Ahead of Monday’s exhibition opener against New Orleans, Timberwolves coach Chris Finch warned against over-analyzing anything that happened in the preseason – especially its Game 1.
He also noted on past employees that he has been caught overestimating certain performances and trends.
But any such message will always fall on deaf ears. The Timberwolves, in their rawest form, were back on Monday, topping the Pelicans 117-114 in a game where rotational players took a massive 24 points. Here were the biggest bits of impressive performance that don’t count for a single thing.
D’Angelo Russell He said he trained this offseason as if it was a contract year – and for his purposes, it is. With two years left on his deal, Russell is looking for a massive extension next season.
He played like a financially motivated man on Monday. Russell shone aggressively, scoring 19 points on 6 for 10 shoots, including three triples. He has been known to do this throughout his career.
More notable was the speed with which Russell played. He pushed the ball to the floor at every opportunity, creating countless transition opportunities for Minnesota. That’s what Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said was Russell’s primary responsibility in the offense, and he took care of it on Monday.
Russell was also a vocal presence on and off the court. Even when he was not in action, the point guard made sure he was heard, constantly interacting with his teammates on the bench as well as communicating with those in action.
The buzz about Anthony Edwards at the start of training camp has been that the second-year standout is focusing more on the defensive end of the floor. Finch pumps up Edwards’ off-ball cognition and general aggression at the defensive end.
But it is always difficult to separate Coach’s words from reality, no matter how honest Finch has been to this day.
If Monday was any indication, Edwards’ defensive improvement appears to be more fact than fiction. He made two blocks and two steals, serving as the weak side’s playmaker.
Edwards was active and engaged on that side of the ball. If this continues into the regular season, his All-Star goal could be more attainable than most anticipated.
most regular season rotation fluctuate between nine and 10 players. Finch has said that Wolves have 14 players they feel comfortable playing, which means competition for playing time will be tough.
Monday indicated which players are currently leading for spots in the rotation at the start of the season. Eleven players appeared in the first half. Initially there were Russell, Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jaden McDaniels and Josh Okogie. They played anywhere from 13 (McDaniels) to 22 (Edwards) minutes. The sixes before the bench were Taurean Prince, Jared Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverly, Naz Reed and Jordan McLaughlin.
Players like Jake Lehmann, Jaylen Novell and Leandro Bolmaroo are fighting an uphill battle to play time.
The Timberwolves will probably sport the shortest roster In the NBA this season. He has a legitimate force on the roster at Vanderbilt.
The lack of size calls into question the general ability of the team to return. The Pelicans – playing without major biggies Zion Williamson and Jonas Valencianus – highlighted potential weakness in the first quarter on Monday. New Orleans dominated the offensive glass, capturing five offensive rebounds in the game’s opening minutes.
The Timberwolves will need to win back the fans, A common theme in recent years and a byproduct of the team’s nearly two decades of futility.
And while there seem to be reasons for intrigue with this team—from its better play under Finch to closing out last season, the potential stardom of Edwards and the healthy core of Russell, Townes, Edwards, McDaniels & Co. opportunity. Over an extended period of time, it appears that the Timberwolves have yet to capture the attention of local fans.
The lower bowl of the target center was less populated on Monday. Yes, it’s pre-season, but it was also the first time to get a glimpse of this year’s team, and some took the opportunity to do so in person.