Orlando appears to be keeping its eyes on the prize this season: The 2014 NBA Draft
The Wolves open their season tonight in Minneapolis against the
already-tanking-for-Wiggins hard-charging Orlando Magic, who’re 0-1 after last night’s season-opener loss to Indiana.
(Eds. Note: Is there anyway to figure out how many fantasy teams there are this season named “Tanking for Wiggins” or some variant of it? I don’t know how many fantasy teams there are total, but I’d still take the over on at least 10k “Tanking for Wiggins” teams this year. Maybe 15. There were probably fantasy league owners everywhere trying desperately to change their league rules at the last minute to allow them to use their auction money to bid on the rights to the “Tanking for Wiggins” team name instead of on draft-able players.)
Anyway, there’s a lot of interesting stuff to watch for, much of which could provide information on the questions we asked in our season preview post about the team’s starting lineup, defense, offense, and rotations.
Big Baby wants to play twister with Wolves’ defenders
Tonight, the 2-1 Timberwolves take on the 2-1 Magic at Target Center. Orlando is a vastly different team from the one that killed the Wolves last season. Gone are Dwight Howard and advanced stats hero Ryan Anderson. In are…Aaron Afflalo? More below the fold.
Like recent seasons past, the Wolves are beginning to develop negative trends that play out over the course of an extended losing streak, this one now at four games.
- Everybody (certainly this must include the bench and front office) knows that the team lacks a competent shooting guard. Luke Ridnour missed tonight’s game at Orlando for personal reasons. All the best to Luke and whatever he has going on, but his play at the off guard has not been good recently. Martell Webster didn’t help much tonight, scoring 5 points and turning it over twice in 22 minutes.
- Everybody knows that the Wolves struggle to take care of the basketball. They had 18 turnovers tonight, with the increasingly erratic J.J. Barea leading the way with 7 of his own in only 23 minutes.
- A new area of concern is three-point shooting. Against the Magic, Wolves players shot 6 for 21 (28.6 percent) from downtown–this following recent games of 6-19, 6-23, and 4-19. For the losing streak, they are a combined 26.8 percent from downtown, a rate that would put them dead last in the league by more than a couple of percentage points. Ricky creates a ton of three-point opportunities, but the Wolves won’t win many games if his teammates can’t convert them.
- Why is Wes Johnson still starting? This is the question that nobody has a good answer to. He isn’t even playing good defense, anymore. Jason Richardson scored 17 tonight, 5 over his average and many while baiting Wes into bad fouls or slamming him off screens for open jumpers. Wes’ 3 for 7 shooting night was good for him, but his minutes need to go elsewhere. Michael Beasley had a pretty average night by his standards (13 points in 25 minutes, a (-2) in a 13-point loss) and could play the same mediocre defense with better offensive punch.
I’m already beating dead horses, so I’ll keep this brief.
The Magic spread the floor around Dwight Howard and shoot a lot of threes. They make a lot of threes. In fact, they lead the league by a wide margin in made 3’s per game (9.9, next in NBA is New Jersey with 8.8). They made 12 tonight, and shot at a 40 percent clip.
J.J. Redick could run a basketball camp solely dedicated to using screens. He’s really made it into an artform. It’s silly what he does to defenders by running them off picks in all directions.
Ryan Anderson spreads the floor by being a 6’10” sharpshooter. All of this works beautifully around Superman Howard. It’s a shame that he’s going to leave the Florida Sun and this nice team chemistry. In a season as wide open as this one, Orlando has a real chance to win an improbable title, just as Dallas did last year.
Bottom line: the Wolves lost because they a) didn’t take care of the ball; b) didn’t defend the three ; c) took and missed lots of jumpers; and d) don’t have an NBA shooting guard.
Until next time.
Season Record: 13-16