We made it. The Wolves season opener is set for tonight in San Antonio at 8:30 PM (CT) on ESPN and FSN. I know which telecast I’ll be watching. (Shout-out to Jim, Dave, and Marney.) In honor of the first game tonight (82-0!) we wanted to run something back from last year.
It’s The Second Annual Definitely Correct Canis Hoopus Opening Night Predictions!
Don’t worry, I made sure the guys know I will be reviewing these predictions once the season comes to an end. Nobody is safe from the accountability police.
The Wolves will win their opener in San Antonio. ~ Eric in Madison
(STARTING OFF REALLY BOLD, I LOVE IT.)
They will finish first in Free Throw Rate. The Wolves finished 9th in FTR in 2016-2017, and over the summer added Jimmy Butler, who was 4th last season in FTA per game (8.8). The trio of Towns, Wiggins, and Butler will spend almost as much time at the charity stripe as Thibs will spend time yelling. ~ Kyle Theige
In the spirit of optimism, here's a prediction recycled from last season when it was embarrassingly wrong: The Wolves will finish in the top half of the league defensively as opposed to 27th last season. I think I'll continue predicting this until it happens. ~ Eric in Madison
In the spirit of pessimism, at least one starter will miss 20 games or more due to injury this season. ~ Eric in Madison
This is the part where I stop the predictions to say a little prayer to the Basketball Gods. Please, please, please, stay healthy.
Karl-Anthony Towns will lead the team in 3PA. Towns finished 3rd on the Wolves last season in 3PA, behind only Zach LaVine (6.6) and Wiggins (3.5). Call it a gut feeling, but with LaVine now in the Windy City, I still don’t see Andrew expanding his range that much more, meaning that Butler (3.3) and Teague (3.1) will be Towns’ other main competition to lead this category. While the Wolves will (hopefully) place even a greater emphasis on threes this season, look for Towns to keep #AllEyesNorth as he increases his 3PA rate to well north of four per game. ~ Kyle Theige
KAT will make the most threes on the team. Since we’re on the subject, I’m going to say he leads the Wolves from beyond the arc. He went from 30 makes in his rookie season to 101 last year. I think in year three he’s going to be asked to space even more with Butler, Gibson, and Teague in the picture and it’s going to result in another jump in the three-point department. 140 triples. Why not? ~ John Meyer
Cole Aldrich will not finish the regular season on the Wolves roster. Only about 1/3 of Aldrich’s contract is guaranteed for the 2018-2019 season (if not waived on or before 6/20/18), meaning he could be a lukewarm asset at the trade deadline. By that time, Justin Patton should be fully recovered from his injury, providing an extra big to an already loaded frontcourt. Ideally, the Wolves will be buyers at this year’s deadline, meaning they will use Aldrich’s contract, and maybe the first round pick from OKC, to add another piece as they approach their first playoff run in 13 years. ~ Kyle Theige
We have our first official agreement!
Josh agrees with Mr. Theige.
The Wolves trade Aldrich for someone who can play on the wing at some point this season. In Zach Lowe’s most recent article, he mentioned the Wolves were aiming for Jared Dudley in return for trading Aldrich and maybe a second round pick. It makes too much sense for them to move on from Aldrich, as the team is stocked in the frontcourt but really light on the wings. Aldrich barely saw the court last year, so the team will try to trade him for a player that fits this roster. ~ Josh Clement
Jimmy G Buckets will average greater than 20p/6r/5a for the second consecutive season. ~ John Meyer
Butler will also average two or more steals for the first time in his career. The last four seasons he has averaged 1.9, 1.8, 1.6, and 1.9. ~ John Meyer
Nemanja Bjelica will start 15 or more games at PF this season. Taj Gibson, the Wolves current starter at PF, has played in only 48% of available games over the last two seasons. While Gorgui seems like the logical fill-in (Dieng started all 82 games at PF last season), I see him developing a great role on the Wolves second unit, leaving Bjelica as the remaining lone wolf to fill Taj’s shoes. ~ Kyle Theige
(Correction: Taj played in 78 games last year and 73 the year before. Basketball reference puts his Chicago games and Oklahoma City games on separate lines, leading to the confusion above. But as we say here at Canis Hoopus, his POINT STILL STANDS!)
Jamal Crawford will average four assists per game as the primary playmaker on the second unit. He hasn't averaged over four assists since 2009 and I know he's been known more as a scorer, however, someone has to run the offense for the backups. Tyus Jones is the point but I predict Thibs may ask Crawford to lead the pack because of his experience. Thibs is also known to play his starters massive minutes, but I see Jamal as someone that will play significant reserve minutes while also getting to play with the ones. ~Tony Porter
Andrew Wiggins will have the highest scoring game of the season of any Wolf. He will drop 50 at some point. If I had to be extremely specific about this — and, hell, why not have some fun — I’ll say 53 against the Lakers either on Mon, Dec 25 (@ Lakers) or Thu, Feb 15 (vs. Lakers). Both games are being broadcast on TNT; Maple Jordan will smell the popcorn. ~ John Meyer
Jeff Teague leads the team in three-point attempts and makes. Someone among the starters is going to have to lead this team in three-point attempts and my money is on Teague. Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins are likely going to stay near their career averages, with Wiggins going up a little, but to help out with spacing it makes sense to park Teague on the three-point line when Butler, Towns, and Wiggins are going to work in the interior. He should be able to get a lot of open shots that Ricky Rubio used to pass up on. ~ Josh Clement
Butler, Towns, and Wiggins all finish top 10 in minutes played. Baring injury, it’s tough to think of a safer bet. Below are the minutes leaders from last season. ~ John Meyer
The Wolves have two All-Stars this year with Butler and Towns. I think Towns is actually more likely to make the All-Star team even though Butler may be a better player this year. There are less superstars to fight for the final All-Star spots in the frontcourt compared to the wings. However, I think a dramatic improvement from the Wolves would be rewarded with two All-Star spots. ~ Josh Clement (Another agreement. Drew Mahowald is on board with this prediction.)
At the end of the year, Nemanja Bjelica is closing out crunch-time games with Teague, Wiggins, Butler, and Towns. This is more of a fit question than anything else, as well as a question about Taj’s ability to make it through a full season with heavy minutes. Bjelica, for all his faults, just seems to make things work when he has had the chance to play with the starters. He offers a combination of playmaking, shooting, and generally being in the right spot on defense at the power forward position that the Wolves otherwise do not have. Of course, we have been saying this for years about Belly, but maybe this is the year when the Bjelicassaince truly happens. ~ Josh Clement
How about a quick lightning round with Eric...
- Top five in total rebounding rate
- Bottom five in three-pointers taken and made
- Gorgui Dieng will see the biggest reduction in minutes of any holdover on the team
- Tyus Jones will see the biggest increase in minutes
- The team will have their first All-Star since Kevin Love
Some more quick predictions to throw out there...
Final record: 47-35, 6th seed. (I will not comment on how they do in the playoffs because I am not familiar with this part of the season.)
Jeff Teague will shoot greater than 37 percent from three, while setting a new career-high for threes per game, beating the 1.4 mark he posted in 2015-16.
Taj Gibson will hit corner threes. I don’t know how many but he will make the shot part of his game and everyone will consistently comment on this new development.
Thibs will get fined for swearing or freaking out during a game in some capacity at least once. (The mics are way tooooooo hot.)
KAT will once again lead the team in dunks. Wiggins will finish second, Butler third, and Muhammad fourth. Towns will also lead the league in double doubles after falling just short a season ago.
Wiggins will post career-highs in PER, TS%, WS/48.
Aaron Brooks won’t be able to unseat Tyus Jones and gain the backup point guard role. Jones, also known as Apple Valley’s Finest, will take another step forward in year three.
Marcus Georges-Hunt will continue to be a Canis favorite.
Gorgui will lead the team in bank shots and we will argue that he should be looked as a sixth man of the year candidate.
More people than ever before will put respect on KAT’s name.