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Wolves at Pelicans Game Preview: Dealing with Size

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The Pels are one of the biggest teams in the league. How will the Wolves deal with it?

Taco Bell Skills Challenge 2016 Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Wolves at Pelicans
7:00 pm CDT
FS North

One thing the early part of this season has shown us is that every team is capable of losing. There was talk about more records being set by the Golden State Warriors, but even they sit at a rather pedestrian 5-3 on the year after their blowout win over the Clippers, who won their first four before dropping two in a row. It’s jarring to see the Cavaliers at 3-4 at the moment, with some truly ugly losses.

The flip side of this, of course, is that everyone is capable of winning as well. Which brings us to the New Orleans Pelicans, who the Wolves visit tonight. The Pels were a bit of a wildcard heading into the season following their trade for Boogie Cousins at last year’s trade deadline. That didn’t pay immediate dividends, but the Pels spent money to bring back most of the same roster, with the hopes that a summer and training camp would allow them to integrate their two stars, Cousins and Anthony Davis, better.

The results have been mixed so far. The Pels sit at 3-4 on the early season, coming off a home loss to the Magic. That followed, however, a terrific win over the Cavs, in which they dominated throughout. Cousins and Davis have been incredible, combining for 56 points and 26 boards per night, but as expected their is a significant drop off after that.

Both of those guys are carrying usage rates over 30 percent; nobody else in the rotation is even at 20 percent.

Jrue Holiday, who received a huge contract in the summer to stick around, is playing OK, but as the third best player on the team, it reveals their lack of depth of talent.

It doesn’t help that, one again, they’ve been plagued by injuries to guys they expected in the rotation, like Solomon Hill and Rajon Rondo, but still, it’s a team super-reliant on two players.

And two big players at that. The Pels are a fascinating experiment in playing big in the era of small-ball. It’s not just Cousins and Davis, they start big everywhere. Dante Cunningham is serving as their starter at the small forward spot, while they feature two physical guards in Holiday and E’Twaun Moore. Interestingly, however, their main bench pieces so far, however, are smalls—primarily Ian Clark and Jameer Nelson.

Despite being a big team, they have so far played at the sixth fastest pace in the league. They don’t score a ton in transition, rather I think the pace is a function of their excellent defensive rebounding. The Wolves probably can’t expect to get a ton on the offensive glass, something that has sustained them in the early season.

It would help if the Wolves could generate some turnovers and get out in transition a little bit themselves, something we’ve seen little of so far. The Pels have a relatively high turnover rate, and getting some buckets in the open court would certainly help the cause.

What the Pels have given up so far this season is threes. Opponents are making 11.6 per game against them at over 38 percent. This is not something the Wolves are really set up to take advantage of, but will likely need to do so tonight with two behemoths roaming inside.

It’s the defensive side of the ball that the Wolves need to start figuring out. Of course they have featured the league’s worst defense so far, and Davis and Cousins present another challenge. Davis has had his way with the Wolves—his 59 percent from the field for his career against them is the highest against any opponent. (I was actually at Target Center in February when he put 42 on them on 16-22 from the field. It was embarrassing. One of the poorest displays of defense I’ve witnessed in person. The Pels shot 60 percent from the field.)

Now they have to deal with Cousins as well, and while the Wolves have some large gentlemen on their roster themselves, figuring out how to keep these guys from getting good looks in their comfort zone is a huge challenge.

Alright. Enough.

Expected Starting Lineups

Pelicans

Jrue Holiday
E’Twaun Moore
Dante Cunningham
Anthony Davis
DeMarcus Cousins

Wolves

Jeff Teague
Jimmy Butler
Andrew Wiggins
Taj GIbson
Karl-Anthony Towns

Our blogging buddies tonight are over at The Bird Writes. Be excellent.

A few notes:

  • Damn. Kentucky. Cousins, Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns.
  • Cousins is averaging six assists a game to go with his 29 and 13. He’s a monster, and looking for cutters from both the high and low posts.
  • How will the Wolves match up to start the game? Neither way seems particularly appealing.
  • My guess is Butler starts guarding Holiday, while they “hide” Teague on Moore.
  • First Miami, then New Orleans on Halloween. Hope the Wolves are ready tonight.
  • Obviously it’s early yet, but these games against potential fellow playoff challengers are always important.