The Wolves will face-off against the Pacers tonight, then travel to face the Bucks in Milwaukee to finish off the preseason. The Wolves currently have a 5-1 record in the preseason, but we will take that with a VERY large grain of salt, but we have seen flashes of the changes that were made to this team in personal and in scheme.
While watching just a little of a few games, the highlights and reading the box score, a few stats jump out. Last season, the Wolves were a poor long-range shooting team, averaging only 34% from behind the arc, placing them 23rd tied with the Lakers, in front the Thunder, Grizzles, Clippers, Bulls, Nets and Pistons.
The Wolves averaged only 4.9 makes to their 14.4 attempts last season, but this preseason we have seen vast improvement. In the first six games the team shot 50-for-107 come out to 47%. Upgrade!
We have also seen an effort to run the offense starting with a pick and roll with Kevin Love, something which creates match-up problems for defenders as Love can hit the open jumper and is a good enough passer to hit teammates. Luke Ridnour, Jonny Flynn, Sebastian Telfair, and Ricky Rubio are all point guards that would rather drive than pull-up for the shot which makes this a good option all around.
Let’s move on to the title of this post. Expectations. What are they for you? What do you feel the Wolves should accomplish this season? I wrote a little bit about this in my State of The Wolves address, but here are some more specific to this season.
I expect Love to continue to become the “face of the franchise” with an increased roll on the floor, double-double’s and an All-Star team. I except the Wolves will compete every night and stun a few top tier teams. I expect the fans to be impatient and anxious for the trading dead-line. I expect David Kahn to be more likely put his foot in his mouth and than in someone’s ass. I expect Kurt Rambis to loose more hair, and the team to continue to promote and baby Ricky Rubio.
Seriously, the Wolves will surprise people. They will struggle with slower paced teams and when the are not able to shot a high percentage from distance. The Wolves should be able to match-up with most teams in terms of size and maybe even athleticism. I do not expect them to have the worst record in the NBA – that is reserved for the LeBrons – er…the Cavs and/or the Nets.
Kahn has stated the Wolves are looking to make a singular move. One, giant, transaction that will shape the near future for this franchise.
Here is the bit from the Sept letter to the fans in the Star Tribune, where Kahn addresses that need;
The reality is, we are still lacking a dominant player – our version of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade or Kevin Durant – and that will remain an item at the top of the To-Do list.
It’s possible this player could emerge from within the roster. Nearly every player on our team has his best days ahead of him. Some could make an All-Star team during their careers and one has already become an impact player on the USA Men’s National Team in this year’s FIBA World Championships. We also have eight players currently on the roster who were selected in the top-seven of their respective drafts: Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Wes Johnson, Jonny Flynn, Darko Milicic, Corey Brewer, Martell Webster and Ricky Rubio.
The average age of those eight players is 22.
However, if one of our players fails to emerge, we will be prepared to find more talent for our team – and we will seek a singular move rather than a series of moves, as we did these last 14 months.
I will give Kahn credit, he is blunt, honest and sometime to a fault, does not sugar coat it. But what does that mean for this season? Well, players are going to get chances to demonstrate they can become or are that “dominant player” as Kahn described it. But it is hard to believe that Kahn is going to sit on his hands when it comes to player movement. But I can completely understand what he is trying to demonstrate with the letter. The foundation has been laid, now we need one or two more pieces to get this team to the playoffs.
That said, I have no clue what the starting is going to be and what it should be. We have seen Beasley, Love, and Milicic in the front with Ridnour at point. But we have seen the open audition process for the two guard spot. With Ellington, Brewer, and Johnson take the starts it appears that Webster is coming off the bench. But I would not bet on it. Webster is playing 20+ minutes a game, but off the bench. Maybe there is structure to this process. Hope so.
All in all, I expect this season to be full of ups and downs – more downs than ups. But I am excited about watching them play, which is something I was not so sure about last season. This team is going to score and should have plenty of highlights. Maybe that is management’s thought; if we are going to lose, we are going to lose pretty with style – i.e. Golden State.