And so it begins again! HOWL is back and back to our Game Previews. This season (at least for this first month or two) HOWL will try doing a weekly preview: a preview that features the upcoming games for the week, usually posted on a Sunday or Monday. Last season we did a gameday preview and recap for every single game (yes, there were 164 posts here last season!). We'll try this for the first month or two and then decide if this works.
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)...
MISC. NOTES: The stats listed below are from the 2012-13 regular season. Rubio played 57 games a season ago. Martin played 77 games off the bench in 27.7mpg with the Thunder. Brewer played in all 82 games, off the bench in 24.4mpg with the Nuggets. Love played in just 18 games a season ago. Peković played 62 games a year ago.
October 7 vs. CKSA Moscow
The Wolves begin the preseason with a game vs. Alexey Shved's former team: CKSA Moscow. That one will tip on Monday night at 7pmCT. This is the only preseason game the Wolves play this season that isn't against an NBA team.
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 Minnesota Timberwolves’ first NBA opponent will be against our friends North of the Border: the Toronto Raptors. The Wolves made a number of moves this offseason and with it their starting lineup this season has changed. That’s not the case for the Raptors. While they did trade Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks, the group they trotted out a season ago, remains largely intact.
The Raps’ likely starting lineup…
The best battles should be Brewer & Gay as well as Pek & Valanciunas. Rudy Gay is one of the NBA’s premier small forwards (Top 5-7 at his position) so we’ll get a chance to see if Brewer can be the defensive stopper that everyone is labeling him.
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
Minnesota will have another preseason matchup (like the past two seasons) against their foes to the East: the Bucks in Milwaukee. Unlike the Raptors, the Bucks made a lot of moves this season. Milwaukee acquired Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton from the Pistons in a sign-and-trade that sent Brandon Jennings to Detroit. They signed free agent guard O.J. Mayo. Traded for Caron Butler. Re-signed Larry Sanders. Landed former Wolf Luke Ridnour in a trade that netted the Wolves Kevin Martin. Signed free agents Gary Neal, Carlos Delfino and Zaza Pachulia. And hired Larry Drew as their new head coach.
Let's take a look at their likely starting lineup...
MISC. NOTES: Brandon Knight played in Detroit last season; O.J. Mayo played in Dallas; and Caron Butler played with the L.A. Clippers.
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!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!