The Minnesota Timberwolves dominated the New Orleans Pelicans in Monday night’s preseason opener.
The final margin of victory might have only been three points, but the Wolves thoroughly dominated the portions of the game played by the starters and frontline reserves.
Let’s take a look at the three biggest takeaways from the game.
Takeaway No. 1 from Minnesota Timberwolves preseason win over Pelicans
The Timberwolves’ defense was easily the most impressive thing about this performance.
The Wolves came out of the gate defending at a level that this team has frankly never even approached in recent seasons. The perimeter defense from D’Angelo Russell and Josh Okogie, the latter of whom earned somewhat of a surprising start, was fantastic.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Jaden McDaniels provided strong support in the paint as well, and the unit as a whole showcased crisp rotations and urgency.
The defense only improved as the game went on, with Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt providing an edge off the bench and helping the Wolves keep their energy up throughout the night. It was exactly the type of performance that the Wolves need to see on a nightly basis if they’re going to be a playoff team this season.
Takeaway No. 2 from Minnesota Timberwolves preseason win over Pelicans
The Timberwolves’ depth is going to make a huge difference this season.
The Wolves suddenly go at least 10 deep with NBA-caliber rotation players. Malik Beasley, Vanderbilt, and Beverley are all players worthy of being the starting lineup. Naz Reid will be one of the best backup centers in the league. The likes of Jordan McLaughlin, Jaylen Nowell and Leandro Bolmaro will likely be on the outside looking in of the Wolves’ rotation of the start of the season.
It will be fascinating to see what this rotation looks like on opening night, and how it will develop throughout the season. One thing is for sure: adding Beverley, Bolmaro, and Taurean Prince makes this team a whole lot deeper than what it has been in recent years.
Takeaway No. 3 from Minnesota Timberwolves preseason win over Pelicans
The impact of both Vanderbilt and Bolmaro should be significant this season.
Vanderbilt still may end up in the starting lineup, but his impact was immediately felt coming off the bench in this one. As the Wolves were beginning to struggle a little late in the first quarter, Vando came in and helped shore up the defense and rebounding.
He remained on the court and helped Towns and Russell build a double-digit lead in the second quarter and was key to the Wolves’ big third quarter as well.
The rebounding ability, defensive energy, and instincts that Vanderbilt brings to the table are infectious, and his fit next to Towns is nearly perfect.
Bolmaro didn’t make his debut until a few minutes into the fourth quarter, but he immediately made his impact felt. First, he threaded the needle with a pass on a roll to the rim from big man Nathan Knight. He also hit a pull-up mid-range jumper and showed off a strong handle.
The Wolves will surely ease Bolmaro into regular minutes, but it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if he was a regular member of the rotation by the time the calendar turns to 2022.
This was an all-around impressive win from the Timberwolves. Despite the Pelicans fourth-quarter run against a lineup made up of mostly players who will ultimately spend the season in the G League, the Wolves have to feel good about this preseason-opening performance.