2016-17 Season

Wolves continue road trip in Brooklyn; a quick preview

sean-kilpatrick

Our little Timberpuppies are in the Big Apple.

They spent Sunday night seeing the Broadway musical “Hamilton” on a little team-building excursion (and apparently, they loved it). Monday, Karl-Anthony Towns made an appearance at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue, “working” as a cashier. And finally, the Wolves practiced, Thibs said Ricky is still going to be out a bit, and KAT landed on another magazine cover.

As for on-the-court matters, the Wolves and Nets tip tonight at 6:30 CT. The Nets, 2-4, will be without offensive sparkplug Jeremy Lin, who is out at least two weeks with a hamstring injury. Backup Greivis Vasquez is dealing with a sprained ankle, so his status is up in the air as well. Despite missing those two, who serve as the team’s top point guards, the Nets hung around against the red-hot Hornets in their last game, a 99-95 loss on Friday night. Rookie Isaiah Whitehead filled in capably, despite his inexperience. That’s been a common theme for Brooklyn so far; despite being a common preseason pick to finish with the worst record in the league, the Nets have been rather pesky, with their only blowout loss coming on Halloween night against the Bulls.

Like the Wolves, the Nets are adjusting to a new system. Rookie head coach Kenny Atkinson was tabbed by new GM Sean Marks to re-make Brooklyn’s scheme, and the results have been pretty stark, especially on the offensive end. Consider:

Brooklyn Nets – Change in Offensive Philosophy

Season 3PA/gm (rank) Midrange FGA/gm (rank) ORTG (rank)
2015-16 18.4 (27th) 22.4 (11th) 100.9 (27th)
2016-17 34.2 (3rd) 10.3 (29th) 100.5 (20th)

It’s still early, but if the first six games are any indication, it appears the Nets are fully embracing the “modern” offensive system in pretty drastic terms. They’ve nearly eradicated the midrange shot and are shooting nearly double the three-pointers they did a year ago, which is an incredible change.

For the sake of comparison, check out the Wolves’ own marks in those same categories:

Minnesota Timberwolves – Same Old, Same Old?

Season 3PA/gm (rank) Midrange FGA/gm (rank) ORTG (rank)
2015-16 16.4 (29th) 26.3 (3rd) 104.3 (11th)
2016-17 20.2 (27th) 21.4 (9th) 105.3 (8th)

Thibodeau was a much more coveted coaching hire, obviously, and it’s his work on the other end of the floor that most intrigues and excites Wolves fans. But it’s worth noting that most of us who followed the team last year clamored for a more modern offensive system, and thus far, we’ve yet to see that manifest itself in the shots the team is taking. Kenny Atkinson, to his credit, has at least drilled home their new playing style right off the bat.

But how are the Nets doing this, exactly? For one thing, everyone is empowered to shoot from beyond the arc, led by Bojan Bogdanovic, who’s attempting nearly 8 threes per-36 minutes and is averaging better than 15 points per game. Brook Lopez has tried 21 triples in 5 games; his previous season-long high was 14. Former Cavalier victory cigar Joe Harris, whose light is always green, is attempting over 8 threes per-36 minutes. Even Luis Scola is getting into the three-point shooting mix.

Joining that group are three former Timberwolves, all of whom were part of the illustrious 2014-15 tankathon: Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Hamilton, and Anthony Bennett.

Kilpatrick bounced from Wolves to the Nuggets before landing with the Nets late last season. The soon-to-be 27 year old is averaging 17 points on 59% True Shooting in 26 minutes per game off the bench – the kind of production that could be the beginning of a breakout season as a sixth man. He absolutely destroyed the D-League over the past few year but was never viewed as much of a prospect due to his age – he didn’t finish college until he was 24 years old. Despite that, he seems to have found an NBA home.

Also on the squad is Justin Hamilton, otherwise known as The Last Center the Wolves Gave Regular Minutes Before Karl-Anthony Towns (TLCWGRMBKAT). (I need to work on a better acronym for that.) He bounced around prior to landing in Minnesota, from Charlotte to Miami to New Orleans, before putting up averages of 9 points and 5 rebounds in 25 minutes for the Wolves down the tankathon-rich months of February and March, 2015. He spent last season with Valencia in the ACB, averaging 13 points and 5 rebounds on 58% effective field goal shooting, including a 40% mark on more than 2 three-point attempts per game. It was good enough to land him a 2 year, $6 million deal with Brooklyn this July.

And last but certainly least, there’s Anthony Bennett, who is chucking threes (11 attempts in 33 garbage time minutes) and racking up DNPs (3 in 6 games). He’s shooting 29% and has pulled down a total of two rebounds.I’m sad, all of the sudden. I’m going to stop writing about Anthony Bennett now.

This is a game that the Timberwolves should win, despite their current funk. It’ll be critical that they defend the three-point line and take care of the ball, but other than that, the talent between the two teams, especially with Lin out, is remarkable. If they lose, the heat is going to turn up on a few people very, very quickly. Tune in at 6:30 tonight to see them in action.

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