Minnesota Timberwolves Announce Preseason Schedule

Zach LaVine will help lead the Wolves into the 2014/15 season (NBAE/Getty Images)

Zach LaVine will help lead the Wolves into the 2014/15 season (NBAE/Getty Images)

The Timberwolves announced their preseason schedule earlier today and it includes seven games against five different opponents.   Taking a quick look at the opponents you will find teams in very, very different positions when it comes to competing for an NBA Championship this coming season.

The Wolves will be listed as the home team in three of the seven games (see below).  The preseason kicks off on Tuesday, October 7th against the Indiana Pacers.  The first home game action that fans will get to see at the Target Center will be on Friday, October 10th against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, and Chicago are the other opponents on the preseason schedule.  There isn’t a particular team or game that catches my attention aside from the fact that the start of the NBA season is just around the corner.  However, what I would like to see is the youngsters receiving playing time on the floor together, similar to how Flip foresees using his rotations in the regular season (injuries, etc. aside).  I want to see Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine on the floor together, but I also want to see LaVine see minutes as the PG.

As we all know, there may or may not be a few moving pieces in the coming weeks.  With rumors continuing to swirl, it is just a matter of when Kevin Love will land with the Cleveland Cavaliers.  More importantly, who will the Pups wind up with?  It sounds like #1 pick Andrew Wiggins is/will be included.  From there, things get a little dicey.  The Wolves may get back Michael Bennett or Thad Young and then a few random pieces.

Assuming Wiggins winds up in Minneapolis it will be important for him to receiving playing time with the Wolves’ starters and 8 or 9 man rotation.  He obviously played for the Cavs in the Las Vegas Summer League so it is important for him to start building a repoirte with his new teammates.

What game or games have your attention?  Let’s go Wolves!

Timberwolves.com

Timberwolves.com

Timberwolves 0-3 in Summer League After Losing to Chicago

(photo credit: NBA.com)

(photo credit: NBA.com)

The Timberwolves fought hard in attempt to gain a summer league win, but in the end their offense proved no match against Chicago, and Minnesota came up on the short end of the 107-73 final score. Kyrylo Fesenko and Zach LaVine led the Wolves in scoring with 13 and 12 points, respectively. The Bulls boasted an all-around stronger lineup with six of their guys scoring in double digits. No. 11 draft pick Doug McDermott led all scoring with 20 points and six assists.

The contest started out rather evenly, a back-and-forth battle that saw the lead change three times. In the early part of the second quarter, the Wolves delivered a solid performance. Georgetown alum Markel Starks grabbed a three-pointer immediately followed by a Fesenko slam dunk. Minnesota held the lead at 27-24. However, Lance Thomas answered with a long three of his own, and from that point on the Bulls held the upper hand.

Fesenko played well with rookie Zach Lavine, each of them putting up strong numbers this week.  At 7’1″ and 280 lbs, Fesenko could be a huge—pun intended—asset for the Wolves. The Ukrainian has been in the NBA since 2007, but he has struggled to find real success with any team. His longest stint was with Utah, from 2007-2011. He also made appearances with Indiana and Chicago.  It will be interesting to see what relationship the Wolves choose with Fesenko following summer league.

Despite watching Minnesota lose its first three games in Vegas, Timberwolves fans have reason to smile about their team’s No. 13 draft pick. LaVine impressed the crowd at the Target Center scrimmage last week, and he’s continued to draw attention on the road. LaVine averaged 12 points, five rebounds and 2.3 assists over the trio of games. According to Wolves writer Megan Schuster, “LaVine had a few tough baskets in the quarter, taking a leadership role while playing point.”

Both teams scored well from downtown, hitting over 40 percent from behind the three-point line. It was in free throws, though, that Minnesota fell miserably short. Chicago knocked down 13-16 from the charity stripe, while the Wolves made only 12 of 22 attempts. The young lineup also struggled to consistently handle the ball, and 18 turnovers certainly hurt in the end.

Shabazz Muhammad also played well, adding 10 points for Minny. One surprise performance for the Wolves was D.J. Kennedy. Kennedy, who went undrafted in 2011 and has been playing for the Israeli Basketball Super League, tallied nine points and four rebounds in just 18 minutes on the floor.

A few Wolves players never got off the bench—among them third-year guard Alexey Shved.  Shved played well in the first two games this summer, leading the team in scoring. Minnesota fans are anxious to see if his regular season performance improves over last year.

 

Up Next:

 

Minnesota will face Phoenix this afternoon for Game 4. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. CST.

Wolves Fall to Mavs in First Summer League Game, 93-85

Game Recap

Rookies. Flash. Hope. Promise. Those words embody what NBA Summer League is all about, and the Timberwolves first summer league game certainly possessed all of those things. Even with all the Love rumors still furiously swirling, fans pushed their worries aside for forty minutes to see the young talent that will hopefully be the future of the franchise.

The first quarter opened fast for the Wolves, with Zach LaVine throwing down an alley-oop just fifteen seconds in. From there, the Wolves struggled with consistency on both ends of the floor. After playing one game already, the Mavericks looked in sync, while the Wolves did a lot of flailing around trying to learn how to play with each other in the team’s first game.

Everything went downhill for the Wolves after the first quarter. An abundance of missed defensive rotations allowed the Mavs to build a 10-point lead heading into hafltime. It seemed like nobody was guarding the Mavs perimeter players for much of the game, especially Ricky Ledo. The Providence product hit 5 threes and finished with 21 points.

The Wolves offense was brutal in the third quarter as Alexey Shved, Shabazz Muhammad, and Gorgui Dieng all combined to take bad, contested jump shots. LaVine began heating up after the half, scoring in a variety of ways.

In the fourth, the Wolves fought back to make it a game again, but it was too little too late. Their lack of defensive prowess and settling for generally bad shots most of the night brought about the team’s undoing.

Breaking down the guys that project to be on the NBA roster

Shabazz Muhammad

Putting the result aside, Muhammad was the player of the game. He dominated his man often, which is exactly what you want to see in summer league from a guy you want contributions from when the NBA regular season rolls around. He showed off his physicality, and he couldn’t be kept off the boards. His relentless effort got him several put-back buckets, which is a huge part of his game right now. He showed range on his shot, going 2-3 from beyond the arc. His problems remain the same. He still takes bad shots, and he needs to develop more advanced handles to diversify his drives to the rim. When his man cuts him off, he tends to give up easily and take a tough floater. He needs to learn how to muscle or finesse his way to the rim with regularity to become a more efficient player. Speaking of efficiency, he took a team-high 24 shots and made just 10 of those. While that is a ton of shots, it is not a big deal in summer league when he’s supposed to be “the guy.” His non-stop motor is still where most of his value stems from. When he settles into the NBA and develops his skill set, he could be a really good player for a long time.

Gorgui Dieng

Dieng is a really good example of a guy that plays within himself. He knows what he can and cannot do right now, and he doesn’t attempt to stray too far out of his comfort zone. He went 4-6 from the field today, and all of his buckets came in the paint. When he gets outside of the paint, he tends to struggle a bit. He had one strong move on the left baseline where muscled his defender out of the way and got to the rim, but that’s a rare occurrence. He looks uncomfortable in face up situations, as he possesses an average first step and no real killer move. To take his game to the next level, he will need to figure out other ways to get to the rim consistently besides just catching the ball under the basket. Much of Dieng’s value comes on the defensive end where he has so much value as an anchor in the paint and on the glass. He will be a double-double machine in summer league, but can he do that consistently when the real season rolls around?

Alexey Shved

Every summer league team needs a guy that plays out of control and chucks crazy shots at the rim. That guy for the Wolves is Alexey Shved. His first shot of the game was a three that came at least a couple feet behind the three-point line. He settled down a little from that point, getting to the rim with relative ease. On the pick-and-roll, Shved demonstrated the ability to turn the corner hard and accelerate straight towards the rim. The only way to stop him was to foul him, and he got to the line 9 times. He still makes passes he shouldn’t make that lead to turnovers. He only seems to be able to operate at lightning speed, but if he could ever slow the game down he might be a lot more serviceable.

Zach LaVine

It feels like the only skill of LaVine’s that ever gets mentioned is his athleticism. That’s not exactly fair to him though. He was slotted as the point guard at times, and he wasn’t bad. A couple times, he was able to execute a nice pick-and-roll with Dieng. He’s not a guy that’s going to make flashy passes right now, but he made the right play for the most part when he was serving as the primary ball-handler. Occasionally, he will try to force it, and that’s when things get away from him. He’ll try to thread the needle or throw a lob, and that’s just not his game. He didn’t shoot the ball great against the Mavs, but his mechanics are sound which is promising. Everything he does is smooth, and he looks so graceful slicing his way to the rim. Defensively, LaVine has some work to do. He’s not great at fighting through the screener on the pick-and-roll, and the Mavs got several buckets as a result. Overall, it was a solid first performance from the Wolves first 2014 draft pick.

Glenn Robinson III

Robinson will wish he could replay this game. He was a non-factor most of the night, and he struggled defensively. His lateral quickness isn’t up to snuff right now, and his defensive stance needs work. Offensively, Robinson needs to continue to work on his outside game. It would benefit his development in that area if he would take more than three per game during summer league. He did a couple nice buckets, but overall he was pretty underwhelming in game one.

Game 2 for the Wolves is on Monday at 3:30PM CT against the Chicago Bulls.

 

Kevin Love: Trade-or-Stay Scenario Remains Unclear

The 2014 NBA Draft has come and gone. Many people figured that a transaction involving Kevin Love would be almost certain on Draft Night, and yet the All-Star forward is still very much in Minnesota.

With the summer league games approaching and various other trade rumors floating about the league, what is the latest buzz when it comes to K-Love?

(photo credit: dimemag.com)

(photo credit: dimemag.com)

Golden State out of the Picture?

The Warriors initially looked like a probable trade partner for Minnesota, as the two teams were in discussions about a deal that would involve Kevin Martin and Love in exchange David Lee, Klay Thompson and draft picks from GS. However, the two squads reached a stand still when Golden State decided it was not willing to part with Thompson as part of the deal.

Part of the problem may be this: whatever team acquires Love will take on his contract, which includes runs only through the end of the upcoming season. Should the Warriors—or any other team—grab Love for 2014, they would want some sort of reassurance that the forward will not walk after one season anyway. ESPN said the following:

“Any team that trades for Love [...] will need assurances that the 25-year-old is prepared to stay there for the long term. Love’s intent to become an unrestricted free agent in July 2015 is the reason Minnesota has been forced to consider trading him and makes it highly unlikely any potential suitor would offer anything of value to the Wolves without assurances Love wants to sign a new contract with them.”

 

Other Big Names Affecting the Trade Scene

One thing is for sure: Love is not the only big name looking for a new deal and a possible new home. When the news surfaced that LeBron James would exercise his early-termination option, Love found himself no longer the headline on the SportsCenter sidebar. While many feel that James will ultimately end up re-signing with Miami, that doesn’t stop the slew of teams from offering deals and hoping to land the star. Some of the squads—Houston, LA, Chicago—have also been mentioned as prospective teams for Love, and it seems likely that conversation with him will be on hold until it becomes clear where James will end up. 

Carmelo Anthony is also looking to leave his current roster. The forward averaged 27 PPG for New York last season, and he is certainly a hot ticket item as well. Although Love and Anthony play different spots, it seems more probable that a team will make the run for a LeBron/Anthony deal rather than a Love/Anthony deal. In addition, the number of franchises who could afford to add more than one of these names to their roster is incredibly low.

And, just to add one more complication into the mix, it was reported today that Houston is offering a four-year, $88-million deal to Miami Center Chris Bosh.  Bosh’s decision will certainly affect James’ (or vice versa), and I have a feeling that things will start falling into place very quickly when the 2014-2015 Heat roster is established.

One interesting option here would be Love and James playing together. Although it may seem a bit far-fetched, NBA fans can’t dismiss this idea completely. According to Fox Sports, “if James chooses to leave Miami and return to Cleveland, the Cavs still feel they can obtain [...] Love in a trade if need be.”

Until James and Co. makes the call, Love will either have to settle for a city not in the hunt for LeBron, or be patient—not something he holds a strong record with.

 

 

 

 

Timberwolves Losing Steam, Fall to Grizzlies on the Road

Memphis is hot. Minnesota is not.

Last night’s road game proved brutal for the Timberwolves as they found themselves unable to keep up with Mike Conley and his crew. Although the Wolves are ranked No. 4 in the league for scoring and are averaging 106.5 points per game, Memphis held them to just 92 points while taking the win with 109. Kevin Love led the team with lower-than-usual numbers of 16 points and seven rebounds. Rookie Gorgui Dieng delivered another strong performance with 11 points and 17 boards.

According to NBA.com, the Grizzlies are 8-0 since Dec. 25 when playing against teams who played the previous day. “We caught a good team on the second night of a back-to-back,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said.

(photo credit: arizonasports.com)

(photo credit: arizonasports.com)

After playing several games in which they scored over 30 points in the first quarter, the Timberwolves tallied just 15 against Memphis. Both teams struggled a bit out of the gatesMemphis made just four of its first 15 shotsbut the Grizzlies soon found their groove. The first basket didn’t come until the 9:55 mark, but it came at the hands of the Grizzlies, and they never looked back. Conley had 23 points and six assists, and Marc Gasol added 14 points and 12 rebounds.

“We didn’t want to give them too much leeway,” Conley said. “We’ve been in the same shoes. You’re coming in off a tough game, and you kind of walk through the first part of the game.  We just wanted to jump out there as early as we could, set the tempo and try to get ahead of them.”

Minnesota seemed disoriented across the board, no one player having a fantastic game. Love shot just 6-of-18 from the field, and the team as a whole shot 38 percent. The Grizzlies had complete control of the game, driving the pace and offense. At halftime, they led the Wolves 57-39.

The Timberwolves found a bit of a spark in the third, going on a 15-4 run to close the quarter and lessen the deficit. They just couldn’t keep up with their shooting, though, and Memphis drove the win home.

“They played physical,” Love said. “When you play a team like that on a back-to-back, especially this late in the season, especially without Pek and Ronny and some depth, it’s tough.”

Forwards Corey Brewer and Dante Cunningham had the best luck on the floor percentage-wise, adding 15 and nine points, respectively. It wasn’t enough, though.

Monday night’s loss pushes the Wolves seven games behind Dallas and Phoenix. At this point, it seems safe to say that finding the postseason is like a needle in a haystack for the Wolves… it’s not mathematically impossible, but losing these last two games seemed to seal Minnesota’s fate. Finishing the regular season strong is now the team’s main focus. “We just have to be competitive. That’s the biggest key right now — get through the end of the season and play each game competitively,” forward Chase Budinger said. “That’s how you have to look at it.”

Up next for the Wolves is a home game Wednesday, when they welcome Atlanta.  The Hawks are clinging to a No. 8 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and the contest promises to be a close one. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Timberwolves Lose 22-Point Lead, Fall to Phoenix 120-127

In an afternoon home stand, Minnesota seemed to have a win sealed up on Sunday. At one point, the Wolves held a 22-point advantage over Phoenix. Minny knows the feeling all too well, though, of watching a victory slip through its fingers. In the end, it was the Suns’ reserves that gutted it out and came out on top of the 127-120 final score. Kevin Love led the Wolves with 36 points and 14 rebounds, followed by Kevin Martin with 25 points. At the other end, Markieff Morris led Phoenix with 25 points.

Love_Suns

Keeping up with their recent trend, the Timberwolves played an above-average first quarter and tallied 41 points. Love, Martin and Corey Brewer led the way with 10 points and nine a piece, respectively.  The Wolves were unstoppable on offense, and they appeared the overall stronger team. At halftime, Minnesota had a stable 11-point lead.

Defensively, however, Minnesota could not capitalize. Despite the double-digit lead at the half, the Wolves had also allowed the Morris twins to score a combined 24 points–shooting 9-of-12 from the field and 4-of-4 from the 3-point line. In the third quarter, the Wolves shot just 20 percent to open the half.  The Suns gained their footing and brought the deficit to five points at the 4:43 mark, but Minnesota pulled away once again to lead by 10 going into the fourth. Target Center fans breathed a momentary sigh of relief.

In the final period, though, things fell apart for the Wolves. Phoenix forward P.J. Tucker hit a jump shot to start the fourth, and the basket started a 14-3 run by the Suns to turn the game around. Minnesota stood by and watched as the lead dwindled and then disappeared.

“What was the biggest difference (between the third and fourth quarter)? We didn’t score,” head coach Rick Adelman said. “That’s probably the biggest difference.”

For each team, Sunday’s game meant a chance at the postseason. It seems to have ultimately come down to the squad who could finish the game, and Phoenix refused to let go.

“It’s unreal,” said Phoenix forward Tucker. “I don’t know what it is, but we got really slow starts. (It”s like) we have to get down first to be able to play hard and start talking and communicating and executing our game plan.”

“They are ahead of us (for the playoffs). Obviously we looked at that,” Love said post game. “That was our playoffs right there and we lost. This one hurts a lot more than all the others.”

The Timberwolves will look to finish up their season strong in the coming week. Next for the squad is a road game against Memphis Monday evening. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. While the playoffs are no longer on the table for Minnesota, the team can certainly be a spoiler. A win over Memphis could seriously jeopardize the Grizzlies’ playoff spot.

Timberwolves Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 21

Setting the stage: 

Similar to last week, there is absolutely no margin for error for the Wolves.

The fact that the Wolves are ranked No. 3 in the league for average points scored speaks volumes about our defense–or lack thereof.  Minnesota continues to struggle in keeping its opponents under 100 points, and something has to change. I think it’s safe to say that the team is feeling Andrei Kirilenko’s absence this season, at least on that side of the floor. Corey Brewer consistently does well on D, and having Nikola Pekovic back in the lineup helps tremendously. If the Timberwolves want to win games, defense needs to stay a focus.

Can the Wolves even make the playoffs at this point? I mean, is there any chance?

It’s a small chance, and other teams would have to lose, but the chance is still there. According to CBSSports’ David McCoy, Minny will have to win at least 14 of its last 18 games in order to have a shot at the postseason.

Winning against Milwaukee definitely helped, and Sunday’s game against Sacramento should be a “W” as well. However, a Friday loss in Charlotte really hurt. In addition, we have tough games this week against Dallas and Houston. The opponents the Wolves absolutely need to beat are those near us in the standings: Dallas, Denver and Phoenix.

With all this in mind, let’s take a look at the week ahead…

 

Game 66: Sunday, 3/16, 6pm – Sacramento Kings @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

At 23-42* on the season, Sacramento should be an easy opponent–especially considering it’s a home contest.  However, in the two games between the Wolves and Kings this season, the teams have split wins.  Minnesota lost at home to SAC on January 15, but earlier this month the Wolves came away with the win on the west coast.

Opponent to watch:

Rudy Gay – Between the games against Sacramento earlier this season, Gay totaled 57 points. Despite only averaging 20 PPG, the Wolves tend to allow the forward to walk all over their defense. Look for Brewer to be playing extra close defense against Gay Sunday night.

Predictions:

Sacramento is currently averaging 101 points per game. The Wolves are averaging 106.3. If Minnesota can step up its defensive game and hold Gay to under 20 points, the home team has a definite advantage here. I’ll take the Wolves in triple digits.

Final Score: Wolves 109, Kings 96

rudy gay

Game 67: Wednesday, 3/19, 7:30pm – Timberwolves @ Dallas Mavericks (TV: FS North)

The Wolves face Dallas on the road Wednesday evening, and if there is one game more crucial than the others at this point, it’s this one. The Mavericks are currently in the No. 8 (and last) seat for the Playoffs — two spots ahead of Minnesota. The Mavs’ current record of 39-27* has an edge over the Wolves, and they absolutely cannot afford to lose. In my opinion, this will be the toughest game of the week.  The good news is, Minnesota has played well against Dallas this year. Out of three contests, Minny took two of the wins and lost the final in 100-98 heart-breaker. 

Opponent to watch:

Monta Ellis – Ellis is currently averaging 18.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. In the past nine games, the SG has scored 15+ points every night.  Ellis’ quick passes and agility on the floor are hard to control, especially with a defensively challenged team like Minnesota.

Predictions:

This game holds a lot of weight, and you know the Wolves are feeling it. Having a healthy lineup again (and especially with Kevin Martin back), I think Minnesota will take the upper hand in a shootout.

Final score: Timberwolves 104, Mavericks  100

 

Game 68: Thursday, 3/20, 7pm – Timberwolves @ Houston Rockets (TV: FS North)

At this point in the season, Houston has pretty much cemented itself in the playoffs. There is less resting on this game for the opponents; however, Minnesota has historically struggled against the Rockets. The Wolves are 0-2 against the Rockets this season, by a total disadvantage of 20 points. Especially since this is a consecutive road game for Minny, it’s going to be a tiring game.

Opponent to watch:

James Harden – Harden missed the last game against Minnesota with a sore foot, but he is back to his old self and tearing up defenses across the league. Harden has slated three games with over 30 points (two of them over 40!) in his past 10 games. At 6’5″ and 225 lbs, Harden is one of the largest and most physical guards in the game. I expect the Wolves to have a hard time stopping him.

Predictions:

As much as I hate to say it, I don’t think the Wolves will be able to pull out a win here.  Houston runs a physical offense that Minnesota will have a tough time defending, and the size comparison alone is huge. Don’t forget the fact that the Wolves fell to Houston less than a month ago … without Harden.

Final score: Timberwolves 99, Rockets 111

james harden

Wrap-up:

It all comes down to these last 19 games. If Minnesota can come out of this week with at least two wins under its belt, playoff hopes will be kept alive. The first two games this week will really set the tempo, so I’m hoping my predictions are accurate there.

 

*records current as of 3/14/2014