Wolves (16-18) vs Hawks (9-24)
After a short two game road trip, the Wolves return home tonight to take on the Atlanta Hawks. As was the case Wednesday in Chicago, this game should be a smooth one. Atlanta is one of a handful of teams that has a shot at winning the Zion Williamson sweepstakes in June, so hopefully Minnesota shows up and makes both parties happy.
Atlanta is bad, really bad, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing interesting about them. The obvious starting point for them is Trae Young. It certainly looks like Atlanta made a mistake by trading Luka Doncic for Young, but Young still has shown flashes of what made him such an intriguing prospect.
For Trae Young, it’s all about his passing right now. He showed great vision during his time at Oklahoma, and that part of his game has translated so far. The part that has not shown up quite yet is his shooting. He is sporting miserable shooting splits of 38/25. That’s not great for a guy who relies so heavily on his outside shooting. Atlanta is more than happy to let Young play through his mistakes right now, so both sides should be better off because of it in the future.
The other young pieces that are intriguing are guys like Kevin Huerter. Huerter was the Hawks other first-round pick in this past draft, and has shown to be a very good shooter from the outside. He’s making 39.5% of his threes, so the Wolves will have to account for him on the perimeter when he’s in the game.
The Hawks best player this year, though, has undeniably been second-year big man John Collins. Collins is a springy front court player who’s an elite finisher at the rim and a good rebounder as well. He’s currently putting up per-36 numbers of 23.2 points and and 12.4 rebounds with a effective field goal percentage above 60%. He even has a positive net-rating! On a team 16 games below .500 at this point in the season, that’s pretty impressive.
Beyond the notable young players, Atlanta has several veterans who are possible buyout/trade candidates for playoff teams. Kent Bazemore, Dewayne Dedmon, Jeremy Lin, and Vince Carter all fit into this category.
The guy in that group that is not talked about enough, in my opinion, is Dedmon. This might be super nerdy, but I’m pretty sure this is a safe space for this type of nerd thing. Dedmon is good! Some playoff team in need of an extra big should get on the phone with Atlanta before the deadline.
He’s a somewhat stretchy big who anchors solid defenses. His d-rating has slipped a bit in his past two years due to his surroundings in Atlanta, but his advanced analytics prior to that are ridiculous. By far the most impressive point on Dedmon’s resume is his 2015-16 season with Orlando. He posted a net-rating of +15 that year, which is pretty remarkable considering the Magic only won 35 games and had a negative net-rating as a team.
All of this is to say that while Atlanta is a bad, bad team, the Wolves still need to show up tonight. These are the games they absolutely have to win if they want to stay in the playoff race. With a win tonight, Minnesota would only be two games out of the 8th spot. The schedule also gets brutal after this one. The Wolves next 10 games are at Miami, at New Orleans, at Boston, Orlando, LAL, at OKC, Dallas, New Orleans again, at Philly and home against San Antonio.
Yikes. Let’s take care of business tonight and stay afloat during that stretch.
Our friends over at Peach Tree Hoops have the Hawks side of things covered.