Quick Hitters: 10 Thoughts on the Timberwolves 1st Preseason Game

The Minnesota Timberwolves played a real live game for the first time in over 9 months. Even though it was a preseason loss, it was still a surreal experience to see our favorite team back on the court together. After the extended time off and speculation on the lineups and how certain players will fit together, we are finally able to write and read about what the team looked like on an NBA court. Here are ten observations from the first Preseason game.

 

  1. The team looked understandably rusty in their return to action. The Wolves turned the ball over 22 times and shot 39.5% from the field and often looked a little disjointed in their offensive sets. They shot an encouraging 37% from the three point line on 35 attempts, so the biggest takeaway may be that they should be able to shoot the ball very well.
  2. It’s good to see Karl-Anthony Towns play basketball again. He was not the same offensive force, but that can be expected after his long layoff from basketball and offseason tragedies that struck his family. He started the scoring for the Wolves with two “And 1” layups showing his versatility and skill for a player of his size. He missed all five of his three point attempts, but I have no doubts about his ability to make threes consistently.
  3. Anthony Edwards looks big, even on an NBA court. Edwards had an uneven preseason debut with 5 points on 2–9 shooting. On offense he did not always seem to know where to be, but hit a couple of impressive pull-up shots to get his points. He stood out on defense. While not necessarily being in the right position the entire game, he clearly shows the size and quickness to guard players all over the positional spectrum. He looks to be every bit of his reported 6’6″ height and 230lbs.
  4. It will be refreshing to have 48 minutes of competent point guard play. D’Angelo Russell and Ricky Rubio showed a little bit of the potential for playing together by running a couple of Rubio to Russell hand-offs to get Russell in scoring position. They should spend plenty of time on the court together, but when they are staggered it is a great feeling to know that the Wolves have a lead playmaker on the court the entire game to organize and run the offense.
  5. Malik Beasley should fit in with the other guards just fine. Malik’s activity on offense stood out. He was constantly flying around screens to get open off the ball, and attacking the paint when he was cut off from a three point attempt. He also showed great effort on defense when guarding Ja Morant. If that keeps up, he will prove to be a very valuable guard for this team.
  6. Jake Layman, starting power forward. It turns out we did not need to look far for a power forward that complements Towns and the rest of the starters. If this performance by Layman was not an aberration, he has the perfect set of tools to be the low usage forward who plays smart defense. Along with his 10 points, he finished with 2 steals and a block as well. He cuts hard offensively and proved he can shoot threes well enough to space the floor effectively. It will be important for him to build off of this performance to establish his starting spot.
  7. The path to minutes for Jarrett Culver is on defense. One of the standout players from the night was Culver. His point-of-attack defense against Ja Morant, when no one else seemed to be able to slow him down, was impressive. He clearly has the lateral quickness and length to slow down perimeter creators, and looks to have the strength to guard forwards now as well. While he did look good in making his only three point attempt on offense, Culver’s defense will get him in the rotation.
  8. Midrange shots are… back? They are not likely here to stay though. The Wolves seemed to settle for these shots on offense when they may have been better off driving to the rim. Russell, Beasley, Rubio, and Towns are capable of making these shots, but their value in the offense at this volume was questionable. Head Coach Ryan Saunders mentioned that these shots will be “cleaned up” hinting that he would prefer those midrange shots turn into a few more three point attempts and attacks to the rim.
  9. Josh Okogie was wild. A player like Josh who thrives off of energy and aggressiveness was likely to be affected by a 9 month hiatus from competitive basketball. He was clearly too amped up when he got the ball on offense, as he showed his patented drive and jump pass without a clear plan. On defense he was far too frantic to guard the slippery Ja Morant. He spoke recently about harnessing his energy and aggressiveness on defense to play smarter, so hopefully he has knocked off the initial rust and will settle down moving forward.
  10. Jaylen Nowell looks MUCH improved. He lead all scorers with 22 points in just 13 minutes. Nowell may have been miscast last season as a spot-up shooter, when in reality he is more of a ball handling scoring guard. This could solve the team’s answer at the 3rd point guard position if his performance keeps up.
 

-Jerry W.