So, without any further ado, our first Weekly Preview!
The Timberwolves play four games this week...
October 7 vs. CKSA Moscow, 7pmCT
October 9 @Toronto Raptors, 6pmCT
October 10 vs. Milwaukee Bucks, 7pmCT
October 12 vs. Toronto Raptors, 7pmCT
Let's take a look at the Timberwolves' likely starting lineup for these four games (there is a good chance that Rick Adelman switches up the lineup at some point, to give his main guys a rest)...
October 7 vs. CKSA Moscow
Alexey Shved played for CKSA Moscow for six seasons 2006-2012, before joining the Minnesota Timberwolves last season. Now he’ll try to aid his new team over his former friends. One note on Shved: Adelman says he will play both guard positions throughout these four games, however he may be featured mainly backing up Rubio as the second unit floor general (PG).
Rick Adelman has said that he doesn’t really like these preseason games against non-NBA teams, but as noted before, this is the only matchup versus a non-NBA squad. It is nice that it’s a team that has some NBA talent, however.
CKSA Moscow is headlined by four former NBA players: Nenad Krstic who last played with the Thunder & Celtics in 2010-11; Sonny Weems who last played with the Raptors in 2010-11; Viktor Khryapa who last played with the Bulls in 2007-08; and Jeremy Pargo who last played with the Sixers in 2012-13.
Oct. 9 @Toronto & Oct. 12 vs. Toronto
The Raps’ likely starting lineup…
Nikola Peković is one of the very best big men in the League. These past three seasons, Nikola has gone from a big man who could look at an opponent funny and get whistled for the foul, now he’s adjusted to the game and he’s undoubtedly the NBA’s strongest and most physically-imposing player. He’ll be going up against a young and upstart big men: Jonas Valanciunas. Pek may get his shot blocked a few times by Jonas, however I’m incredibly excited to see Pek impose his will. With the aid of Kevin Love & Kevin Martin helping to spread the floor, will give Minnesota SO many offensive weapons.
There’s really no doubt whatsoever that this TWolves team will be (barring injuries) an offensive juggernaut, the biggest concern will be Defense. The Wolves have a handful of solid individual defenders: Ricky Rubio, Corey Brewer, Dante Cunningham, Ronny Turiaf and Gorgui Dieng. All of those players are known to posses above-average defenders or players known solely for their defense (minus perhaps Rubio’s playmaking and Dante’s mid-range jumper).
The Raptors finished 2012-13 with a 34-48 regular season record. They were one of the worst rebounding teams a season ago (40.2 a game, bad enough for 28th in the NBA). With much of the same cast (minus Bargnani and plus Tyler Hansbrough), the Wolves should look to pounce on this advantage. Kevin Love & Nikola Peković are two of the best rebounding bigs in the League and should easily manhandle Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough, Jonas Valanciunas and Aaron Gray in the post.
October 10 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Let's take a look at their likely starting lineup...
It seems as though a lot of Milwaukee's offensive focus this season will be on their two new swingmen: O.J. Mayo and Caron Butler. Larry Drew recently said that Butler has been a fourth or fifth option offensively the past few seasons (in LAC), but that won't be the case this season in Milwaukee. There's no doubt that he's got quite a bit of offensive skill as demonstrated during his time in Washington and Dallas.
One big headline this season was the Bucks re-signing Larry Sanders to a 4-year, $44million contract. Their über-athletic big man was a double-double machine and one of the NBA's best rim protectors and shot-blockers. He'll have his hands full with Nikola, but I fully expect LARRY SANDERS! to finish with at least 4 blocks in this one.
The Bucks finished 2012-13 with a 38-44 record and were one of the NBA's best rebounding teams 44 rebounds a game (good enough for 5th in the League) that should translate well to this season as the majority of their big men are returning. The Bucks also finished 9th in the NBA in assists (22.9) as well as 12th in points (98.9), however with a new backcourt and a lot of new pieces those may not transition that easily.
It will definitely be strange to see Ridnour return to Minnesota with a Bucks jersey on...again.
Through these first four games of the preseason, Rick has said that he'll play 12-13 players a night and rotate his rotations so that over the span of these first four games we'll see everyone on the floor. I expect Rubio, Martin, Love & Pek see at least 20-30 minutes together in the first game and then they'll use the next 2-3 games to see some of the younger guys and get a grasp on the battle for the 15th roster spot, which is now four guys competing for one spot: A.J. Price, Lorenzo Brown, Othyus Jeffers or Robbie Hummel.
We'll have our first gameday recap following Monday's bout with CKSA Moscow. Stay tuned for that, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!