Tomorrow (Friday) night the Pistons travel to play the Wolves in Minnesota at 8:00pm est. The Wolves are a team that is super young and promising.
The Them: The Wolves are super young, and coming off a year that they were really bad. However, it would appear that those days of awfulness are probably behind them. Not that this team is going to do anything awesome this year, but there is a certain semblance of competence. I personally think that their offensive and defensive rating is pretty much the perfect sum up for them. Their offensive rating is 101.6, and defensive is 101. Neither is a great number by any stretch, but they are both perfectly acceptable. KAT has been freakishly good so far, and not just "rookie" good. He is actually good. Andrew Wiggins is also really good, he is a good defender and can score in bunches, and in a variety of ways. Ricky Rubio still slings magical unicorn poop whenever he passes the ball, but still can't shoot. However, despite his shooting deficiencies, most numbers show him as being the most important guy to the teams success so far, although that is partially because he is one of the only guys on the team who is capable of running an NBA offense. (He is also a legit top level pick pocketer on defense.) They've also got the old folks home with Kevin Garnett, and Tayshaun Prince playing regular minutes, and Andre Miller, Phd. Occasionally makes a spot appearance. Zach Lavine has shown an ability to do some good things, even if running the offense is not one of them. And Deng and Muhammad are interesting young pieces who do some good stuff off the bench. Kmart also is still useful as a scorer, even if he has fallen a long ways. Essentially, this team has a goofy blend of young up and commers, old vets, and a couple of prime(ish) guys. Once again, this team probably tops out as a mid to upper 30s win team, but they figure to be competitive all year if they stay healthy. And they will not be pushovers for the Pistons by any stretch. (Because the Pistons don't top out a whole lot higher than the Wolves do this year.) Also, they have a European rookie named Nemanja Bjelica (oh god I hope that is spelled right) who plays PF and might actually be pretty good. But I will make no pretense to have much idea as to what to expect of him. I've watched a few Wolves games but I can't recall him doing a ton to make me remember him, he can shoot a little bit but thats about it. Wolves fans say that he is actually pretty good though.
Matchups to watch.
Andre vs. KAT: This will be a really interesting one to watch. KAT (Karl Anthony Towns, the first overall pick in the draft in case you did not know.) has played really well so far this year, and he has been able to hold his own against a few good centers. HOWEVA, even when I try my best to take my Homer glasses off, Andre Drummond is on a different level right now. As such, there is some potential for a "Welcome to the NBA" game, or it could also be a bit of a coming out party for KAT if he manages to go toe to toe with Drummond. I would figure it will be closer to a welcome to the NBA game. KAT is (listed) as slightly taller, but also giving away almost 40lbs to Drummond. Which means Drummond should be able to win the battle of the boards with some ease, and KAT also has shown a good ability to post up. However if you recall, Drummond is such a freaking rock in the post that people generally don't even try to post him up. (see Cousins, Demarcus.) And once again, the 40lbs difference figures to mean that KAT should have little success there. HOWEVA, KAT could still have a good game even with all of that. Remember again to Cousins. Even though Boogie basically gave up trying to score inside on Drummond, he was ok with that, because he just went to the perimeter and took jumpers. KAT is not as good a shooter (yet) as Boogie, but he can still shoot. If he can hit a few of them and draw Andre out of his home in the paint, then this could get interesting. But I still would figure Drummond will win this matchup. But will be interesting to watch and KAT certainly has the potential to give a real fight here. And if he can give Drummond a fight, then the Wolves will have a real chance in this game.
KCP vs. Defending Wiggins: Wiggins has not been super efficient so far (not too bad but not great) but the dude can straight up score, and in a lot of different ways. He also is listed as being quite a bit bigger than KCP. Outside of Steph Curry, this will probably be KCPs hardest assignment so far this year. And if Wiggins is able to post up KCP and shoot over him the Pistons might have to start getting creative. If KCP can manage to keep Wiggins under control it will give the Pistons a huge advantage. But if Wiggins goes off then this game will be hard to win for the Pistons. And I admit, this one kind of worries me. KCP might be too small, and Morris is probably too slow. Stanley Johnson might end up getting a lot of playing time as the only guy who can guard him. But then again, KCP has been a super defender this year, so he might be just fine.
Non-Rubio ball handlers vs. Long armed army: The Pistons don't sport quite as fearsome a army of long armed freaks as the Bucks, but the Pistons have a lot of long armed defenders who like to steal bad passes. (When they are locked in at least.) And all 3 of the Wolves young studs (Lavine, Wiggins, KAT) are not very good passers at this point. (which, no duh, they are super young. Thats what young guys do.) If the Pistons can get some steals and easy buckets, it will make life way easier. Also, when cut off from the paint, the Wolves love to pull up for long 2s. Once again, with Drummond patrolling the paint, teams don't get there very often. As such the Pistons might have the perfect mix to cause some real issues for the Wolves offense. Although when Rubio is on the court this will be less of a thing.
Reggie Jackson vs. Turnovers: Even following a great game against the Cavs, this will just have to be a thing until he has a long stretch with lower turnovers. And with Rubio and Wiggins patrolling the perimeter he will have to be on his guard.
The Pistons vs. Hitting the open man: The Wolves are a solid defensive team, but they are still super young. And they will not have gone against something like the Drummond/Jackson PnR. And Sam Mitchell has not proven to be the most innovative coach so far. (which is quite a bit kinder to him than most of the Wolves fans seem to be lol.) These two factors combine to figure on the PnR opening up some open guys with consistency. But it will take crisp passing and decision making by the Pistons to find that guy, because the Wolves are generally crazy athletic and will make up for mental mistakes quickly. If the ball is moving well then the Pistons could potentially bust this one open. If it is slow, then the Wolves could really bog down the Pistons offensive attack.
So in conclusion
Cackle with knowing glee if:
- KAT looks like a rookie for the first time this year while Drummond pushes him around like a rag doll.
- KCP's relentless defense keeps Wiggins uncomfortable all game.
- The Wolves are consistently stopping runs to the hoop when they see Drummond waiting and proceed to jack a long 2.
- Anyone but Rubio is handling the ball.
- The Pistons are moving the ball to the open guy.
Run for the hills if:
KAT starts nailing jumpers.
Wiggins is too big for KCP to guard.
Kevin Garnett makes Andre cry.
The Pistons forget which jerseys are theirs and throw it to the Wolves a ton.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
KAT will hit some jumpers and take advantage of a few low effort possessions by Andre to get some good numbers, but at the end - when he turns up, Andre destroys him.
The Wolves don't have a good option against the Jackson/Drummond PnR.
Wiggins goes off and almost single handedly wins the Wolves the game, but falls just a little bit short.
This should be a pretty fun game, two young teams with some fun players. But this is a game you really hope the Pistons can win. The Wolves are the type of team that can hang with/beat lower tier teams, but has too much youth/not enough good players to be a huge threat to really good teams. And because I am a homer I would like to think the Pistons actually are a really good team. As such I think the Pistons should be able to end up getting this, but the Wiggins matchup scares me. But like usual, it will really come down to whether or not the Wolves can find an effective counter to the Jackson/Drummond PnR.
What do you think? Think Drummond will punk KAT? Or will KAT make his first big time mark on the NBA? Think I'm stupid? Let me know! We all get smarter!
P.S. Thanks so much to /r/timberwolvesthey were super helpful and gave a lot of good points for the matchup and I learned quite a bit from them.