Timberpups Preseason — The Opener

The Timberpups begin the preseason tonight, in the Target Center, at 7:00 CST vs. CSKA Moscow.

Dante Cunningham (ill) and JJ Barea (personal reasons) both questionable for tonight’s contest vs. CSKA Moscow.

— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) October 7, 2013

Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Nikola Pekovic are the expected starters this season and also for tonight’s game. How many minutes will they play? I presume no more than 10-minutes, but, it’s ultimately up to Coach Rick Adelman.

After the starters sit, Alexey Shved is likely to see plenty of minutes against his former team. These quotes are from a piece written by Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

‘Adelman just wants Shved to become more “engaged” when he’s playing off the ball.

“If Alexey smiles, everything else takes care of itself,” Ronnie Turiaf said. “If he doesn’t smile, he’s a different player.”

It’s a big game for Shved, we’ve talked about him playing minutes behind Rubio at point guard this season — tonight will be a chance to see him in that role. He’ll will share minutes with Lorenzo Brown and A.J. Price, because of Barea’s absence. It’s important for Shved to play well, not only for himself, but to show the team he can change the face and be happy — there’s also two guys fighting to make the roster  playing behind him tonight.

Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press wrote a captivating story about Othyus Jeffers, quoting Flip Saunders’ opinion of the 28-year old from Chicago.

“What he’s been through is how he plays,” said Saunders, who coached Jeffers in Washington. “He’s hard-nosed, kind of a mad dog that just gets after it and really competes. He basically goes at it where he understands that nothing’s given to him.”

Here’s a little bit on the ‘Pups opponent this evening.

CSKA is coached by an Italian, Ettora Messina, who spent time with the Lakers as a technical advisor to Mike Brown in Los Angeles. Prior to L.A. Messina was head coach of Real Madrid of Spain 2009-2011, he’s on contract with CSKA for $44-million and may choose to opt-out if he’s offered a head coaching opportunity in the NBA. “However, Messina figures this to be unlikely — he’s 53 and it’s late to try and pick up the game. Read more about Coach Messina here –thanks Manuel!  (@itaTimberwolves)

The club is run similar to an NBA Franchise and is without question the powerhouse of the Russian League. CSKA has been the Russian League Champion every season dating back to 2003, in addition to winning Euroleague titles in 2006 and 2008. Shved and former Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko were two main components of the 2008 squad. In 2010, Shved helped CSKA attain the first victory on American ground by a European team in a preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“It’s a good check-up for us. It’s good to see where we are and to find our game before our real season starts,” Nenad Krstic explained. “For some of our players, it’s their first time playing against an NBA team; it’s a new experience. And Minnesota has a talented team.”

Kristic is a two-time all Euroleague Center from Serbia who has played in the NBA with the Boston Celtics, New Jersey Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder. Averaging just over 15-points in Eurobasket, he’s one of the players the Wolves must focus on defending against CSKA tonight.

Shved’s intensity isn’t necessarily in question, but the team would like to see more of it. I wouldn’t expect a lackluster effort for the second-year NBA Player tonight.

“I went over to the hotel to meet with my friends and former coaches. I am happy see them here. I’m always happy to see my guys.” He also summed up how both teams feel about the contest. “They want to show that they can beat an NBA team and NBA teams don’t want to lose. Everybody is ready for this game.”

Click here for more European perspective on tonight’s matchup.

CSKA will look to slow the ball down and playing a majority of the game in the halfcourt, hoping to slow down the Wolves’ potentially potent transition offense. If the game gets wild, it’s an advantage for the home team. Hopefully the Wolves can run away with this one, without any injuries, of course. I know, I know, it’s only the preseason but we’ve waited too long and the team has worked to hard to be defeated by a weaker opponent. Look for Shved to play-with-purpose, the training camp invites to make the most of their chances and most importantly — a Timberpups victory.


The next preseason game is Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors, more on that soon.



Evaluation of International Talent: Minnesota Timberwolves

International Players Under Timberwolves Control:

Nemanja Bjelica: Nay-MON-yah bee-ELL-leets-zah

Birthday: May 9, 1988 Age: 23 From: Belgrade, Serbia Height: 6-10 Weight: 220 Position: SF Best Case Scenario: Hedo Turkoglu Type: Versatile

Drafted with the 35th pick of 2010 draft. Bjelica possesses very good ball handling for his size, and has ability and experience playing point guard and shooting guard. His greatest strengths of his game lie in his ball handling and passing. Great in transition, Bjelica has the ability to create shots off the dribble and to create his own shot, at least against European competition. His questions come from his high turnover rates, decision-making, and shooting from beyond the arc. He does not possess above average speed and his foot quickness on defense is of concern. He is a much more efficient player when running the offense through him, but there are questions about his ability as a spot-up shooter and ability to play off of the ball. His defense remains unpolished and is his greatest area of concern regarding his NBA prospects.

Bjelica signed a five-year contract with Caja Laboral on August 3, 2010, with a buyout option to leave for the NBA after two years.

It will be interesting to see if the Timberpups decide to bring in Bjelica after this season. As a second round pick, Bjelica could sign a non-guaranteed contract worth a small amount, serving as a low risk, high reward investment. Assuming Brad Miller retires at seasons end, the Timberwolves will have money committed to as little as 10 players for next season and the possibility that Bjelica comes over looks very possible. Look for him to get minutes at small forward, if he plays at all. Bjelica is the top international prospect for the Timberwolves.

Henk Norel: Henk NOR-el

Birthday: September 17, 1987 Age: 24 From: Gorinchem, Netherlands Height: 6-11 Weight: 211 Position: PF/C Best Case Scenario: Fabricio Oberto Type: Hustle

Drafted with the 47th pick in the 2009 draft. The Dutch big man is a hustle-type player. He won’t dazzle you with his superior ability or athleticism, but what he can’t do he makes up for with his effort. He has a good frame but has not filled in completely yet, and he will need to add weight in order to play with NBA power forwards and centers. He does not possess a great skill set on the block, and he succeeds the most when coming off pick and rolls and scoring on second chance baskets. His lack of strength limits him and is the largest factor keeping him out of the NBA. He is not an above average rebounder, but has decent shot blocking ability.

Norel signed a two-year deal with DKV Joventut on July 13, 2010.

I do not see Norel in the Timberpups plans as of now. For one, they are log jammed at power forward and Norel does not possess the abilities that they are in need of. Norel is a hustle player and has his head in the right place, but with because of his size and lack of flash he is up against the odds to make an NBA roster. His best chance to end up on the Timberwolves is to continue to fill in and develop in Europe, but at age 24, it appears Norel’s NBA future does not lie with the Timberwolves, if with any team at all.

Paulao Prestes: POW-low PREH-stes

Birthday: February 15, 1988 Age: 23 From: Monte Aprazivel, Brazil Height: 6-10 Weight: 270 Position: C Best Case Scenario: Anderson Varejao Type: Power

Drafted with the 45th pick of 2010 draft. Prestes possesses great size, average athleticism, and a very long wingspan. Prestes thrives off of the pick and roll and has most of his success with his back to the basket. His size and length have led to a lot of success on defense throughout his career. He is a traditional center, having poor mobility and slow feet while possessing above average rebounding ability. He has a nonexistent perimeter game and his mid-range jump shot is below average. Matched against similarly built centers, Prestes can be very efficient and can contribute on both ends of the floor. However, he can be exploited with matchups that include smaller, faster players.

Prestes has shown a lot of positives regarding his NBA prospects, but he needs to fine-tune his post game in order to compete for an NBA roster spot. The Timberwolves are in need of a center, but Prestes does not seem to be a viable option at this point. His lack of mobility completely conflicts with the Timberwolves new up-tempo offense. Regardless, he remains an asset of positive value for Minnesota going forward.

Sources: Draft Express, NBADraft.net

Photo Credits: Colunistas.ig.com.br, nadlanu.com, blogdelbressol.com