Zach LaVine’s pro career started with a bang, catching a quick alley-oop from Alexey Shved on the Wolves’ first possession. They leapt out to a quick start; Shabazz had a huge tomahawk jam on the break, Shved converted a nice three point play, and Dieng finished off a difficult hook shot with a flash of veteran poise. The future couldn’t look much brighter for the Wolves after that initial burst, but as expected, some sloppy play and poor defensive effort saw the Mavs out front by 10 at half. Ricky Ledo showed promise for the Mavs, sporting his Kevin Durant-like stroke and connecting on 5 threes en route to 21 points. The Wolves fell behind by as much as 16 in the third quarter, but started to make somewhat of a push in the fourth quarter.
Shabazz Muhammad (27 pts on 10-24): Good, not great, game for ‘Bazz. He established himself early as the #1 option, being aggressive on the break and hitting open looks. He showed us the consistency that was on display in games he saw action in last season. Still, I don’t think Shabazz projects to be a star, but a very, very reliable supporting player. He has the ability to get to his spots and score against anyone, and offensive rebound with the best of him. Happy for Bazz’s development, and I think we’ll see a breakout year from him, regardless of the Love situation. Could have been more efficient. (A-)
Alexey Shved (14 pts on 4-11): The continuation of a nightmare season for Shved. He just can’t seem to fully turn the page from that disappointing Sophomore effort that saw him benched and playing exclusively in garbage time. Shved needs to knock down his 3 point looks and work off the pick and roll, because he isn’t going to beat anyone off the dribble. Look for him to get back to his bread-and-butter, he can knock down open threes and create quite well of the P&R, but he hasn’t had the confidence to assert himself. Pulling for Alexey here, as this is a critical juncture of his career. (D)
Gorgui Dieng (12 pts on 4-6): Dieng was up and down tonight – the peak of his game being solid and collected post moves and the valley being getting yammed on by C.J. Fair. Not sure what to make of his performance today, but Gorgui still needs a lot of work before he can be the Wolves’ franchise center – to those looking to get rid of Pek and his contract, I’d hold it for a while.
Zach LaVine (14 pts on 5-12): Sporadic performance for LaVine, but you’ve got to be pretty excited about his talent. He got out on the break and ran, but also hit a couple of jumpers and pull-ups, which is something he’ll get, and will have to capitalize on. As much as people like to compare LaVine to Klay Thompson or even Russell Westbrook (pretty baseless comparison besides UCLA connection), I think LaVine matches up really well to former Wolf Gerald Green. This is both somewhat good and bad – if LaVine can be older, wiser Gerald Green, who makes deliberate cuts and takes the best jumpers he can find, then we’re in luck. Otherwise, if LaVine plays loose through his first couple of years, we may be waiting for some time for him to “develop” – otherwise known as going to a team besides the Wolves to play well. Regardless, LaVine was a bright spot today. (A-)
Glenn Robinson III (7 pts on 2-5): To the untrained eye, Glenn had a mediocre game. After two years watching his every move at Michigan, I was slightly disappointed by his performance today. After a nice jam early on, and good assertiveness in the first quarter, he seemed to fade, which is a very, very usual phenomenon for Glenn. Wolves fans should continue to hope he becomes more assertive, and more space in the NBA will make it easier for him to do so with his athleticism. At the very least, him running up and down the floor with Rubio should be fun; expect his floor to be a Derrick Williams without the baggage: not a ball-stop or a minus defender, but not a consistent scorer either.
The Other Guys
Out of players not expected to make the team, no one performed too remarkably, except for D.J. Kennedy who was exceptionally inefficient. Jordan Morgan looked clumsy and out-of-place, Markell Starks didn’t show the scoring ability he’s known for, and Brady Heslip didn’t see any action tonight. Look for one of these guys to make a push to make the team, but it will be difficult for any of them.
Catch the Wolves and Wizards go at it Sunday at 9:30 CT Sunday.