Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder (39-15) @ Minnesota Timberwolves (20-31)

The N.B.A. trade deadline came and passed the day before the Thunder arrived in Minnesota. Some notable moves included:

J.J. Redick ended up in Milwaukee, along with Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith, for Beno Udrih, Doron Lamb and Tobias Harris. Redick is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the summer. So is Udrih. Ayon has a team-option in 2013.

Anthony Morrow was acquired by the Dallas Mavericks for Dahntay Jones — both happen to be unrestricted free agents after this season who were playing 12 minutes a game for their clubs. Morrow is a career 43% 3-point shooter.

Though I don’t believe the Wolves would be well-served giving up assets to acquire players who will likely be too expensive to retain this summer, these guys are expiring contracts. And before they are expiring contracts, they also happen to be players who can shoot the 3.

Ronnie Brewer can’t shoot the 3, but he can defend — another trait the Wolves could find useful along their perimeter. Brewer is on an expiring veteran’s minimum contract and was picked up by the Thunder for a 2nd round pick in this summer’s draft.

I’m not going to go on a tirade saying this is more of the same and Wolves G.M. David Kahn is a tool and blah blah blah doom gloom blah. But these are functioning NBA bodies — that is, players with at least one NBA skill they are capable of contributing to a professional basketball team that currently has a historical dearth of said skill.

Thunder probable starting lineup:

PG Russell Westbrook

SG Thabo Sefolosha

SF Kevin Durant

PF Serge Ibaka

C Kendrick Perkins

Hasheem Thabeet started in the Thunder’s loss to the Rockets and played 11 minutes before the Thunder went with a 3-guard lineup with Kevin Martin. Perkins is probable, but that lineup will get a lot of use when the Thunder match up against the Wolves and their 3-point guard lineup.

In that game against the Rockets, Durant shot 13 times and had a triple-double while Westbrook and Sefolosha combined for 15 attempted 3s and 36 shots. I’m not saying that’s a recipe for disaster, but the Thunder are 5-5 over their last 10, have lost 3 straight and playing games where Westbrook and Sefolosha are leading them in scoring.

Martin is averaging 11 points on 42% shooting over the last 5.

Wolves probable starting lineup:

PG Ricky Rubio

SG Luke Ridnour

SF Andrei Kirilenko

PF Derrick Williams

C Nikola Pekovic

Maybe ignoring available shooters is a way of depreciating Pek’s value so he’s easier to sign this summer. Maybe the Brandon Roy expiring contract is going to make it easier to retain pieces like Pek. Maybe this lame duck owner and G.M. can’t handle in-season adjustments. Whatever. The Wolves will wait for Chase Budinger and Kevin Love to return to health and watch as Ridnour is trotted out as a shooting guard, Alexey Shved’s legs buckle after running headlong into the rookie wall and the opposing defense sucks in and swarms Ricky’s passing lanes and Pek’s every move.



Tags: Minnesota Timberwolves Oklahoma City Thunder Pregame Preview

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