Observations from Wolves’ First Two Preseason Games


The past off-season was eventful and long, with months of waiting to see if the Wolves’ young talent may be able to live up to its lofty potential.

The preseason is finally here and it was a joy to watch this team, warts and all, live for the first time. And yes, there were plenty of warts.

Ben Beecken already had a good wrap of yesterday’s game against the Chicago Bulls, but here are a few observations from the first two preseason games.  Take them for what they’re worth at this stage.

Long Way to Go on Defense

Defense may be priority number one in training camp for the young Wolves, but it’s been mostly awful in real games. The Bulls made 16 of 36 threes as Minnesota’s defenders repeatedly failed to rotate to open shooters. Earlier this week, Oklahoma City shot a blistering 11-22 on threes and almost 56 percent from the field overall.

This would be more of a cause for concern if the Wolves weren’t working hard on defense. For the most part, however, guys were putting in the effort and trying to help their teammates. They just didn’t always know what they were doing.

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Individual defense is one thing, but team defense takes a long time to learn. Even when a player understand the concepts it takes time to know them well enough that they become instinct, and also to get a feel for how to work with different teammates.

Combine some level of cluelessness with needing to think too much on the court about where to go and a team can give up a lot of easy shots. The Wolves are going to do that this year.

They’re going to dazzle us with spectacular plays and frustrate us with frequent mental and fundamental breakdowns. What we can and should expect are effort and steady improvement.

Jones Breaks Out

How many thought Tyus Jones had that kind of game in him, this early in his career? After showing little against the Thunder on Wednesday — and really, not much in Summer League play, either — the rookie exploded for 18 points and 9 assists in 25 minutes, including 3 of 3 on threes. Sure, it is just preseason, but even with that caveat Jones’ performance justified some raised eyebrows.

Tyus Jones had a breakout game for the Wolves on Saturday.

The assumption of many, including this author, was that Andre Miller would be the veteran backup point guard for a bridge year until Jones was ready to fully handle the jump to the NBA, while Jones would be lucky to see minutes anywhere other than in garbage time and D-League. That may still be the case and no one should get too excited about one nice game. But last night’s performance at least makes one stop and think.

Something else does too: the likely elevation of Zach LaVine to starting two-guard. If throwing young guys into the deep end of the pool is integral to Sam Mitchell’s idea of player development, he may feel the same way about Jones. Could the 19-year-old displace Miller sooner than some thought?

The Specialist

The word on Damjan Rudez when he was Indiana last season was that he could shoot lights-out from deep but would give you almost nothing else on the court. In two preseason games thus far, that’s just what we’ve seen.

In 45 minutes across the first two preseason contests, Rudez has scored 16 points on the back of 5-8 from three-point range while adding a grand total of one rebound, one assist, and two steals. No turnovers either, to be fair, but that’s an amazing stat line.

This is a 6’10” guy who has one rebound in almost 48 minutes, or one full game. Dude seems like a designated hitter who would pound out 30 home runs with a .150 batting average in a full season. I’d love to see his Strat-o-Matic card.

Other Stat Lines of Note


Karl-Anthony Towns has looked good so far. He’s a combined 12-21 for 31 points with 15 rebounds, one assist, three steals, and three blocks in the two games and he passes the “eye test.”

Andrew Wiggins

‘ production in the Wolves’ first two preseason games has been underwhelming.

Nemanja Bjelica continues to impress with his creative passing, floor awareness, and efficiency. The 27-year-old rookie has 22 points in 38 minutes on 7-9 shooting to go with 14 rebounds, three assists, and three steals.  He did have four turnovers against the Bulls but overall has looked like he will play significant minutes this season.

Not So Good

In the first two games, Zach LaVine is 3-19 with three rebounds and five assists.  Zach, you’re the presumptive favorite for the starting job but it’s not a done deal yet.

Andrew Wiggins has been unimpressive too, going a combined 4-15 with two rebounds and two assists. At least he’s going to the line and, at times anyway, being aggressive. Wiggins seems to be the kind of player who disappears at times but steps up when he’s needed most. I’m not worried about him. Not yet, anyway.

After putting up four points and four rebounds in 13 minutes against the Thunder, Adreian Payne didn’t even play against Chicago.  Best guess here remains that Payne won’t be in the regular rotation this season barring injuries.

Next Up

The Wolves play the first of two straight against the Toronto Raptors at 7:30 Central Time on Monday. Also, we’ll have another No Frills Wolves Podcast early this week to get you ready for another exciting week of preseason action, so be sure to check that out.

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