Wolves (17-19) at Pelicans (16-21)
As we approach the New Year, there are few teams who have had as confusing of a 2018 as these two: the Wolves and Pelicans.
Minnesota started 2018 full of hope. They dealt with late injuries to Jimmy Butler that put their playoff hopes in jeopardy, but ultimately were able to make it to the postseason for the first time since the greatest player in franchise history was dealt away.
They were quickly outed in the playoffs though, losing in 5 games to Houston in what was a mostly non-competitive series.
The Jimmy Butler saga ensued over the summer and into the season, which led to his departure along with the addition of Saric and RoCo.
As we head into 2019, there’s a path to competitiveness for this team in the coming years, but it remains to be seen if the front office and Glen Taylor will be bold enough to make the moves necessary to make that a possibility.
For the Pelicans, they entered 2018 unsure if they’d even make the playoffs last year. Infusing DeMarcus Cousins into their lineup made them scarier on paper but didn’t return the results they expected early on. Surprisingly, the team really took off after the superstar big man went down with a torn achilles.
They got so hot in fact that they played themselves into the 6th seed in the Western Conference and earned a first-round matchup with the Blazers. They proceeded to sweep the Blazers in convincing fashion. Sure, they got drilled against the Warriors in the second-round, but that sweep of the Blazers brought immense expectations for them.
As they opened the new season, things looked fine. Now, though, they sit 5 games under .500 and have the biggest storyline/question mark in the entire NBA hanging over their heads with their Anthony Davis situation. It appears evident that, barring something drastic, Davis will not be a in a Pelicans uniform for much longer. They probably have something like one calendar year left with their superstar talent.
Why does this all matter? Well, both of these teams have more questions than answers moving forward.
New Orleans has Jrue Holiday for the foreseeable future, which is great for them. Outside of that, though, nothing is certain for them.
The Wolves are probably just glad to turn the page on 2018. Sure, the playoff appearance was nice, but what ensued after it made it all feel not-so-worth it.
What the Wolves do have, is Karl-Anthony Towns. In Towns, the Wolves have a player capable of doing things like he did last night. You have to think that Towns looks forward to the challenge of playing against someone like Davis who he was so often compared to during his first year or so. It’s evident that they’re very different players, now, but Towns has shown strides of late to potentially get closer to being a player of Davis’ caliber.
The Wolves won the first meeting between these two teams in a 107-100 victory at the Target Center shortly after the Butler trade. That was a moment where it felt like Towns and Andrew Wiggins really took control of the franchise. It hasn’t quite worked out like that yet, but maybe we get something similar tonight, this time in New Orleans.
A few other notes...
- At the time of writing, we’re still awaiting word on Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague’s availability. If neither can go, this could be a great opportunity for Tyus Jones to prove he can be a reliable starting point guard in the NBA. If you can orchestrate an NBA offense against Jrue Holiday, you can do it against anyone.
- After a game last night in Miami, it’ll be interesting to see how the Wolves come out tonight. They desperately need every win they can get and this is the kind of 50/50 game they need to win to make up for their TERRIBLE home loss to the Hawks and their road loss to the Suns.
- If things go south quickly tonight, on the second night of the back-to-back, will Thibs have the foresight to pull the trigger early and rest the starters, similar to the way Dave Joerger did in Minneapolis recently? While they desperately need to win all of these games, there’s no sense in wearing out all of your key players in a game you have no chance of winning. It’ll be important to monitor time & score as the game goes on with respect to the player’s minutes.
Tyus Jones (plz)