On Tuesday afternoon, some news Minnesota Timberwolves fans have been waiting for finally dropped.
Our friend Dane Moore of BlueWire reported that the Wolves will open the season against the Oklahoma City Thunder on October 19th at Target Center.
Source: The Minnesota Timberwolves will open the season on October 19th against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Target Center— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) August 16, 2022
While the season opener marks excitement for every professional sports team, the upcoming battle between the Timberwolves and the Thunder means a little more than the average season opener for both teams and fan bases.
For OKC, the contest will mark the professional debut of highly touted prospect Chet Holmgren. The Thunder made Holmgren the second overall pick in June’s NBA draft, and ever since then, NBA fans have been keeping a close eye on the former Gonzaga standout.
On top of being one of the most talked about prospects in recent memory, Holmgren also grew up in Minneapolis, attending high school a mere five miles from Target Center at Minnehaha Academy, where he was a three-time state champion.
Alongside Holmgren, the Thunder have a few other interesting young players to keep an eye on. With the young guard tandem of Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, some exciting rookie wings in Ousmane Dieng and Jalen Williams, and the wildcard that is Aleksej Pokusevski, OKC is not without an entertaining cast of prospects to watch during the season opener.
When it comes to the Timberwolves, Rudy Gobert’s debut will be at the forefront of all Minnesota fans' minds come October 19th. Wolves fans by now almost certainly familiar with the former Jazz star’s game.
If you are not, his highly efficient game is self-explanatory in many ways. Gobert has averaged over two blocks per game for the past eight seasons, won defensive player of the year three times, and been the NBA’s leader in shooting percentage the past two seasons. Simply put, he’s a monster in the paint and is nearly a top-10 defense on his own.
Gobert performs well in advanced statistical arenas, too; he has consistently outputted impressive numbers since his second season in the NBA. Last season Gobert led the NBA in both defensive and total rebounding percentage, along with retaining his near top-of-the-league status when it came to defensive win shares, an area in which he has led the NBA twice in his career.
Along with Gobert, veteran free agent additions Kyle Anderson, Austin Rivers, and Bryn Forbes will also be making their respective Wolves debuts.
As for the expectations for these two teams, they are projected to have polar opposite seasons.
Oklahoma City has become notorious for its rather aggressive tanking over the past two seasons, with the team showing a complete and total willingness to shut down franchise stars in the name of “health” to try and improve draft position.
General Manager Sam Presti selected three rookie lottery picks in Holmgren, Williams, and Dieng, along with an early second-round pick in Jaylin Williams, in June’s NBA Draft. As a result, the Thunder should be a much deeper and competitive team during the 2022-23 season than they were a year ago. More importantly for Wolves fans, they’ll be more fun to watch.
Even with real progress when it comes to talent acquisition, Minnesota is still much farther along than OKC, and if the game was played on paper the Timberwolves would run away with their first game of the season.
Minnesota is on the other end of the rebuild spectrum.
This offseason, President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly went all in when he and his front office staff traded the farm to bring the three-time All-Star center to Minneapolis. Throwing draft picks by the way-side in the process of acquiring a player they believe puts them in the championship bubble is an understandable move given their position as a small market team, but it certainly comes with risk.
ESPN story on the blockbuster trade landing Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert on the Minnesota Timberwolves: https://t.co/JCeuaUP6gD— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 1, 2022
Alongside young stars Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, Gobert will look to bring a legitimate big three to Target Center for the first time in the Towns era. With Edwards showing signs of potentially imminent superstardom last season, the Wolves are a team that could ascend to contention in quick order.
Between Holmgren’s homecoming, Gobert’s debut, and the dawning of what has the potential to be the most competitive era in Timberwolves history, there is a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to this season opener. If all goes well in Minnesota this season, it could be the first game in one of the most successful seasons in franchise history.