The Timberwolves haven’t started the way that many hoped for. While there’s certainly sign that the team has steadily improved throughout the year, a 10-22 start isn’t what fans were hoping for, even if it was a very likely and realistic scenario for this roster makeup.
On one hand, they’re struggling because their core consists of three players barely old enough to order an offseason beer. On the other hand, the upside of those three, and the success they all had late last season, is why fans felt so much excitement coming into this season.
The Bucks, full of their own stars, are a couple steps back from what they may have expected – but for different reasons. Before the start of the season, they lost Khris Middleton, their leading scorer, three point shooter, and all-around steadiest guy on the team, for the season.
That leaves them with a slew of young guys that the Wolves could certainly be compared to. Their main scoring core now revolves around a group of young studs (note: Khris Middleton is only 25 in his own right), albeit with some development to go. They’re 15-15 in a middling Eastern Conference, but are holding up a playoff spot without their steadiest player. That’s something, no doubt.
In short, the matchups in this game have some of the most exciting prospects for fun than just about any two young teams matchup up in the league. This game will feature lots of examples of youthful mistakes. But it will likely also feature some awesome stuff that you won’t see any other team able to pull off. Let’s look at some matchups.
Giannis Antetokounmpo vs Andrew Wiggins
This has to be the most exciting matchup of the game, right? Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 7-footer who is faster than most 6-6 dudes, and is a good jumper away from being the basketball equivalent of a 5-tool player. He’s putting up career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field goal and three point percentage, and his minutes have actually lessened slightly.
Also, there may be no player in the league (whose name isn’t Russell or LeBron) more terrifying to see in the open floor. Keep in mind: this man is 7 feet tall.
Gorgui Dieng vs Jabari Parker
This is the matchup that I’m intrigued by for, if nothing else, the differences in styles of play. Dieng has the height advantage, but Jabari Parker has the ability to play on the perimeter and off the dribble, and actually reportedly weighs a bit more, despite being just 6-8. Dieng should be able to get what he wants offensively, and might have a nice passing game over the smaller Parker, who is an improving but not-quite-there defender. That said, while Dieng isn’t terrible for a dude his size defending the perimeter, this will be one of his bigger tests of the year. Parker has proven a strength to take slower guys off the dribble and finish inside.
Zach LaVine vs Malcolm Brogdon
This isn’t a perfect matchup listing, as Malcolm Brogdon doesn’t currently start at shooting guard (or, he kind of does, but kind of doesn’t, on account of Giannis being a freak and running lots of point), but he should be mentioned. Despite being picked all the way down at 36, he’s en route to making an All-Rookie team, and has been one of the reasons why Milwaukee has been able to stay strong amidst Middleton’s absence. Part of that has to do with the way he plays – it has some similarities to Middleton’s game. He’s hitting on 44 percent of his three pointers, taking 2 per game in just 22 minutes of action. Basically, he takes good shots, and while there have obviously been rookie mistakes, the 4-year Virginia Cavalier has shown that the term “NBA ready” can occasionally have some validity.
Plus, he can do this
Karl-Anthony Towns vs John Henson
This is less exciting from the Bucks’ perspective. Jason Kidd has started to play Monroe less and less, and that has brought shotblocker John Henson into the starting lineup. While he’s plenty capable to give KAT fits, it’s going to be hard for him, if Towns shows the post patience he did two nights ago in Denver.