It wasn’t a pretty preseason opener in many ways, but the Wolves got to debut some new faces and beat up on an incomplete Pacers team for the victory.
Between the poor 3-point shooting, the grainy Fargo television feed coming through NBA League Pass, lots of turnovers, and a lot of missed free throws, it would have been pretty easy to want to look away from our first glimpse at what the Wolves have to offer this year. Plus, D.J. Augustin was the main point guard for Indiana due to George Hill sitting out and nobody wants to watch him play starter’s minutes. However, we got to watch Wolves basketball once again and it was pretty fun to see the new direction the team is going.
I’m not going to try to find an overarching storyline with a preseason game and look for how it affects the team moving forward. It’s preseason after all. So let’s just try to look at what each individual player did and file it away for later use.
Brandon Roy: 23:40 minutes, 13 points, 5/9 FG, 0/1 3FG, 3/4 FT, 4 rebounds (1 off), 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 TO, 1 foul, +7
Look at all those shots in the paint! I don’t want to get ahead of myself at all, but Brandon Roy looked really good. His jumper looked a little weird because his feet were so close together. But his mobility was really good and he had a few nice plays going side-to-side and getting into the lane. The encouraging thing to see here with him isn’t the production or the numbers; what’s nice to see is him attacking and not having it look awkward.
His passing was really good. He found Pek underneath for a dunk by passing up on a jumper and he had a nice pass ahead to Love who missed the layup when he was pushed in the back.
In the third quarter, he took charge a bit by scoring the first six of the quarter for the Wolves. He cut to the basket a couple of times to get a layup and some free throw attempts. He had a pull-up jumper around the free throw line that looked pretty good. And that might be what we get out of Roy most nights — just little flurries of points here and there. Here’s video of some of his scores (bad quality but the technology there really has a FAR way to GO… get it? They played in Fargo):
Andrei Kirilenko: 27:10 minutes, 3 points, 1/4 FG, 0/1 3FG, 1/4 FT, 6 rebounds (3 off), 2 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 3 TOs, 3 fouls, +7
I’m already in love with Kirilenko being on this team. I’m sure there will be frustrating games with him, but he’s just so active on the floor. He’s always moving on offense and his passing is exquisite. As soon as there is an angle and separation for a potential assist, he’s flicking his wrists and delivering. It’s scary good how quick his reaction time is in seeing a play develop.
Defensively, he is just everywhere. He’s slapping away dribbles, tipping passes, blocking shots, and moving around constantly. It also looks like he’s playing possum quite a bit out there, urging opposing players to think a pass is available when it’s really not. His chicanery and effort on defense alone make the signing completely worth it. Seeing him operate in Adelman’s offense should get better and better as he continues to build chemistry with everybody.
Kevin Love: 27:09 minutes, 12 points, 5/14 FG, 0/4 3FG, 2/2 FT, 8 rebounds (2 off), 2 assists, 3 steals, 2 TOs, 2 fouls, +9
Only thing I really care about watching with Love in the preseason is how his defense looks. At the beginning of last season, he was a good defender and I don’t just mean for him. He was legitimately good, especially defending the post. As the year went on, Love’s defense gave way to energy for his offense, especially after Ricky went down.
In this game, he looked really active defensively. He slid his feet well, defended the pick-and-roll really well, and even forced turnovers in the post. The key will be watching how he conserves his energy throughout a game. With as active as he is on the boards, he’s going to have to take plays off here and there. If he can find a way to take plays off defensively to conserve energy while still being in relatively good position, it will go a long way toward this team defending decently.
Nikola Pekovic: 27:09 minutes, 14 points, 5/11 FG, 4/8 FT, 5 rebounds (3 off), 2 TOs, 3 fouls, +9
There was a point in the game where I just felt bad for Roy Hibbert. Pekovic actually does look stronger out there. Maybe it’s an illusion because he has the leverage on Hibbert, allowing him to move him around a lot easier but he seemed to just manhandle the Pacers’ All-Star big man all game long. His defense was much better and much more active. He still can be pretty slow moving from side-to-side but the lost weight is showing in his movements.
There was a stretch in the third quarter in which he went after Hibbert pretty hard in the post on a few possessions in a row and decided to dominate the boards. When he decides he’s going to grab a rebound, I don’t really know what you’re supposed to do. I’m glad it’s not our problem to figure it out.
J.J. Barea: 29:26 minutes, 9 points, 3/7 FG, 1/1 3FG, 2/2 FT, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 2 TOs, 4 fouls, +9
I really enjoyed the way JJ played in this game. He didn’t dribble the air out of the ball like we saw so much last season. He moved the ball and seemed to pick good spots for when to attack. Instead of pulling up for a lot of jumpers, Barea was able to dribble past Augustin and Sundiata Gaines pretty easily before positioning himself for good layup attempts. It was really impossible for the Pacers’ point guards to stay in front of him. He also had another layup taken away from him on a bogus basket interference call against Pekovic.
If we were going to pick nits, I’d say his running of the pick-and-roll just isn’t good enough on a lot of possessions. The Wolves can make up for it with good ball movement, but coming around the screen he just seems to have a big problem seeing the roller going to the basket. It’s not something that hurts his game necessarily because he can hesitate and get to the rim. However, you’re probably going to see more forced shots on PnRs from him than cutters getting the ball.
Derrick Williams: 13:18 minutes, 9 points, 4/7 FG, 1/3 3FG, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 TOs, +8
Three shots at the basket, three 3-pointers attempted and one midrange shot. He scored a pretty quick nine points in the first half and then hardly played the rest of the game. Jerry Zgoda’s notes from the game said Adelman may have been irked by Derrick Williams taking three 3-pointers. I’m actually not mad or annoyed at Adelman if this is the case. To break Derrick of that habit of floating, you have to correct him immediately if you see it happening.
He didn’t have a bad game by any means, mainly because he got that first 3-pointer to drop and it helps make the numbers look pretty. But the three turnovers and the two boards in just 13 minutes of action leave you wanting him to keep improving. It’s great that he’s looked great in practices the past week, but we want to see more of him attack the rim on the left side (like when he got his layup) and less of him popping to the perimeter.
Oh yeah; here’s the alley-oop from Shved.
Alexey Shved: 20:50 minutes, 0 points, 0/4 FG, 0/2 3FG, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 TO, +7
Shved wasn’t able to make a shot, but he did seem to have a nice chemistry pretty quickly with Derrick. He looked for him on slipped screens and generally just had a good sense for when to make a play. Shved may be tentative until he feels more comfortable in the offense and in NBA games, but you can tell it won’t affect his playmaking ability for others. He’s going to try things that he probably shouldn’t, but a little trial and error for him might be the best way to get him acclimated to this league. Love seeing his vision on the floor.
I don’t know that Shved was good on defense but he certainly was active. I’ve heard some scouts/trainers tell me that they tell their guys even if you can’t be a good defender, just getting in the way can do the trick some times. Shved certainly did that with solid ball pressure and active hands. One problem I noticed is he had trouble getting around screens (just like Ricky!), but that could just be an experience thing.
Chase Budinger: 21:27 minutes, 14 points, 4/9 FG, 2/4 3FG, 4/6 FT, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 TO, 1 foul, +11
Chase’s jumper is just so smooth. I’m pretty sure Rob Thomas wrote a song about it even. He moves so well without the ball and sets his feet very quickly when getting ready to release that jumper. I’m pretty excited for him being on this team and think he’ll shine as a role player when he’s on the court with Ricky, AK or Shved. Guys that love to pass are going to find him because he finds spaces in the halfcourt to get a shot off. He had a quiet 14 points to lead the team with Pek.
Greg Stiemsma: 13:18 minutes, 4 points, 1/1 FG, 2/2 FT, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 1 TO, 2 fouls, +8
We saw a Stiem powered jumper! Stiemsma didn’t play a lot during this game but he showed great instincts patrolling the lane. He knocked down a 17-foot jumper pretty easily and stopped the next possession down the floor by blocking a dunk attempt from Jeff Pendergraph. One thing I did notice with him was he didn’t do a ton of boxing out. You’d like to see him looking to seal off bodies whenever a shot goes up, but he kind of just stood where he was and waited to see what the ball was going to do. He wasn’t very proactive on the glass, just very reactive.
Dante Cunningham: 7:33 minutes, 4 points, 1/2 FG, 2/2 FT, 1 rebound, 1 foul, -3
Lou Amundson: 7:33 minutes, 2 points, 1/2 FG, 2 rebounds (1 off), 2 TOs, 2 fouls, -3
I’m putting these two guys together because they came in at the same time and did the exact same thing. They’re kind of like watching two chickens running around with their heads cut off. Actually, I have no idea why that’s a saying because I’ve never seen that and I don’t know anybody that’s seen that. It’s actually a gruesome image that makes me think of the fight scene in Kill Bill with the Crazy 88s. These guys threw their bodies around, were active on the glass, and seemed pretty comfortable and active defensively. Good energy guys.
Will Conroy: 18:34 minutes, 0 points, 0/3 FG, 0/1 3FG, 3 rebounds (3 off), 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 3 fouls, +5
I loved what I saw from Conroy. No he didn’t blow anybody away and he probably won’t at this level. It’s just fun to see a guy have control over his team, even if he’s a backup point guard. Conroy directed the offense out there, corrected guys when they were out of position and he was active on the offensive glass. He followed his own missed shots, played solid defense and just looked like a backup NBA point guard. Wouldn’t mind seeing more minutes from him in the preseason, especially with the second unit.
Mike Harris: 2:53 minutes, 0 points, 0/1 FG, -4
Mike missed his only shot and barely played. Not much to analyze there so I’ll just show you this .gif of Ricky at Media Day.