Warriors Win It: 7 Thoughts on the Wolves Loss
To all Wolves fans who stayed up late to watch the Wolves loss against the Warriors, we salute you. After a brutally bad start for Minnesota, the game was played relatively evenly throughout. Ultimately Warriors were able to hold off the Wolves on their way to a win. Here are 7 thoughts on the game:
- Malik Beasley has been absolutely worth his contract. After Beasley signed his 4 year $60 million contract in the offseason, many Wolves fans and national media saw it as another overpay in the Wolves long history of undesirable contracts. At the time of signing, Malik had only shown small spurts of positive basketball, so spending this amount of money on him would be a risk. Only 16 games into the 20–21 season, it is looking more and more like he is worth the money. On the season, Malik is averaging nearly 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game shooting 45%/37%/90% from the field, three point line, and free throw line respectively. The numbers are even better when taken in context. Without Towns on the floor for most of the season, Malik has been relied upon to be the go-to scorer in many of the lineups he plays in. Defenses are focused on stopping him on the perimeter, so Beasley has to work incredibly hard to get free for a bucket. No game has been a better example of that than the loss at Golden State. He ended with 30 points on 10–18 shooting in a game without Towns and D’Angelo Russell on the floor. Beasley was constantly hounded by Warrior defenders as Minnesota’s best scoring threat, and he still came through with an efficient 30 points. With a fully healthy team, his efficiency numbers will likely rise, making him even more valuable.
- Naz Reid keeps getting better and better, offering hope that the Wolves center rotation can eventually be one of the best in the league. Although the loss against the Warriors was not an efficient scoring night for the 2nd year center, Naz continues to show growth in many areas of his game. Offensively he is comfortable operating as a hub for distributing the ball and attacking opposing centers off the dribble. Naz is also becoming a credible threat from the 3pt. line. On defense he is learning how to anchor himself in the post, and defend drivers by going straight up to contest their shots. Fouling is still an issue for him, but most young big men struggle with that. He is showing improved skills and awareness, and doing it all against starting front courts as he is thrust into heavy minutes at just age 21. This experience could be incredibly valuable for him when Towns returns and can finally play a consistent string of games. Naz has seen that he has the ability to match up against real starting centers like Steven Adams, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kevon Looney. When Towns returns and he enters back into a smaller role against backup big men, he should have the confidence to know that he can dominate those matchups.
- There is a pretty large Ricky Rubio conundrum forming. Credit where credit is due: Rubio was a large part of the win against New Orleans over the weekend. He showed all of the classic Rubio qualities by distributing the ball and organizing the offense. The loss against the Warriors also highlighted all of his limitations when he is the lead ball handler. Defenses are not scared of his scoring from anywhere on the court, and that can significantly hinder the offense. When D’Angelo Russell returns, the major question will remain. Should Rubio and Russell play together even though the pairing does not seem to work? If the answer is no, then Rubio becomes relegated to 16–18 minutes per night off the bench. For a player who has been a starter in the NBA for a decade, that can be a tough pill to swallow. If the answer is yes, that Russell and Rubio should play together, then Ricky likely needs to be the lead ball handler and some of his scoring limitations may still persist in slowing the offense. The added spice in this point guard stew is that Jordan McLaughlin continues to prove that he is a quality backup point guard, and is deserving of rotation minutes. I do not envy the coaching staff’s task of managing the PG rotation, but they will need to figure it out as the team (hopefully) returns to health.
- Anthony Edwards provided the highlight of the night along with some other encouraging signs. Can we talk about that dunk? Oh my goodness. It was only worth 2 points in the grand scheme of things, but that was about as fearsome of an attack on the rim as you will ever see. One thing is for certain, when Ant goes to dunk, he is going for the kill. As for the rest of the game, Ant was solid and showed some other signs of the player he can be in the future. His grasp of the offense is growing, as he understands a little more where he needs to be off the ball and how to free himself up to receive passes. As a ball handler he was more patient, and executed a few ‘drive and kicks’ before relocating on the perimeter. These are small improvements, but they are key to Ant developing into a helpful player soon. The other noticeable aspect to this game was his ability to get to the free throw line for 7 attempts, converting on 6 of them. Two of the fouls were drawn attacking the rim, and one was drawn on a 3pt. attempt. Moving forward, that will be such an easy way for him to boost his own efficiency and add scoring to the Wolves offense. Ant ended the game with 15 points on 13 shots. The shooting efficiency still needs improvement, but we are seeing him grow right before our eyes.
- Both of the JMacs continue to impress. Before you get mad at me, Jordan McLaughlin is the real “JMac.” But while we search for a permanent nickname for Jaden McDaniels they can be known as the “JMacs.” McLaughlin continues to prove that he is an NBA caliber point guard. In 22 minutes played, he registered 15 points and 5 assists. He fearlessly attacks the rim and finishes over players that tower over him. Wolves fans are getting used to these performances out of the minuscule point guard, and the more he continues to perform well the more we are left wondering how he did not manage to secure a guaranteed contract in the offseason. While being nearly a foot taller than McLaughin, Jaden McDaniels continues to prove doubters wrong in the same way. No rational Wolves fans expected McDaniels to be a contributor this season. We assumed if he ended up playing meaningful minutes, it would be a disaster. So far it appears we were wrong. Similarly to Edwards, he does not really know what he is doing all the time, but his skills, body, and athleticism certainly translate to the NBA. While his scoring has not be efficient recently, he is showing the type of versatility that made him a first round draft pick in the offseason. There are not many players that can handle the ball, shoot off the dribble, and defend they way he can with his size and length. We can honestly assume that he will only get better with time and maturity, and Wolves fans should be excited about his future.
- Steph Curry continues to be a cheat code on offense. Watching Steph on offense is a real treat, even when he happens to be burying your favorite team in the 4th quarter under an avalanche of jump shots. The NBA has never seen a player draw more attention when they are moving off the ball. He is so smart in how he flies around the perimeter and uses screens to get open. There were so many instances where his teammates got easy buckets because the Wolves defense lost their minds when Steph bursted open for a split second. In one specific instance, Kevon Looney had the ball near the 3pt. line with Naz guarding closely. Curry came near to receive a handoff, but cut away at the last second causing Naz to panic and run at him. The problem was that Naz was the only defender between Looney and the basket, so Looney strolled in for the easy bucket. This is not just a Wolves problem, as Steph causes even the most veteran teams to “spaz out” as he hunts for his shot. Now that the Warriors have descended from ‘title favorites’ status, I can go back to truly appreciating the greatness of Steph Curry.
- Another loss, but this one felt different. Among the 12 Wolves losses so far on the season, only the 2 Denver games resembled this loss to the Warriors. It seemed the Wolves gave an effort and looked like a real NBA team, but in the end did not have the firepower to match the Warriors. Time and time again the Wolves fought back from the brink of a blowout, only to be kept at an arm’s length by the Warriors’ star players. This is a completely different game type than some of their brutal blowout losses against the Blazers, Lakers, Clippers, and others. Fans are no longer interested in moral victories with this team, and that is completely understandable. But the Warriors likely had the 3 best players (one of them being a superstar) in the game, yet despite a horrid start to the game the Wolves hung tough throughout. Effort plays by Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley offered hope for a team that could be galvanized by playing hard for one another. If that effort and desire continues when Towns and Russell return, this Wolves team could be a formidable opponent.