Good morning all. Just a few things to get us on our way this fine Tuesday.
First, we just posted the first Wolvescast of the season, the podcast hosted by Neil and Scott Olstad. Neil covered the Lynx for us this summer and produced some terrific podcasts on them, and Scott is going to be writing for us this Wolves season. They will be podding together about the Wolves, and I recommend a listen.
Second, the always excellent Zach Lowe published a preview piece putting NBA teams in tiers. He put the Wolves in the “West 5-to-11,” and wrote this about them:
Most league insiders have the Wolves above this jumble. Some internal team projections around the league spit out 50 wins and a top-four seed.
Bet the under. The paper-thin Wolves start two traditional bigs and three so-so 3-point shooters who dominate the ball in Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague. Those three will diminish each other -- at least over the first stretch of the season. The Wolves will have to bash through walls of defenders in the paint.
It's fun to joke that the bench doesn't matter, since Tom Thibodeau will play the starters into the ground. Luckily, the foursome of Teague, Butler, Wiggins and Towns has been remarkably durable. But what if one of them misses 20 games? Can Karl-Anthony Towns give a crap on defense before we anoint him a top-10 player? Minnesota flopped to 27th in points allowed per possession in Thibodeau's first season. Swing the ball just once, and the Wolves fractured, conceding both the rim and the arc.
Butler should drag them toward league average. He can hound the best opposing wing, and kick Wiggins and Towns in the ass when they get lazy. Those two will improve with reps; Thibodeau will bellow until they do.
Butler became a well-rounded star on offense last season, and Towns has the potential to be the most versatile scoring big man ever -- and the second, after Dirk Nowitzki, to join the exalted 50-40-90 club. You don't want your monster big hanging around the perimeter too much, but Towns' willingness to float there -- and yield the interior to Butler and Wiggins -- will help Thibodeau mesh ill-fitting personnel.
This is Lowe pumping the breaks on all the Wolves love, at least a little bit (he still has them making the playoffs. Of course, here at Canis, we are a miserable, pessimistic bunch, so we don’t really need to be brought back to earth. 50+ wins does feel like a stretch for this group, and the problems Lowe mentions are legitimate.
I really thought the defense would get much better last season with a combination of Thibodeau and not having rookies playing big minutes, but it didn’t happen. We think they should be much better this season with Jimmy Butler and another year of experience for Towns and Wiggins, but we’ll have to see it first. It should be significantly better at that end, but we’ve thought that before.
The offense should be very good just on the basis of talent, but they will need to figure things out. The ball will have to move and they will need to get defenses moving so they can attack. Teams aren’t going to fear any Wolves from three, at least early in the season, which makes things tough. The lane will be clogged.
We’ve discussed at length the questionable roster building that took place after the big draft night trade. They remain awfully thin at the wing, and don’t really have a stretch four or anyone who can chase around opponents’ smaller fours. They also, by the way, only have 13 guaranteed NBA contracts at the moment, two of which are Cole Aldrich and Aaron Brooks.
Third, the extensions for fourth year players are starting to get reported. Gary Harris signed one with Denver for a guaranteed $74M. Yesterday brought news that Joel Embiid signed a max, 5 year, $148M deal with the Sixers, though it turns out that not all of that is guaranteed. Which, for a guy who played 31 games over his first three seasons, yeah.
We still await Andrew Wiggins signing his max deal. The deadline for these is October 16th.
The Wolves made it back from China and two games with the Warriors. They have no more pre-season games, and we won’t see them in a competitive situation until the season opener on October 18th (a week from tomorrow!) in San Antonio against the Spurs.
What should we talk about?