The Timberwolves first preseason game could best be described as sloppy. This isn’t unexpected, given the fact that they were playing so many young guys. (Minutes for first and second-year players: Wiggins: 32; Dieng: 29; Muhammad: 25; LaVine: 25; Hummel: 23; Robinson III: 12; Heslip: 1.) But that excuse is partially removed by the fact that the starting unit — and some of the veteran players in particular — did not look good. They fell down by more than 20 at times, and ultimately lost 103-90.
Ricky Rubio’s unit looked out of sync for much of its time on the floor. Ricky shot 1-6 in 18 minutes. He had 4 assists and 3 turnovers and never had the space to operate that we would all hope to see, this year. Thaddeus Young came out hot and finished with a solid 12/4/2 in 18 of his own minutes, but was unable to stop the bleeding when the Pacers started to pour it on. Gorgui Dieng had 16 & 10 and looked very good at times, particularly in the second half. But the number one concern for him — his ability to hold his position on defense against big centers — was not put to rest by the way Roy Hibbert backed him down on the block in the first half.
The bright spot for the Timberwolves was Andrew Wiggins. The rookie looked more like a veteran than most of the veterans did. He put together an impressive stat line of 18 points (on 11 field goal attempts), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks, 1 steal and 0 turnovers in 32 minutes of action. Wiggins made multiple threes, and then made the rest of his living at the foul line, where he shot 8-10 for the game. Aggressive drives to the basket — even without the smoothest handle in the world — was my “thing I’d like to see” from Wiggins, in my last post. That’s what he delivered in Exhibition 1. At Kansas, despite some less-than-elite metrics, Wiggins shot 6.5 free throws per his 32.8 minutes per game. If that carries over quickly to the NBA, his transition will be made pretty easily.
On defense is probably where Wiggins stood out the most, though. He was challenged off the dribble by Pacers wing, Solomon Hill, and moved his feet to stay in front and then proceeded to calmly reject the shot attempt. This happened at least twice. Granted, Hill is no Kevin Durant, but it is nice to see a 19-year old have such an easy time defending *any* NBA wing in his first competitive showing. Away from the ball, to the extent that I could see what was going on, it seemed like Wiggins had solid fundamentals what with his proverbial “head on a swivel” and all that. The “off ball” stuff is probably where he’ll have the most breakdowns and rookie mistakes. On the ball is where he can show off his upside. It would be great to see him join the league’s short list of stoppers.
Anyway, that’s probably more than I should have even written, given the crappy quality of stream I was watching on. Robbie Hummel shot poorly. So did Shabazz, but he was extremely aggressive around the hoop (in typical form, I suppose) and that will get rewarded with foul calls, over time. GR3 looked really solid in his stint at the end of the game. Corey Brewer is still the drunken dribbler, but he converted on his wildest attempts and played okay. Oh, I guess I forgot about Zach LaVine. His shot selection will take some time. LaVine pulls up for 22-footers with a foot on the three-point line and 20 seconds on the shot clock. Not good, but I won’t overreact too much because my expectations for him are “nowhere near NBA ready as a rookie” so this is just in line with that. He did have 4 assists and an alley-oop dunk. His physical tools are evident in a single viewing, but the coaching stuff needs to teach him how to play. They know that.
That’s all I’ve got. Home preseason opener on Friday versus Philly. Until then.
One response to “Wolves Drop Preseason Opener: A Few Notes”
Nice measured analysis. I sat with my mouth agape and the sloppy play of the squad. I tried to find a brightside and it was Wiggins D. Looking forward to tonight, as the Sixers will probably just as unprepared. The Pacers have many returning vets, same system as last year, etc. Tough first test.