The Wolves enter a game against the winless Philadelphia 76ers at 5-8 on the season, after a fast start. The Wolves find themselves in a position where a few games will likely define what their season will look like. They could dig a big enough hole in which it will be to difficult to climb out of later in the season or they can hang around .500 enough to make a push later in the season. The Wolves currently sit 22nd in offensive efficiency and 15th in defensive efficiency. It has been clear through the first 13 games the Wolves win games when the defense is stellar and struggle when they can’t hold their opponents to under 100 points. It has been also evident that the 2nd half is not where the Wolves prevail, giving up leads in games to the Hawks, Magic, and Pistons.
Entering the game tonight against the Sixers, something’s gotta give. Either the Sixers win their first game of the season or the Wolves win their first game at home. If you recall, the Sixers won their first game of the season last year against the Wolves after losing 19 straight, which was really the beginning of the end for the Wolves, who would essentially give up on the season and end with the worst record. The Wolves are 1-6 in the last 7 games and definitely need to turn things around if they intend on being competitive this season or it becomes another year of development.
For the Wolves, a game against the Sixers is exciting for the fact that Karl-Anthony Towns goes up against Jahlil Okafor, two Rookie of the Year candidates. Two franchises have taken different approaches to rebuilding as well, which will be interesting to see over the next few years how they pan out. The Sixers have taken the approach of just accumulating as many assests as possible, whether it is young players or draft picks, and hope they pan out, all while minimizing salary on the team. The Wolves have taken the mentorship approach of surrounding young guys with veterans in which they are also trying to compete with a developing roster.
Sam Mitchell continues to figure out how the team works and made an adjustment where Kevin Martin enters the starting lineup in replace of Tayshaun Prince. This moves Andrew Wiggins to the small forward position. This also sends the message that the Wolves are looking to improve their offense while taking a hit to their defense. I am a firm believer that Kevin Martin and Andrew Wiggins are a duo that does not bode well for Wiggins and his production as Martin takes a lot of his shots or for the team in general. Other than Gorgui Dieng, Wiggins’ net points per 100 possessions is worst when paired with Martin on the floor. It would make most sense to start LaVine at shooting guard or maybe even Shabazz Muhammad at small forward, but Sam Mitchell seems to not prefer those options still. Mitchell believes LaVine still needs to play point guard and talks of Shabazz as a starter haven’t really surfaced. Wiggins and Muhammad have only seen 53 minutes on the court together this season.
Regardless, the change indicates that change needed to happen. It will be interesting to see how many minutes Prince still gets, as he has shown that he isn’t as great of a defender as he was expected to be. The Wolves will face the Hawks, Kings, Clippers, Magic, and Blazers in the next 5 games which will be an opportunity to measure themselves against some more middle-of-the-pack teams, talent-wise. Rubio has mentioned that this is not how a winning team plays, so it will be interesting to see how the Wolves approach these next few games. The Wolves definitely need to experiment a little more with the rotations and sets on the court.
Let’s see tonight though. Our hopes are Towns gets more involved in the offense by getting more shots, there are crisp picks set, and passes aren’t happening cross court. Wolves are coming off of a practice, which Mitchell mentioned being an issue as not having enough. Hopefully the Wolves can come in and win a game they should win.
The Timber (re)Builder