Wolves at Nets
Ahh, the season is finally upon us. It’s been a long summer without basketball, and while the Timberwolves can make you pull your hair out on occasion, it’s been too long without Karl-Anthony Towns, for me.
Anyway, the Wolves open the season on the road, which is an area in which they really, really struggled last season (11-30). They face off with a tough opponent, the Brooklyn Nets, to get things started.
Brooklyn grabbed a lot of headlines this offseason, as they made a sign-and-trade sending D’Angelo Russell to the Warriors, while acquiring Kevin Durant. They also added Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan. In the sign-and-trade, the Nets also sent Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham to Golden State, who were then flipped to our very own Minnesota Timberwolves.
Obviously, Durant’s injury lowers Brooklyn’s ceiling for this season, but they’re still going to be a solid team that should fight for playoff seeding in the East.
Irving will get most of the headlines, but mainstays such as Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris Levert, and Jarrett Allen are still around. Levert signed what looks to be a great contract for Brooklyn in the offseason, Dinwiddie also signed an extension, and if you haven’t already, read about how he’s trying to structure his contract, here. It’s incredibly interesting.
The point is that Brooklyn is a bit revamped, but will look to add on a few extra wins from last season’s total before coming bona fide championship contenders once Durant comes back in 2020.
For the Wolves, it’s much more of a guessing game. We know that Karl-Anthony Towns is going to be a force offensively, but the rest is filled with question marks and things to watch for.
How will Robert Covington look? Covington himself has said that he still needs a bit of time to get up to full speed, so we shouldn’t expect him to be full-on Glovington right away. How quickly he can get back to being one of the best three-and-D players in the NBA will greatly affect Minnesota’s win total.
Next, how will the offense look? Based off the preseason, we can expect the team to play fast and shoot a ton of threes. It’ll be interesting to see how that holds up against NBA defenses, especially considering the shortage of ball-handling and shooting on the roster.
The wing rotation is something to keep an eye on, too. Andrew Wiggins, Jake Layman, and Robert Covington seem like locks to get a lot of playing time, while rookie Jarrett Culver will too. Treveon Graham is in the starting lineup tonight, which would suggest that he’ll see quite a bit of time. Are there enough minutes to go around for Josh Okogie, or will he get squeezed it? It certainly seems possible that he will be the odd man out.
On that note, while Graham is in the starting lineup tonight, I would expect Culver and/or Layman to play just as much, if not more than Graham. Maybe the coaching staff sees something they really like with Graham, but Layman seems to bring more to the table, and the motivations for getting Culver as much playing time as possible are obvious.
Maybe most importantly, what is the defense going to look like? This has been an area of weakness since quite literally the mid-2000s. KAT can drag the offense into a respectable realm, but playing acceptable defense would go a long ways towards getting back to relevancy.
In a way, Minnesota currently is where Brooklyn was maybe two years ago. A new front office and modern principles are being implemented with somewhat of a disregard for the current roster. It’s a more process driven line of thinking than results driven. The one leg up Minnesota has would be the superstar level talent of Karl-Anthony Towns that Brooklyn simply did not possess.
Speaking of Towns, he should absolutely feast tonight. There aren’t many teams that have individual players who can bother him, but Brooklyn is especially vulnerable to a player like KAT. DeAndre Jordan is not near mobile enough or comfortable enough on the perimeter to hang with KAT out there, and Jarrett Allen is simply not strong enough to handle KAT down low should he go that route. Either way, Towns should be in for a big night.
More than anything, I’m excited. Gersson Rosas and company have brought a sense of positivity and optimism that hasn’t really been there recently. The team might not be very good this season, but the building blocks (Towns, hopefully Culver) seem to be in place. The absence of a “fun tax” will be greatly appreciated.
While I wouldn’t necessarily expect the Wolves to emerge with a win tonight, they are only 3.5 point underdogs, which would signal that Minnesota would be slightly favored if this game were at home. I’d expect this one to be an up-and-down shootout. Timberwolves basketball is back, and the road to 82-0 starts tonight.
Our friends over at Nets Daily are covering this one from the Brooklyn perspective. Be excellent.
Enjoy the game. Let’s go Wolves.