Setting the stage:
The Timberwolves are back and fans have their #EyesOnTheRise! Welcome to the start of the 2014/15 NBA season and our weekly preview here at Timberpups.com. While this is very likely to be a year of transition, there is a light at the end of the tunnel with Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine joining the club and being paired with Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, and Gorgui Dieng. With other pieces remaining in the mix from last season, the Wolves have a decent balance of youth and veteran experience. Who remains with the club throughout the season, past the trade deadline and into the next few years is a bit of question mark. However, there is excitement in the air and that should be carried over to the crowds filling into the Target Center in the days and weeks ahead.
Below you will find a brief preview of each game on the schedule, along with who to watch for and a prediction on the outcome. The quest for an 82-0 season begins soon and we’ll see how long the team can stay at that pace.
Game 1: Wednesday, 10/29, 7pm – Pups @ Memphis Grizzlies (TV: FS North)
Look at this – the Wolves don’t open another season against the Sacramento Kings! The Grizzlies are coming off of its second 50+ wins season. The Grizz took the OKC Thunder to a seventh game in the first round of the playoffs but failed to advance.
Memphis has added several interesting pieces to their roster this season, including Vince Carter and Earl Clark. While the Wolves turned the corner and gave up on the failed and flawed ‘playoffs or bust’ philosophy, the Grizzlies continue to look for ways to advance in the postseason.
Opponent to watch:
Mike Conley – Conley is entering his eighth season in the NBA and with the Grizzlies. Conley really beat up Rubio and the Wolves’ backup Point Guards last season, averaging 17.5ppg and 6.3rpg.
This is a tough start for the Wolves, playing on the road and against a veteran club that looks to make some noise in the Western Conference this season. Final score: Grizzlies 95, Timberwolves 84
Game 2: Thursday, 10/30, 7pm – Detroit Pistons @ Pups (TV: FS North)
The Wolves’ home opener is against a team that has struggled to build an identity over the past handful of seasons and has thrown free agency money around with no sense of direction. Enter Stan Van Gundy as the new coach and a new philosophy.
While there are players that can fill up the box score in the Pistons lineup, there doesn’t seem to be much chemistry with the club. Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe are all interesting players for your NBA fantasy team, but they aren’t leading to many victories for the Pistons.
Monroe had an interesting offseason in which he was charged with a DUI and suspended two games, so he won’t be in uniform against the Wolves. He also turned down a contract extension from the club and is playing on the one year, qualifying offer.
Opponent to watch:
Andre Drummond – Drummond enters his third season in the NBA and has shown signs of continued improvement in the preseason. Andre averaged 13.5ppg and 13.2rpg last season, starting all 81 of the games he played in. It will be a nice litmus test for both Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng to see how they match up with the Pistons big man.
With the absence of Monroe and a fired up Target Center, the Wolves have a good chance to pull off the victory. The Pistons will also be flying into Minnesota off of a Wednesday night game, having to face the Nuggets in Denver less than 24 hours prior to tip-off of Thursday’s action. Final score: Timberwolves 95, Pistons 91
Game 3: Saturday, 11/1, 7pm – Chicago Bulls @ Pups (TV: NBA TV & FSN Plus)
Assuming they can stay healthy – and that is a big assumption to make – the Chicago Bulls are one of a handful of legitimate contenders for the NBA Championship this season. The team will be looking to fix what looked to be broken at the end of last year, after losing the Washington Wizards in the first round of the playoffs (without Derrick Rose).
Opponent to watch:
Pau Gasol – One of, if not the most underappreciated players in today’s game, Gasol left the Lakers to join the Bulls for a chance at another run at a ring. Gasol will team with DPOY Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson to make for one of the more dominant frontline rotations in the NBA.
The Wolves will have a hard time keeping pace with the Bulls. Final score: Bulls 113, Timberwolves 96
The Wolves face two very tough teams to open the season in the Grizzlies and Bulls. I am hoping they are able to showcase their young talent in the home opener and get the fanbase excited early. A win against the Pistons club would mean “a lot”.
Let’s go Wolves!