The Wolves lost the game by a substantial margin, but ultimately the game was more competitive than the final score would indicate. Moral victories don’t get you anywhere in the NBA, but this was still a worthy battle by a severely undermanned team.
There were a few notable performances on the floor to take note of, but I can’t help but mention how disappointing it was to see the Wolves rest D’Angelo Russell tonight for “rest.”
Um, the team has played one game in the past week and a half before tonight. What? I don’t want to get-off-my-lawn this to death, but I have absolutely zero idea what this gains. Maybe this is a matter for a different column, but tanking in a draft without a Zion or Luka just feels silly. I don’t get why you wouldn’t want a free look at what these pieces look like together before next season.
Whatever, I don’t want to let that frustration get in the way of a pretty encouraging game from a lot of young players.
On the floor, let’s start with the rookies. It’s pretty impressive how well Minnesota scouted this past offseason, and how well they’ve hit on the undrafted guys.
Jordan McLaughlin is ten times the player he was to start the year. He’s gone from a guy who immediately tanked a lineup to a legitimately good backup PG. Losing Tyus was hard, but finding a guy like McLaughlin as a replacement was such a stellar move for a cap strapped franchise.
How about the first half from Kelan Martin? He was on fire, and it was awesome to see him be so aggressive during his time on the floor. To me, he seems like a guy who should be able to stick in the league as a bench scorer.
He didn’t do a ton tonight, and is yet to really do much at all at the NBA level, but there’s something about Jaylen Nowell that leads me to believe there’s a solid NBA scorer in there. Since it seems that they’re going to embrace the tank, they might as well let Nowell get a bunch of run.
Even Jarrett Culver had a nice game tonight. Some of his production came after the outcome had ultimately been decided, but at this point we can’t really complain about his good games.
Lastly, Malik Beasley. Denver clearly knew Minnesota would want him to be the offensive hub tonight, so they sent extra help his way and made it difficult for him to get good looks. With that being said, he still scored an efficient 17 points and added 8 rebounds. Maybe I’ll become a broken record on this, but his attitude is such a positive for this franchise. He gives the somewhat cliche win-at-all-costs answers to the media and then he actually backs up that mentality with his play on the floor. They’re undermanned right now, but I have no doubt that if this franchise ever really does turn this ship around, his attitude and leadership will have played a big part in it.
I did find it interesting to see the Wolves get creative defensively tonight. Seeing Josh Okogie on bigs a lot was really, really intriguing to me. It doesn’t really work against Nikola Jokic, but if he’s strong enough to defend in the post most of the time, the team should seriously consider switching PnR more often.
Ultimately, the Wolves battled tonight. We saw some nice things from important young players. Without Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, that’s all we could really ask for.