It’s the preseason.
It’s true, these games are meaningless in terms of competition for the playoffs, but this was the home opener. This was the first time Wolves fans got to see the newly Tom Thibodeau-fronted Wolves in-person. This was the first time a game was televised, and thus the first time Dave Benz and Jim Peterson were back on the airwaves.
That said, tonight’s win doesn’t get the Wolves any closer to a playoff spot. Not technically, anyway. In terms of the preseason learning curve, there was plenty to take away from tonight’s game. The Wolves won by just 7, but led by as many as 40 points. All of this happened while the team’s core players sat on the bench (it was mostly a lineup of Tyus Jones-John Lucas III-Rasual Butler-Adreian Payne-Jordan Hill that let the lead slip away), but while they played, there was plenty to talk about.
I jotted thoughts down as the game went on, then went back and filled in more detailed thoughts after the game.
1.THE SCOREBOARD IS HUGE
This photo does not do it justice. But, man, this thing is impressive.
2. Zach LaVine looked locked in, on both ends – While this was especially true in the first half, when he got off to a hot start both shooting off the catch and scoring off the dribble, LaVine was more aggressive than I’ve ever seen him before. Tonight’s version of LaVine has a realistic All-Star caliber ceiling, especially when paired up with a freak like Towns.
But it was the defensive end that impressed me the most. He was reading passes brilliantly, doubling when appropriate, denying the ball, and making smart plays on the ball when it made sense. It was nothing like the LaVine we’ve known the past 2 seasons. This is possibly a preseason overreaction, but LaVine impressed the hell out of me defensively tonight.
3. Brandon Rush’s basketball IQ is going to be a refreshing sight when watching the team’s wing core – This isn’t a knock on Wiggins, LaVine, and Muhammad. All three are young, athletic wings with relatively bright futures. Rush is a veteran shooting guard with a limited skillset. That skillset showed tonight, but in a different way than I expected. He’s known for his 3-point shooting, but it was the extra passes he made. Some turned into assists, some turned into ANOTHER pass that turned into a score. Rush is a team player that knows how to find good shots, whether or not he’s the one taking it. He’ll be a nice offensive piece off the bench this year.
4. Kris Dunn’s shot selection needs to improve – Amidst all the good things the first and second teams were doing, Dunn’s dud of a performance tonight was the one major bummer. A slew of bad, contested, mid-range jumpers, some decent on-ball defense, and a general lack of knowing what to do on offense. That was Kris Dunn’s game in a nutshell tonight.
The idea that Dunn is expected to be a starter within 20 games is one that I don’t believe to be true; not because of tonight’s game, but because Tom Thibodeau is not the type of coach to set a number on something like that. Still, Ricky Rubio is lightyears ahead of Dunn right now, and tonight proved that (even if Dunn is better than this on most nights). And that’s okay. But tonight was proof that Dunn has plenty to learn about the intensity of how to score on an NBA defensive system.
5. The suit rankings continue, but the surprises do not-
Ryan Saunders was at it again. I couldn’t find a good chance to snap a photo, but he looked fresh as usual. He’s on pace to break the Warriors’ 73 win record with ease.
6. KAT forgot it was preseason, had it mistaken for game 7 of the NBA Finals- 31 points, 9 rebounds, 17-17 from the free throw line, 27 minutes, all on Marc Gasol. He might actually be a cat. And as our own Zach Harper put it, cat gonna yarn.
You know what season it is. Yarn Getting SZN pic.twitter.com/rvNu6Le2Zs
— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) October 20, 2016
Towns spent most of his time on the floor with Ricky Rubio. The two of them, as well as LaVine, are really starting to build something on the floor. They know the spots to hit on the break, especially, and are going to be more of a highlight reel than ever this year. Just wait til Wiggins (who was out with an illness) joins them.
7. According to my friend Melissa, who attended the game with my friend Ben, Gorgui’s shorts fall down a lot. As a result, he has to pull up his shorts a lot- Something to watch for, maybe.
8. The starting lineup looks great, the bench does not –
Keeping in mind the Wolves only won by 7, the +/- is a hilariously telling indicator:
The worst starter’s +/- was +33, and they won by 7.
Thankfully, this shouldn’t be a terribly troublesome issue. It’s highly unlikely that Thibs has any intention on running a platoon system. In other words, unless the game is a blowout (like tonight), the starters and the bench will be pretty well intermingled most of the time.
9. I could watch angry Tom Thobdeau all day long- Even when the Wolves were up 40, Thibs was an unhappy man. This was his face for most of the game.
It’s fun to watch, but it’s great to know how much he cares about winning. He’ll make sure it happens, and make sure the winning attitude is always taking place. No matter what the score is.
10. The team looked great, and it’s great to be back- KAT had a great game, LaVine looked excellent, Rubio looked fantastic, Bjelica was taking shots without hesitation (!!!!!), Thibs was making smart reads and adjustments. This list could be much longer than I’m making it, but there’s plenty of season to form more conclusions and observations. Whether tonight was meaningless or not, it’s going to be a fun year.