Lots has happened since John and I did a pod. Lots has stayed the same too. Thibs is still playing too few guys in the regular rotation. We aren’t sure who our best point guard is presently and we aren’t sure what the ceiling for this team is as currently constructed.
The Wolves are 29-17 coming off a bad loss to Orlando. Before that, they ripped off five in a row at home. The Wolves still have picked up some losses they shouldn’t have and last night at Orlando is why they won’t get to by 59 number from before the season started and also why low 50s might be tough.
Quick thoughts on the Orlando game:
Wolves only lost the 4th quarter
Teague and Wiggins were the only starters with a negative net-rating. Wiggs looked flat all game. Teague just doesn’t make sense to me. I haven’t watched him in previous season outside of games against the Wolves. Man, he’s not consistent. The bench had awful net ratings too, with the exception of Bjelica. Bjelly got ejected for a 2nd technical after he almost got his head taken off by Arron Afflalo. Afflalo is going to get multiple games off this one. I imagine Bjelly doesn’t miss any more time.
Orlando has some weak net ratings on the starting five outside of Biyombo and Fournier. Biyombo had 5 blocks. He got a few homer calls from the refs and Sota did a bad job of stretching him. He had a good game. Fournier torched us. A career high is always a tough one to handle. 32 points on 12 of 22 from the field (6 of 12 from 3-point).
After the game Buckets said it was a good loss because it’ll wake the team up. Come on man do we need to get woke? Let’s play hard everytime the ball gets rolled out.
The trade deadline is looming but All-Star announcements happen first. Everyone is dropping who they think should be on the team. The Wolves should have two All-Stars in Butler and KAT. KAT might be on the bubble because he had a weak start to the season. Butler didn’t take over the team till 15 games ago so he might not be a starter but he’s a lock to be in the game.
More to come soon but we had to just start the juices flowing!
In this episode, we get into a lot of stuff. Its been a while since we’ve recorded. I (Jeff) have been fighting off a sinus infection and a cough that would’ve made me even more unlistenable. John’s just been a busy man cause he has a social life. The main points are below.
Lack of wing depth
Frustrations with Thibs
Awards (All of the awards go John’s pick then Jeff’s pick)
Crazy day in the news here in the old US of A. We don’t write about anything but sports typically here. That’s still what I prefer to do. While trying to work and keep up on the non-stop pounding of the news I got an email from a dear friend asking me what happened with Garrison Keillor. Below is my response and my reason for not writing about the Wolves most recent homestand yet. The Wolves issues with rotations, roster constructions, and game-play come in a far distant third to work or the news today.
The article in the Strib (here) he says he touched a women’s bare back while trying to comfort her. Like he tried to pat her on the back but for some reason, her shirt wasn’t there and he touched her back? I don’t really fucking get that part of the story. The details and facts of clothing just don’t make sense to me.
Then he goes on to say its an honor to get fired when in show-business and he’s saddened that it took him 50 years to do so. Just a really odd thing to write to a newspaper.
All of this a day after he wrote an op-ed in the WaPo (here) saying Franken shouldn’t have to step-down. There is no way Garrison didn’t know he was in trouble when he wrote that piece.
All of this can only be back-dropped by 45dropping insane anti-Islam tweets this AM (here) and then Sanders saying it was okay for him to do so. I mean the news right now today is too much.
The tax bill is trash (here) and Matt Lauer (here) got fired too?
That doesn’t change the fact that the Wolves got roasted last night in the waning seconds by the Wizards.
Other than that “how was the play Ms. Lincoln?” feels like all I’ve got today.
I really love basketball but if we are being straight my first love was baseball. It always will be too. I never got past 6’4″ and slow so beyond rec-ball I had no bball future. I was looking for some Wolves pix over on Getty. I always see these sweet Getty Image shots on people’s sites and I’m like okay fam how are you covering the cost of those photos? Like for real. Last night Karl-Anthony Towns had a monster of a game. It’s going to be out-shinned nationally by Embiid and possibly even Porzingis. I didn’t watch Embiid until the 3rd quarter and he owned the Lakers. The Lakers can’t match-up against Embiid, KAT or the Zinger. Maybe we need to look at these three guys performance against like opponents to really see how they shake out. Even then the team aspect changes things so I’m not sure. KAT balled last night and he won’t get much of any love. In honor of him deserving love and me finding out about Getting Images embed policy here’s KAT throwing out the first pitch at a Twins game.
The picture is from September 20, 2015 so its dated but whatevs. Look how KAT keeps the ball hidden. Now think about a 7’+ dude with a wing-span far greater than that keeping that fastball or slider grip hidden from you this well. By the time he releases that it’s on you. Dudes got long enough limbs that we probably need to figure out if the ball reaches its peak velo or if it’s still accelerating.
Think about that framed by Sota spotting the Spurs 6 in the first. Only to hide that release to the last possible moment and bang bring the pain in the 2nd to the tune of 20 points. It took about four minutes into the second and the Wolves never looked back.
The box score is a nice representation of the game. Wolves were finding themselves in the first. Coming out hot. This is the second time the Wolves have faced the Spurs, having lost the season opener in San Antonio. Still, I found myself saying who the hell are these guys on the Spurs bench. I had to look up Bryn Forbes. Dude didn’t do much of anything but so far this year I think I’d like to see him as our wing depth over Bazz. I just like how Pop finds dudes that he nurtures along on his bench for a season or two that then end up being contributors. Patty Mills and Kyle Anderson are the current guys I’m thinking of in this vein but just look through Spurs rosters for the past 15 years. Every year you’ll find a guy that you just shake your head at saying “huh only the spurs man.” (When I mumble to myself about other sports teams its always in the disrespectful lower-case sense. I never capitalize that shit when I’m hate mumbling.) The Spurs go to that bench and pull ahead on the Wolves. No real surprise cause they are the Spurs and the Wolves have lost 18 straight to them going into last night. The Spurs push it out to eight points early in the 2nd. As you can see on the ESPN game summary below the Spurs fall off a cliff shortly thereafter.
That game flow there is okay but it’s not large enough for my liking. It also doesn’t appear to show the game correctly. Below is the win probability for the game and it shows the general vibe from the game a little better in my opinion.
The ESPN tool has nice hover over effects. I’ve linked to the site so go check it out. The ESPN game summary is a lot better than it used to be. Its still ESPN and its not really the best mobile experience. I guess I don’t really know I just use BR or Score on my phone. They both have some BS ads but nowhere nearly as frustrating as ESPN. BR Mag is solid so I like that app for that alone. As it shows the Wolves got the lead and never really were in real trouble of losing the game.
As soon as the Wolves jump on the Spurs in the second its over. Part of this second quarter butt-whipping goes to the four straight pick and roll possessions with KAT and Tyus Jones. Jace Fredrick broke that shit down completely below.
Finally cause I can’t help but put graphics in this one let’s get to the old fav PopCornMachine’s game flow. For me, this is still the way to go.
The flow of what players are on the court is just beauty in motion. Hockey subs are fine at half-time. Pop is a genius, having forgotten or mentally overwritten more about basketball than I’ve absorbed. (Lame trope used) I’ve got to question going +7 (Pau was held over briefly and that unit was +2 with Pau so really +9) in the 3rd then Pop yanks that unit and the fresh five give up an 8-0 run. That’s the sort of things you can easily with the PopCornMachine flows.
Don’t kid yourself Kwahi wasn’t in the game. When he’s back and in the game-flow, this is a different team. The guys on the end of the bench I mentioned before, well they are shooters. When you’ve got LMA and Kwahi you don’t have to try to figure out some smoke and mirrors bs with Pau and LMA. Let’s hope Kwahi heals up fast and is back to 100%.
The Wolves won this one to end the streak. KAT played really well. Posting an offensive rating of 125 and a defensive rating of 94 for the baller +31 net rating. Wiggins was sort of so-so for me and the ratings coming in at -8. (Offensive 101 and defensive 109) Buckets brought the d for the most part but forgot his offense in Chicago. Buckets had a respectable defensive rating of 93 but that offensive rating was a hugely questionable 68. Without Buckets the other four starters averaged an offensive rating of 115.5. When you bring Buckets into the conversation they fall down to 106. That’s what 2 for 13 will do for you. The counting numbers weren’t great 6pt, 5rb, 5 ast, 3stl, 1blk and 1 tov with a +/- of +6. That’s role-player level. All of the starters played 30+ minutes (hey man Taj play 30:05 soi ts accurate) and this wasn’t helped by Gorgui missing his 3rd straight with a sprained finger. Soaking up the extra minutes Bjelly nabbed 11 pts on 5 for 9 shooting. On top of that, he had a plus 34 net rating which is baller! Bazz hooped tonight. Just nine points but the offensive rating comes in at 176 backed by a 90% true shooting percentage. The defensive rating at 108 feels like so-so but that still nets out to a 68. Yeah, I did the math right yo net rating of 68.
Wrapping the gamer part of this one up the Wolves ended the 18-game losing streak. They had a great all-around defensive game. The bench showed up for the Wolves even though they were thin. Tyus and KAT had it going on the pick-and-roll. Bazz was a monster. Buckets get a mulligan.
Before my thoughts on my 59 game projection here is a quick picture of Embiid followed by one of the Zinger. Since those dudes had good nights too.
The Wolves are 9-5. At this point in my 59 win prediction, I had us at 10-4. Right now I had us on quite the win-streak. Counting the Spurs win I had us on a 9 game win-streak, so that means we need to win the next eight games. Who’s on the docket? Dallas, Detriot, Charlotte, Orlando, Miami, Phoenix, Washington, and New Orleans. Looking at those we need to exact revenge on Detroit and Phoenix. We have at Charlotte and at New Orleans so those might be dicey too. The realistic take on these next 8 we should go 6-2. For me to hang my hat on this crazy big number we need to go 8-0. #AllEyesNorth Baby!
I had a dentist appointment. Everyone knows what to do when it comes to brushing your teeth. You brush in the morning and at night. You should probably also brushing after lunch. That doesn’t account for flossing, dental visits, fluoride, your tongue or your gums either. On the surface its easy. Just brush in the morning and night. Keep it simple and you can be pretty solid but then you start working in all of this other stuff. Damn it can get complicated quickly and all of a sudden you aren’t getting that AM/PM brushing in regularly.
KAT’s rookie year his defense appeared to be solid. He was buoyed by KG and running a pretty straight-forward Sam Mitchell system. In year two for KAT (year one with Thibs) it was thought KAT would take a huge step forward defensively. Rubio played great individual defense. Wiggins and Lavine were hot-garbage. KG wasn’t there. Thibs has a very complicated system. KAT stepped backward last year. The stats for defense that are publically available don’t speak to the eye-test. KAT’s advanced stats are below. You can see year two had a slight decrease in defensive stats. Year three things have really fallen off.
KAT is the cornerstone of choice for long-term success per the NBA GM Survey for the past two years. What do we need to see for him to be this team’s actual cornerstone? Defense-baby-defense is what the Wolves need. Right now KAT comes in tied at 74th for defensive rating per 100 possessions via BR. Let’s watch this over the course of the year but I think KAT has the ability to get there.
I think a lot of what KAT’s issues can be traced down too are team play. KAT tries to over-compensate. If the wing-defense breaks-down KAT tries to just up an make a play to wipe out the mistake. Then KAT hangs any defensive failings on himself. KAT doesn’t let himself just follow the simple plans for AM/PM tooth brushing to try to add more wrinkles to his hygiene game that he hasn’t yet mastered. Butler and Taj are getting the overall team defense into a better spot. I think its just a matter of time that the overall defense gets better. Right now the team stats are blown out of proportions by the Indy/Detroit/GSW games. Those three losses were by a total 68 points or roughly 23 points per game. That can’t help a team/players defensive ratings. The small sample-size situation isn’t helping us right now but on a by-weekly basis I’ll pull these stats up to see what’s happing. Right now we are sitting at 13.4% of the season so those three blow-out losses are throwing things off.
The Wolves matched up with the Warriors on Wednesday night. Its been a few days. What are the thoughts now?
Wolves match-up poorly 1-6 with the Warriors
Teague v Steph I mean come on
Klay v Wiggs that’s a little more difficult. Wiggs can get a good looking 2 on Klay more than likely and he’s shown an ability to make tough 2’s too. Klay is going to eat him on the offensive side of the ball unless Wiggs brings his pale to work. Wiggs just isn’t shooting well enough outside to really gain a clear advantage here. So that’s at worst a push and at best a slight edge Wolves.
Butler v KD I mean I’m a Wolves fan but I can’t give this one to Butler. Maybe I can talk myself into a similar situation to the Klay v Wiggs competition going to KD here.
Green V Taj I mean come on man. Taj is playing really well to start the season but Green’s got him here.
KAT v Zaza this one is the worst on the board. I mean come on man. KAT kills Zaza so bad that it bleeds over to one of the other match-ups to equal out the starting 5 a little more
Iggy v Jamal dude in their primes it’d have been a competition but now nah. Iggy still can run circles around Jamal on both sides of the court.
Going into this game we had one clear match-up advantage at KAT. Cool. The Warriors knew this so they funneled the defense to compensate. The Wolves didn’t appear to have a plan to attack this. KAT didn’t hurt us. The defense was collapsing on him. We didn’t really play the perimeter game enough. It just didn’t seem we had a new or different wrinkle even though GSW did.
3’s weren’t falling for Sota all night. 5 for 24 on the night. Works from the perspective of that’s how many 3’s we should be taking as a baseline but come on man only 5 makes. Look at that we took one corner 3.
The Wolves just need to look at the long-term chess match. We lost this first match-up. At some point in time, we have to look at ourselves as competition for GS in a 7-game series. What do we have to do to steal one on the road? What do we have to lock-down home games?
I think on the road we have to bring the defensive intensity that was there in the first two-quarters of this game. GS took our punch. Then they came out in the 3rd with two adjustments. Changing the initial option to force the Wolves to guard the ball-handler with Teague/Wiggs. This allowed for bad switches or for the over-corrections that saw Butler switch ahead. It just wasn’t a great look and then boom Klay is open or faced up on Teague and the 3’s reigned.
Losing the 3rd that poorly made the 4th essentially garbage time.
We lost the first go. Now we need to look this game over and game-plan for future match-ups.
It was my first chance to see the new look Timberwolves. I was really excited. I was able to secure a couple of free tickets thanks to an insider. Target Center looks great! It no longer looks like a giant concrete slab. The inside has gone extensive changes as well. There was a new entrance with lots of white marble floors. The ticketing area is off to the side more which takes away the congestion of getting into the arena which is nice. Also, the place you can your ticket to get is also much smoother and less congested.
As we headed into the arena, the first thing I noticed is that the concourses seem bigger. The other thing I noticed is how many people that work for the Wolves are in the concourse available to help. It was actually a little odd. But I get it, new arena and new players to the team. They are trying to be proactive with the fan experience which I appreciate. Our seats (I was with my buddy Aaron) were in the corner in the lower bowl. Sight lines were good and the new seats were comfortable. All in all, new Target Center is a vast improvement over the old one. Stay tuned for further reviews as I get a tour and explore the arena more.
The Actual Game
To put it simply, the Wolves looked good. Every facet of the game looked crisp. This was one of those nights where no player dominated offensively. It was a true team effort. Guys were getting buckets from corner 3s, layups, drives to the baskets, dunks, and the occasional 15 foot jumper. I liked how Jeff Teague was getting guys involved early. He had 7 assists in the 1st quarter alone. But then in the second quarter and into the second half he asserted himself. He got his points at the rim and from long range. I think in particular, Gorgui Dieng had a really solid game overall. Charlotte has decent bigs and he was able to get the hard point in the point. He was also solid at free throw line. All in all, a fun game to watch. The new look Wolves are going to have a great season!
Just so everyone knows, I finally caught a t-shirt that was thrown into the crown. It literally went right to me. It was a momentous occasion to be sure. BUT, I was really nice and gave it to a kid that was sitting next to me. He looked really happy. I told him once he’s as big as me, that he has to catch one and give it away. He and his dad laughed. Essentially it was like the Mean Joe Greene Coke commercial. All in all, excellent.
I’m editing our latest podcast right now. The Wolves are taking down the Mavs right now. In the pod we said it should be a shit stomping with the starters getting pine in the 4th. RIght now it’s looking like an early pine night. The wolves are up around 20 and have been since the middle of the 3rd.
KAT has completely rebound from the Pelicans game. He’s already sitting on a double-double at the start of the 4th. The story has been more on the defensive side of the ball. This is what Butler is going to become my favorite TWolf by the end of the year if he isn’t already. Dude can have an off night offensively but if he can set the tone to shut down the opposition it doesn’t really matter.
One of the things John and I hit in the pod is adding to the Wolves wing depth via a trade at some point in the season. The big issue is matching contracts. During these gamers I’ll take note of guys that would look good in a Wolves uni and then once a week I’ll follow-up and see if any of the guys we’ve seen recently would actually be something we could swing.
One of the dudes we mentioned in the pod was Wes Mathews. It won’t work contract-wise unless you really get after it. I don’t know if Wes wants to come off the bench. If those two things I don’t think are happening, do happen Wes would look amazing with the Tyus/Crawford/Bjelly line. Otherwise, man its clear why Dallas sucks. The lack of quality depth on the bench is why they can’t be trusted.
The wolves are letting the Mavs back into the game. Letting teams back in is clearly an issue so far this season. Dennis Smith Jr is going to be really good. No freaking clue what the defense has been doing in the 4th quarter. J Pete is pointing out over and over how communication is just not happing on the court right now. With a few defensive possessions, 13 point game quickly comes back to 20. They haven’t ice it cause two quick misses and a Mavs three has it back to 14. The clear-path rule is dumb. Buckets has Kleber beat but because he hasn’t made it across the timeline yet it wasn’t clear-path. Just a side-out. Buckets has an easy dunk and two steps later it’s the ball and shots. This is why dudes commit that foul.
Wolves win but they played the starters too deep. Not cause Thibs was being Thibs because they just didn’t close it out early in the fourth. The game-flow in the 4th was decidedly Mavs 30-19. The Mavs were just too far buried to pull it out. This has more to say about what and who the Mavs are now then how the Wolves are playing.
There were positives throughout. Namely when the Wolves still won a game that they were supposed to win.