The Wolves will then have a day off and then they're division rivals: the Oklahoma City Thunder. For the last few years, these two teams have had incredible matchups highlighted by that double overtime loss in Oklahoma City two years ago in March.
Let's take a look at the Wolves' likely starting lineup (all stats are from the 2012-13 regular season) for these two games...
Rick Adelman has also said he'd like to use a 10-man rotation to begin the season, but he may have to go with 11 for the first couple weeks. That 10-man rotation likely includes the 5 listed above in addition to: J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, Derrick Williams, Dante Cunningham and Ronny Turiaf. The 11th player could be: A.J. Price, Robbie Hummel or Gorgui Dieng.
Minnesota finished the preseason 4-3 with a finale loss to the Pistons in Detroit on last-second Josh Smith three-point buzzer-beater, last Thursday. Last season the Wolves finished last season 31-51.
Now with a (nearly) completely healthy roster the Wolves will look to end their nine-year playoff drought. Most experts/analysts have the Wolves finishing with anywhere from 41 to 52 wins this year, good enough for anywhere from the 5th seed to the 8th seed.
Oct. 30 vs. Orlando Magic
Orlando is one of the team's going through the rebuilding process this season. Perhaps not as extreme as the Philadelphia 76ers or Phoenix Suns, but they aren't looking to compete for it all, just yet. Unlike the Sixers and (to a lesser extent) the Suns, the Magic have a lot of talented young players that should still allow them to 30 wins this season.
The biggest question for Orlando is how long their veterans will be on the roster. There's very little doubt that as we approach the Trade Deadline, you'll hear Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo and Hedo Turkoglu floated in many a trade rumor. Turkoglu has a large $11M+ contract and they haven't come to terms on a buyout so he's been asked to stay away from the team--much like the Raja Bell situation these past couple years in Utah (though there doesn't seem to be as much bad blood in this situation).
The Magic played on Tuesday night vs. the Indiana Pacers and dropped their regular season opener, 87-97 (in Indiana). The Pacers went on a 17-4 run to start the fourth quarter to put away Orlando for the win.
Let's take a look at Wednesday's likely starting lineup...
I still don't understand why Jason Maxiell joined the Magic and even more that he's the starting power forward! Tobias Harris had a breakout season starting at the four for the Magic a year ago, now he's coming off the bench (though he is currently out with a sprained ankle).
The Magic will be without Harris (ankle) as well as guard Doron Lamb (sprained ankle) for this game.
The Wolves will have an upperhand, being that Wednesday's game is the second in a string of back-to-backs for Orlando, however the Wolves can't begin the game lethargic like they did vs. CSKA Moscow. There's no doubt that the Wolves may have one of the best offenses in the NBA. The Wolves could have two 20+ scorers (Martin & Love) on the roster in addition to the playmaking of Rubio and the 13-17 points a night they'll get from Peković.
The concern will be defense, however Rick Adelman should be able to turn the shortcomings of individual players (Martin, Love, Peković) and make the team collectively better.
The Wolves should have little trouble with the Magic. Minnesota has to exploit the Maxiell-Love matchup and Peković has to win the Nikola battle. I'll be interested to see if Afflalo can slow down the offensive firepower of K-Mart. I would be surprised if the Wolves don't win this one by double digits.
Let's take a look at Friday's matchup vs. division rivals: OKC Thunder...
Nov. 1 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
I read a report from Woj that said Westbrook could return within two weeks, that was as of Tuesday afternoon. Obviously he won't play in this one. Reggie Jackson will get the start in his place, let's take a look at the rest of the likely starters...
Without Russell, Durant should put up some pretty incredible numbers to begin the season. I wouldn't be surprised if he averaged 40 a night for the first few weeks of the season (he won't, but he COULD). The Thunder also need offensive help from second-year Jeremy Lamb as well as defensive big man Serge Ibaka.
I like the Wolves' odds in this one. If Corey Brewer can slow down Durant even a little bit, the Minnesota should have enough offensive firepower to overcome their rivals.
I know that the Wolves don't really have any rivals in the NBA, but I think this has quickly become one. I definitely consider them rivals. In the NFL the Packers and the Vikings are rivals, much because Lambeau & the Metrodome are a mere four hours apart. Milwaukee and Minneapolis are close themselves, but we all know that the Wolves and the Bucks are NOT rivals. With the battles these two teams have had these past few years, highlighted by that 2011-12 game in March in which Love scored 51, Westbrook & Durant each scored 40 apiece and the Wolves lost in double overtime.
The Thunder had a Top 10 team in assists, rebounds and defense (points allowed) and they ranked third in the NBA in offense (points per game).
The Wolves went 2-2 against the Thunder last year and for zero of those games did the Wolves have a completely healthy roster. The Wolves are without Chase Budinger, but the big names are back (Love, Rubio & Peković).
This will mark Kevin Martin's first game against his former team. The Thunder traded away James Harden a season ago to the Houston Rockets and in return received Toronto's first-round pick in the 2013 Draft (used to select center Steven Adams) as well as Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb. Martin played just one season with OKC as the team's sixth man. Now, K-Mart is back in a starters role and back with the coach and the offensive system that allowed him his most successful seasons. Should be a good matchup against two guys that used to go at each other in practice (Sefelosha & Kevin).
Both games will tip at 7pmCT, both from the Target Center! We'll have gameday recaps following both contests, enjoy the games!