guard experiment is over. His talents are optimized in his ability run the floor with Rubio. Like a quarterback, Rubio’s first “read” on the fast break is always LaVine.
Rubio and LaVine go outlet shopping, pick up matching fur coats pic.twitter.com/xQhlhJXh1b— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) October 9, 2016
It could be the grainy quality of the Kansas City jumbotron, but LaVine physically looks bigger. His athleticism has taken no-hit. This play was weirdly beautiful.
Sure thing, Zach LaVine. Sure thing... pic.twitter.com/wHpl1X89qh— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) October 9, 2016
LaVine didn’t get much run with Kris Dunn. As confident as I am about the Rubio-LaVine backcourt, seeing which of the two young guards take control of the possession when they are on the floor together will be an interesting narrative to follow.
The Second Unit
As Jerry Zgoda laid out in his blog, it appears two distinct units are beginning to be formed. The assumed starting rotation has been practicing together, and the second five has already begun to coalesce: Kris Dunn, Brandon Rush, Shabazz Muhammad, Nemanja Bjelica, and Cole Aldrich. Currently out of the rotation are Jordan Hill, Tyus Jones, Adreian Payne, and the training camp invitees.
Speaking of bench players, Derrick Williams, the newest Miami Heat player featured a bad haircut and terrible shot selection on Saturday. For the first time in years, the Wolves should be featuring a competent bench. (No more J.J. Barea bowling to the basket flops!)
Unfortunately, this game didn’t particularly give me a great deal of confidence. Most notably disappointing was the tentative nature of Nemanja Bjelica. As was the story last season, when Bjelica is confident, he is the stretch-four threat desired. When he hesitates possessions become awkward and unsuccessful.
When the open shot is there Bjelica needs to take it. He certainly can not compound this by traveling. Towns literally had to point out an open three-pointer to Bjelica.
Favorite play of the game so far. KAT reminds Bjelica he can shoot 3's. pic.twitter.com/OZssWu00NZ— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) October 9, 2016
For the rest of the second unit, Aldrich showed off the rim defense he was brought on for, and Kris Dunn made a three!
Cole Aldrich can't believe Willie Reed challenged him pic.twitter.com/HJ3uiYMSNl— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) October 9, 2016
Game Two of the Preseason
Many more developments to come as the actual broadcasts are soon to be upon us. Unfortunately, that will not be tonight’s game. The Wolves face off against the Charlotte Hornets who have already played three preseason games, losing all three.
Tonight’s game begins at 6pm CT. Unfortunately, we will be restricted to the dulcet tones of Alan Horton on WCCO Radio. There is potential for a live feed on the Charlotte Hornets website, according to Horton.
Neither team is televising tonight. Hornets are working on possible live stream on their website. Radio coverage 6pm 830 @wccoradio.— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) October 10, 2016
If you go digging for a live stream, know you DO NOT need to download the most recent version of Flash Player. Let’s follow the box score together.