If you were hoping that Minnesota would make adjustments and look better tonight than they did in their first preseason game, you were disappointed. However, it’s a preseason game, let’s just try to enjoy ourselves here and highlight the good stuff from tonight, cause amidst the poor play and lopsided final score, there was some good stuff. I’m not a big box score guy in the preseason, but in general there were a few guys who looked to be playing with a different level of intensity and attention to detail than the others.
First and foremost, I am incredibly encouraged by what I’ve seen from Jarrett Culver through two games. Yes, it is just the preseason, but I don’t care. In case you were wondering how big of a sucker I am, after being very out on Culver in the offseason, I am all the way back in.
Culver legitimately looks like their best defender. That isn’t saying much, but he was the only hope the Wolves had of even remotely containing Ja Morant tonight, and he looked aggressive and confident on offense. This could be an overreaction, but it’s hard for me to believe Ryan Saunders can watch these past few nights and give more minutes to Josh Okogie than to Culver. He’s going to play a lot, and he looks like he is someone who has improved a lot. The Wolves future outlook changes a lot of Culver is good.
Jarrett Culver aggressively attacks the bucket, gets fouled, makes both free throws.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) December 15, 2020
Culver has easily been the most impressive player on the Wolves in the preseason -- not fat stats, but improvement where needed. Will be very happy to see him prove me wrong. This team needs it
The other player who really, really stood out is Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. He plays his ass off, and brings a boatload of energy. He just outworks everyone on the court. Minnesota needs him, and they probably need him to play a lot next to Karl-Anthony Towns. I don’t know that he should start, but he definitely looks like one of the guys who deserves legitimate minutes.
My favorite thing about RHJ is just that he never stops moving. His feet are always going, and he’s always ready for the next block, cut, rebound, or screen. He’s going to have a important role.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson carries himself like a guy who has played for smart organizations his entire (young) career.— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) December 15, 2020
The only reason I don’t think Hollis-Jefferson starts (although that might be the best option) is because of how Jake Layman has looked. He isn’t the perfect player by any means, but he’s proven yet again to be a good cutter and off-ball defender. He also brings more versatility to the table than a Juancho Hernangomez. I’ve been encouraged by what Layman has shown thus far, and if it were up to me, the rotation at the 4 would almost entirely made up of Layman/RHJ minutes. It is hard to watch these two games and make any sort of argument for Hollywood Hernangomez taking minutes from either player.
You know who else looked better tonight? Anthony Edwards, that’s who. Again, it wasn’t perfect, and there were still some really rough moments, but it was better. He’s going to be fine. His athleticism was all over the place, and he even got himself involved in the first quarter with a nice cut to the rim for an easy bucket. If Edwards wants to carve out a nice role for himself early on, maximizing his athleticism in transitions and on cuts away from the ball will be key.
Imagine if this kid actually liked basketball! pic.twitter.com/GwTMHNNF4A— Canis Hoopus (@canishoopus) December 15, 2020
That was the good stuff, but yeah, there was a lot of bad. The offense is going to worse than we thought, at least early on. They just don’t scheme up enough easy buckets for their guys. D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns will make up for a lot of that in due time, but they just aren’t quite there yet. They turned the ball over a whopping 25 times. The defense was once again ... concerning, and there’s just a few too many guys who need to have key roles that don’t look ready yet.
I’m choosing to not get upset about a preseason game, but it’s hard not to be a little discouraged. If things don’t mesh quickly, the Wolves could be in for a quick reality check as far as where they really stand in the Western Conference.