7 Positive Thoughts on the Wolves Blowout Loss to the Clippers
It is too early in the season for Wolves fans to panic. The team has looked rough in their past two outings, but they have played on the road against two of the best teams in the NBA. They are missing the heart and soul of their team, so patience is needed. Believe it or not, there are positives to take from their most recent 124–101 loss. Here are my positive thoughts after the game.
- Jarred Vanderbilt stuffs the stat sheet. Very rarely does a young player pass the eye test while also putting up numbers in the box score, but that is exactly what Vanderbilt did for the Wolves in his 16 minutes against the Clippers. He finished with 9 points, 6 rebounds (3 offensive rebounds), an assist, a steal, and a block. Jarred played partially in the 3rd quarter against LA’s real rotation, and in the 4th quarter in garbage time, looking equally energetic and useful in both stints. With the play of Juancho Hernangomez, Ed Davis, and Jake Layman suffering so far, Vanderbilt deserves a shot to see if he can provide the big man rotation with a shot of energy. They need him now more than ever.
- The new starting lineup actually looked solid. Rubio received his first start of the young season along side Russell, Beasley, Culver, and Reid. This group helped the Wolves to a fast start going up 16–7 right away. They played active and connected defense while executing quality plays on offense to free up their scorers. Ricky Rubio seemed to have a huge effect on helping D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley get their shots off, and the extra effort on defense from the group was certainly noticeable. Everything that happened after they took that lead was bad, but they may have something to build on with that lineup until Towns returns.
- Anthony Edwards: Shot Maker. The 19 year old rookie made 4 of his 7 three point shots. A couple of his attempts were very difficult shots that he made look relatively easy, especially his step back three pointer to tie the game at 39. He has all the confidence in the world to take and make any shot, which is a rare quality found in some of the game’s best players. His next step will be to pick his spots and make sure that he does not fall in love with difficult jump shots (7 of his 10 field goal attempts were from three point land), but it is encouraging to see him brimming with confidence so far in the NBA.
- Malik Beasley plays hard at all times. Wolves fans fell in love with Beasley’s attitude and effort last season. One fear about the mercurial Beasley was that he may choose to mentally “check out” of bad games or blowouts, but so far we have learned that he provides energy and effort throughout all of his minutes. Even in the 3rd quarter of the blowout loss against the Clippers when his shot was not falling he continually attacked the basket in transition and worked to find spots to get his shot off. Beasley got himself to the free throw line several times with hard dives to the rim, and never seemed to let the lopsided score affect his effort. Those types of players are needed during rough stretches, and it will likely rub off on some of his teammates.
- Jaden McDaniels is an interesting prospect with a lot of upside. Ok, we are reaching for positives on this one, but Jaden could be an important part of this team’s future. There is not much analysis to be done from looking at his box scores as his only minutes have come in garbage time, but his length, athleticism, and smooth offensive game stands out when he is in the game. He had a nice drive and finish at the rim on offense and aggressively contested shots at the rim on defense. Those types of plays show the makings of a player that could have a lot of useful tools in the future. A big wing like McDaniels who can shoot, handle the ball, and defend the rim would be a massively valuable player down the road. Hopefully he gets more minutes in blowouts where the Wolves win soon.
- Jarrett Culver is a real defender. Leaving aside his offensive performance (this is a positive article!), Culver admirably defended Paul George to start the game, frustrating him into some bad misses early. He registered a steal and a block as well. Through 3 preseason games and 4 regular season games, Culver has made it very clear that he can be a reliable point-of-attack defender and smart help defender. He has also been one of their best rebounders, registering 10 rebounds (4 offensive rebounds) against the Clippers. Defense and rebounding will keep him on the court, even if other areas of his game have regressed a bit.
- Deep breath, the Wolves are 2–2. A little bit of perspective: prior to this tough road trip, Wolves fans were hoping to steal one game against the Jazz or one of the LA teams, but many of us assumed the team would come back home with a 1–3 record. That was an incredibly tough road trip, made worse by the losses of Towns and Okogie. The Wolves now come home to face the winless Wizards, the scuffling Nuggets, and mid-tier Western Conference teams in the Blazers, Spurs, and Grizzlies. There is no question that they need to figure some things out on offense and defense, but it will be much more fair to judge the team after this next stretch of games instead of judging them after playing two of the best teams in the league.