Minnesota Timberwolves at Orlando Magic Game Preview: The Battle of Nikola


While neither the Minnesota Timberwolves or Orlando Magic are not even 10 percent through the 2014-2015 regular season, both team’s starts to their campaigns may be a somewhat accurate representation of what is to come during the winter and spring months.

Both the Wolves and Magic are young teams that figure to be out of the playoff picture when April comes around, but both teams feature a salivating core of promising players that could lead their squads back to the postseason in the next handful of years.

Just listen to these names. Andrew Wiggins. Ricky Rubio. Gorgui Dieng. Victor Oladipo. Nikola Vucevic. Aaron Gordon. All of them were star players in college ball or international play, and each have a “very particular set of skills” that make them potential NBA stars in the making.

The two teams are each coming off of thrilling road victories on Wednesday. The Wolves took down the Nets 98-91 behind a game-ending 7-0 run, while the Magic defeated the 76ers by the score of 91-89 on a Tobias Harris buzzer-beater. This is another very winnable road contest for Minnesota, who will begin a tough four-game stretch on Saturday in Miami.


Minnesota Timberwolves (2-2)

PG – Ricky Rubio (4 GS, .419 FG%, .600 FT%, 6.3 REB, 11.0 AST, 1.5 STL, 0.0 BLK, 10.8 PTS this season)  

Nov 5, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin (23) reacts against the Brooklyn Nets during the first quarter at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

SG – Kevin Martin (2 GS, .476 FG%, .957 FT%, 5.3 REB, 2.3 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.0 BLK, 23.7 PTS this season)

SF – Andrew Wiggins (4 GS, .444 FG%, .455 FT%, 4.3 REB, 0.8 AST, 1.5 STL, 0.5 BLK, 9.8 PTS this season)

PF – Thaddeus Young (4 GS, .491 FG%, 1.000 FT%, 5.3 REB, 2.0 AST, 2.0 STL, 0.5 BLK, 15.8 PTS this season)

C – Nikola Pekovic (4 GS, .417 FG%, .833 FT%, 8.3 REB, 1.3 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.3 BLK, 13.8 PTS this season)

Key Reserves

Corey Brewer (SG/SF) – Brewer started the first two games of the season while Martin recovered from injury and has unsurprisingly been one of Flip Saunders’ first options off the bench since then. Wednesday night in Brooklyn though, Brewer played only 12 minutes, going 0-for-3 from the field. In his dozen minutes of action, his plus/minus was -18 (in a 7 point victory.)

Shabazz Muhammad (SG) –  When talking about the bounty of young stars in the making on this Wolves team, Muhammad has been prone to being the odd man out lately. Muhammad has appeared in all four games and has been getting more playing time than the likes of Zach LaVine and Chase Budinger. His minutes have dropped considerably the last two games, however, after posting 13 points and seven rebounds in the season-opener.

Anthony Bennett (PF) – Now in his second season, Bennett is relegated to bench duties with his new team. A strong preseason has carried over into early regular season success so far for the Canadian, as Bennett has scored over seven points per game and provided valuable minutes to help starters gain some needed rest.

Orlando Magic (1-4)   

PG – Elfrid Payton (5 GS, .341 FG%, .450 FT%, 4.6 REB, 7.0 AST, 1.6 STL, 0.4 BLK, 7.8 PTS this season)

SG – Evan Fournier (5 GS, .473 FG%, .800 FT%, 2.8 REB, 1.4 AST, 0.2 STL, 0.0 BLK, 14.6 PTS this season)

SF – Tobias Harris (5 GS, .436 FG%, .818 FT%, 7.6 REB, 1.0 AST, 1.2 STL, 0.6 BLK, 17.8 PTS this season)

PF – Channing Frye (4 GS, .448 FG%, .667 FT%, 5.3 REB, 1.5 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.5 BLK, 8.8 PTS this season

C – Nikola Vucevic (5 GS, .494 FG%,  .500 FT%, 13.o REB, 2.6 AST, 0.8 STL, 1.4 BLK, 17.8 PTS this season)

Key Reserves

Aaron Gordon (PF) – The fourth overall pick in June’s draft likely won’t be facing Wiggins in any man-to-man match-ups due to positional

Oct 22, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) dribbles up court against the Houston Rockets at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sportsdifferences, but the Arizona big man was one of the best freshman in the country last year. Gordon has played in all five Magic games thus far and has been a beast on the glass in the early goings.differences, but the Arizona big man was one of the best freshman in the country last year. Gordon has played in all five Magic games thus far and has been a beast on the glass in the early goings.

differences, but the Arizona big man was one of the best freshman in the country last year. Gordon has played in all five Magic games thus far and has been a beast on the glass in the early goings.

Ben Gordon (SG) – No relation to the other Orlando player, this Gordon has been a sharpshooting guard for many years and is still a very productive sixth-man type player. The UConn product has seen significant minutes in each game so far and has posted two games of more than 15 points. Gordon could be a dangerous scoring option for the Magic in a close game down the stretch.

Luke Ridnour (PG) – Old friend Luke Ridnour is in his first season with the Magic and with Oladipo recovering from a facial fracture, he has seen plenty of playing time in the early goings. Ridnour has scored in every game so far, but is 0-for-6 from downtown in the 2014-2015 season.


Ronny Turiaf missed Wednesday’s game vs. the Nets due to a sore right hip. No word yet if he’ll be available for tonight’s match-up.

3 things to look out for

1. Nikola vs. Nikola – Pekovic and Vucevic not only share the same first name, but position as well. This should be a fun match-up to watch as both of these big men are among the premier offensive rebounders in the game.

2. Another barn burner? – Each of the first four games for the Wolves have been decided by single digits. They’ve alternated wins and losses so far, but this may be a great shot for the Wolves to get their first official winning streak of the season going.

3. Wiggins – Wiggins is coming off of his best pro game so far, when he scored 17 points (in two combined quarters) on Wednesday. Against an inferior opponent, look for the rookie to continue his solid play.


The Wolves should move above .500 in this one. No, I’m not going to make a Joe Namath-esque guarantee, but I’m feeling pretty good about Rubio and company’s chances.

Unless Vucevic dominates Pekovic in their match-up or Harris has another “Magical” moment, I see the Wolves winning by 10 or 15.