Well, that was certainly something. It’s important to keep things in perspective with preseason basketball, but that doesn’t mean that everything you see is entirely useless. Let’s try to sift through everything we saw.
I’ll start with the negative stuff and just try to keep this section short and sweet. First things first, the defense is still horrendous, especially on the perimeter. The Timberwolves gave up 40 points to Steph Curry in less than three quarters. Stopping Steph is literally impossible, but that’s still embarrassing. So is giving up 143 points total. There’s no telling how many points Steph would have gone off for had he played more. In fairness to the players, however, it’s not reasonable to expect them to have a new defensive system down this early.
Secondly, Josh Okogie doesn’t look to have improved much over the offseason. It could very well have just been a bad night for him, but he still looked mostly out of control on offense. He can’t dribble or shoot, so he has to at least be able to play offense without imploding. Tonight, he couldn’t really do that.
Lastly, the shooting wasn’t very good, again. Minnesota only made 29% of their 493PA. There will surely be some poor shooting performances this season.
In all, though, I actually found tonight to be somewhat encouraging. Maybe that’s just because it’s the preseason and these games don’t really matter yet, but there seemed to be quite a few positives.
For one, the pace on offense is outstanding. At times, it’s even a bit too much, but the Wolves are looking to push the ball up the floor and get easy buckets off both makes and misses. They will need to learn to be smarter with this, as it’s not a great idea to have Robert Covington handling the ball in the open floor, but in general it was a good sign.
The actions that were being run on offense were also a welcome sight. There were guys cutting off of KAT at every turn. The ball was on the move at all times, and the shot distribution was once again a thing of beauty. Players were moving off the ball. Minnesota might not have the personnel right now to have an elite offense, but the groundwork is in place.
A few players stood out. On the wings, it’s becoming clear that Jake Layman, Treveon Graham, and Jarrett Culver all deserve wing minutes that aren’t taken up by Andrew Wiggins and Robert Covington. If Minnesota is really committed to going small around KAT, that group of five players would be a solid rotation between on the wing spots, with Layman, Graham, and RoCo also capable of playing the 4.
Point Guard also felt like a bright spot. Jeff Teague seems actually committed to dribbling less. He did a great job moving the ball, and wasn’t nearly as hesitant to take the open three. Additionally, Shabazz Napier is a legit backup PG. It’s going to be a much more tolerable rotation this year.
It appears that Jarrett Culver is most comfortable at this spot, too. The rook looks like a natural with the ball in his hands. His stat line doesn’t jump off the page, but man, you can see the potential is there for him to be very, very good down the line.
In the end, the Wolves fell, but the score in the preseason is generally meaningless. My biggest takeaway from tonight was that while the team may not be very good this season, they’re going to be much more enjoyable to watch than previous iterations. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m okay with that outcome.
It’s impossible to change so much about a franchise in such a short time, but the Wolves appear to be making strides in the right direction.