The day is finally upon us. The Timberwolves will make their long-anticipated debut in this new NBA season tonight as they face off against the San Antonio Spurs.
Since the blockbuster trade on draft day, we have been waiting for months to see the new Wolves roster finally play some real basketball. Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau are reunited and leading one of the best young cores in the league in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
Three new starters will make their first regular season showing in Butler, Taj Gibson, and Jeff Teague. Long gone are the free-wheeling days of Ricky Rubio and the soaring athleticism of Zach LaVine. The Bounce Bros separated, the magical Spanish Unicorn shipped off to the Utah Jazz.
Instead, the Wolves will feature a team that focuses on bully-ball, punishing their opponent in the paint and racking up offensive rebounds and free throws. A hard-nosed defense is supposed to eventually develop, as the veterans coax effort and execution out of the young stars.
As always, Tom Thibodeau will spend the game hoarsely barking from the sidelines, intent on perfection and treating those nearby to a rousing chorus of expletives.
In other words, the NBA season is back, and although our excitement is marred by the gruesome injury to Gordon Hayward last night, one cannot help but feel joy at the idea of watching the Wolves play some meaningful basketball again.
Tonight, this new team takes on the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are often considered the model franchise in the NBA. The team has been as consistently good as the Wolves have been objectively awful.
To wit, in the last 10 years, the Spurs are a 33-6 against the Wolves. They had a winning streak of 16 games against the Wolves from 2006-2011 and currently are on a 13 game winning streak against the Minnesota squad.
Part of the problem has been the Wolves were always exactly the type of team that the Spurs feasted on. Young teams with players who do not commit to defensive systems or fully succeed at executing on both ends of the court.
But this is the beginning of new Wolves era. This is no longer a team stocked with young players across the board. It is odd to say this, but considering the injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, both of whom are not playing tonight, this is a game the Wolves should win.
Of course, betting against the Spurs is always a recipe for disaster. The issues that the Wolves are likely to deal with due to this new roster, such as lack of cohesion on offense, sloppy bench play with a lot of turnovers, and poor defensive rotations would fall right into the trap the Spurs set for teams.
However, things are different this year. All those games that the Wolves saw slip away due to blown leads in the 2nd half and the lack of ability to close out games, they should have a better chance to win this year with a de facto closer in Jimmy Butler. The mental toughness of this team should also be much higher with Butler and Gibson. There are just a lot of veterans on this team now who are not going to be overwhelmed when the opposing team starts to go on a run.
The Spurs have also grown incredibly reliant upon Kawhi over the last few years. Without Parker and Kawhi, they do not have much offense-creation skills among the starters. Last year, Parker and Kawhi combined for 26.7 shots per game (17.7 of which were from Kawhi), which they will have to make up for tonight.
Supposedly, LaMarcus Aldridge has bought back into the Spurs system and they will be certainly be looking to get him a lot of touches tonight. However, in Taj Gibson the Wolves certainly have one the better options in the league to force Aldridge to work for his points.
Regardless, tonight is special. It is our first look at a team that can actually be competitive in the NBA. We can nitpick the rotations, decide if Wiggins is worth it, and decry Teague’s inability to be Ricky Rubio another night.
Tonight, we just celebrate the Wolves are back.
Projected Starting Lineups
- Jeff Teague
- Andrew Wiggins
- Jimmy Butler
- Taj Gibson
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- Dejounte Murray
- Danny Green
- Kyle Anderson
- LaMarcus Aldridge
- Pau Gasol
Injuries: Kawhi Leonard - Out (right quad), Tony Parker - Out (quad)
Prediction: Wolves 101 - Spurs 95. The Spurs 2nd unit decimates the Wolves bench but the starters close out the game against the depleted Spurs and notch the first win of the season.
Let’s have some fun.