As the rest of the NBA continues to remind us that the early season is a period of absolute insanity, the Wolves are trying to figure out exactly which team they are. Are they the team that went 2-0 against the Oklahoma City Thunder or are they the team that got blown out by the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers?
Of course, the big the difference between those two teams is the presence of Jimmy Butler. But that also brings up the question of exactly how dependent the Wolves are on Butler.
However, we are only about a week and a half into the season. Right now, the Orlando Magic (4-1) and Memphis Grizzlies (5-1) are leading their respective conferences. The Brooklyn Nets hold the playoff edge against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Giannis is the MVP thus far.
Essentially, the NBA takes quite a bit of time before the laws of averages take hold. Unless somehow the Orlando Magic have taken the biggest unexpected leap in NBA history. We’ve been wrong before.
The Wolves come into this next week with the record of 3-3. Which, considering the schedule, seemed like a fair estimate of the team’s fortunes before the season began. Now, we may have thought the wins and losses might be distributed differently, but the end result is still the same.
This week, the Wolves have four games, all very winnable ones against four teams that are likely going to be struggling to make the playoffs this year. First up is the Miami Heat on Monday, followed by the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, then the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, and finally a Sunday night game against the Charlotte Hornets.
Monday at Miami
The land of misfit toys has taken up home in Miami. James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Kelly Olynyk, and Tyler Johnson, Goran Dragic, and Hassan Whiteside basically have the Heat’s cap space all locked up for the next few years. The Heat last year were infamous for their season splits, as they were one of the worst teams in the league for the first half of the season and one of the best in the second half. Which team is the real one? No one really knows. Thus far, Miami is 2-3 with pretty mediocre offensive and defensive ratings. The wins have been against the Hawks and the Pacers with the losses from the Spurs, Celtics, and Magic.
This game feels like anyone’s guess. Both the Wolves and the Heat seem the vacillate between being good and bad. Just depends on which team shows up.
Wednesday at New Orleans
The Twin Towers in New Orleans will be an interesting matchup for the Wolves. With a roster overloaded with bigs like the Wolves have, one would think that a fellow team that is also zigging against the small-ball era would be a great matchup. However, the Spurs have proved that to be false. Of course, they are the also the Spurs which usually means an automatic loss for the Wolves.
Anthony Davis has been battling knee issues, but he did play last night. I hope his health holds up because one, the Pelicans are a super interesting test case in today’s NBA, and two, I have a sneaky suspicion that this Wolves team is going to play up or down to the level of competition this year.
This is a matchup of two teams with lots of star power and little outside shooting. Should be a fun one.
Saturday hosting the Mavericks
Now, this is a game the Wolves should win. The Mavericks currently have the worst record in the league and certainly have the looks of a team that is tanking. It’s sad that what is likely Dirk Nowitzki’s last season in the NBA will take place on a team that is sliding into last place, but the team just does not have the talent to keep up.
For years we have been wondering when the Mavericks, Spurs, and Grizzlies will fall apart due to their age. The Grizzlies and Spurs seem to have found a way to stay alive, but for the Mavericks, it is time to rebuild.
Dennis Smith Jr. is a whole lot of fun, Nerlens Noel is going to try to swat everything in sight, and this is one of the last times for Wolves fans to take in Dirk being Dirk. We will have to enjoy it while it lasts.
Sunday hosting the Hornets
The Hornets are an odd team. They are currently 2-3 and many pegged them for a rise in the rankings this year. Part of that was due to the team’s failure to live up to their advanced statistics, as using Basketball Reference’s simple rating system, the team ranked 7th in the East while their real ranking was 11th.
The team was also an astonishing 3-17 without Cody Zeller and 33-29 with him. Now, with this season enters Dwight Howard, who has taken Zeller’s starting spot. Nicolas Batum also tore a ligament in his elbow and he will miss several months as a result.
The Hornets have a great defense and a not so great offense. They are extremely reliant on Kemba Walker for their scoring and it will be interesting to see if Thibs sticks Butler on Kemba right away.
Karl-Anthony Towns will be tested this week. After a strong showing against Steven Adams, he now has to play against Hassan Whiteside, DeMarcus Cousins/Anthony Davis, and Dwight Howard.
The Wolves should fare pretty well over this stretch of games. We would not consider any of these teams to really be better than the Wolves. It seems fair to expect, at the very least, splitting these four games with a 2-2 record and we would hope for a 3-1 result, putting the team at 6-4 by the end of the week.
What would be really exciting is if the team was able to use this week to really start to gel and pull off a 4-0 run, giving them a five-game winning streak. I had a hard time finding out when the Wolves last had a five-game winning streak, but the last time they won six games in a row was 2004. It seems pretty fair to bet that it has been at least a decade since this team has won five games in a row.
Let’s be optimistic for now and hope that Jimmy Butler can continue to lead this team to success.