Andy G: The Wolves just played the Bucks in their penultimate preseason game of the 2015-16 season. The good news is that Nemanja Bjelica stuck a three-pointer with just seven seconds left in the game. The bad news is that his shot cut the Bucks lead down from 21 to 18.
The Wolves got smoked again. The Bucks won 106-88. The Wolves shot just 33 percent from the field, compared to Milwaukee’s 51. They were outrebounded, they missed shots, turned the ball over and — in the second half — played poor defense.
They are now 1-5 in the preseason, with 4 of the 5 losses being pretty lopsided games.
The bad stuff is pretty easily observed: tactically, their offense is outdated and their spacing is not where it needs to be. As a group of players, they are obviously very young and inexperienced, not to mention physically weak compared to the grown men that cause NBA teams to win consistently. They don’t have enough playmaking on offense, or enough general know-how on D.
Any bright spots out there in this game? I don’t mean to pile on, but that was another rough one.
Patrick J: There weren’t a lot of bright spots. But Shabazz Muhammad was by far the brightest. Bazz did not play a perfect game, but he was by far the most active and aggressive Wolves player. His stats are fairly representative of his game tonight: in 25 minutes, he scored 18 points on only seven field goal attempts. Far from the “Derricking” free-throw tendencies he’s known for, tonight Bazz shot a perfect for 11-11 and looked composed for a change while doing it. Muhammad “did stuff” in the other categories as well, pulling in five boards, dishing out four assists, and thieving one steal. Yet even though Shabazz was the bright spot, he didn’t look that great, either. He was out of sync with his teammates on both offense and defense. The difference between Shabazz and most of his teammates is that he can thrive in these kinds of scrums. That has its value, but you don’t want to have to rely on it all the time, as it’s a sign that you’re getting worked over by the opposing team.
I guess the question is, does this game even tell us anything about Shabazz and his value to the team?
Andy G: I wish they’d start Shabazz. I thought he made a lot of plays tonight — like you said, he was the bright spot — and he deserves a bigger role than it seems like he’ll begin the season with. Shabazz was arguably the best player on the Wolves team last year. He was certainly their best scorer. So far, in this preseason sample size, I think his on-ball defense looks improved. (He’s at least closing all the way out to his man, and seems to be a little bit more effective at cutting off dribble penetration.)
In that annual survey of NBA GMs that nba.com publishes, Andrew Wiggins was named player “most likely to have a breakout season.” But I found it even more interesting that Shabazz received a vote. (Eds note: GMs cannot vote for their own players, so somebody other than Milt Newton thinks highly of Shabazz.) At this point, his upside should be considered very high — based on what we’ve seen — and there’s no reason that he shouldn’t have a high-minutes role on this team.
Anything else to discuss? Seems like this preseason has gone about as badly as we could’ve ever imagined. (I thought that, even if teams like OKC and Chicago were clearly superior to Minnesota, they’d be more laid back in preseason.)
Patrick J: Other issues to discuss? Well, there’s The Zach LaVine Issue. No one’s stock or actual value seems to have fluctuated so wildly and fast. But this is a large enough issue and a small enough sample size that it should be tabled until our season preview post. That will be coming soon.
Andy G: Good call. LaVine is The Thing Wolves Fans Will Discuss Most, in the early part of this season and there’s no reason to beat that horse tonight.
Wolves play the Bucks again on Friday, this time on the home Target Center floor. After that, the real games begin.