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After tonight, we’ll be halfway through the preseason madness, which means we’re halfway to the start of the regular season. Hooray for hoops!

I don’t know that there is much I have to say after last game that won’t be said in a Pekovic article I’ve got posting sometime tomorrow. So I’ll turn your attention to the Hollinger forecast for the Wolves he posted today. He’s got the T’Wolves finishing 45-37, third in the division, and seventh in the Western Conference. This sounds like a pretty great scenario for the Wolves.

We don’t need to get into a lot of preseason predictions but every advanced stats person seems to be projecting the Wolves for big things this year. And by big things I mean making the playoffs and winning a healthy number of games. Here’s an excerpt from the Insider article from Hollinger:

The biggest reason for optimism in Minnesota has less to do with Rubio and Love, and more to do with Darko and Johnson.

Here’s why: If the Wolves can just replace all the crappy players they used last season with average ones, they should have a really good team. It’s pretty amazing how many minutes this team gave players who had no business being in a rotation, let alone prominently figuring in one. Milicic started 23 games; Johnson, unbelievably, started 64.

That’s not all. Go down the list, and you’ll see Tolliver, Milicic, Johnson, Ellington and Webster all had single-digit PERs, and those five players played nearly 5,000 combined minutes. Beasley and Williams killed the Wolves with their shot selection, but they played another 2,500. That’s 7,500 minutes devoted to nonperformers. To put that in perspective, it nearly quadruples Love’s playing time.

This season the Wolves are replacing a lot of that performance with real basketball players: Kirilenko, Budinger, Shved, Cunningham and Stiemsma all should be improvements on the players they replaced. The new wing players provide particularly massive upgrades, while also allowing the Wolves to play a more traditional backcourt. (They started two point guards for most of last season because the wings were so bad.)

While I don’t have high expectations for Roy, anything he gives them will be gravy. And then there’s Williams, who one has to think will show more shot discipline (and, hopefully, accuracy) in his sophomore season.

There’s a lot of good stuff in there, so I recommend clicking the link and checking out John’s entire preview (if you have Insider, of course). I’m trying to remain cautiously optimistic. Over/under for Wolves’ wins this year seems to be around 39.5 for a lot fo places and I think 40 or 41 seems like a fair estimation without going overboard. If Rubio was going to be healthy all year, I’d be through the roof and being completely insufferable preaching the Wolves’ success.

But alas, I can’t bring myself to those lofty exultations just yet.

For today’s 3-on-3, I brought back Noam Schiller of Hardwood Paroxysm. He’s a noted Israeli basketball fan, who loves cheering for a horrible Hapoel team. That Hapoel team employs old friend, Craig Smith. He knows the Wolves’ opponents tonight better than just about any basketball writer there is out there. I also had Steve McPherson come back for some 3-on-3 action, mainly because he’s a newbie to the site and didn’t have a choice he just did a great email exchange with Noam about the matchup and the greater state of everything Minnesota and Israel basketball.

Let’s get it on. Continue Reading…