Um...Wow what a shocker.
I don't know how to put it, but let's start off like this. I like this young squad, and despite the fact that Kobe Bryant didn't play a lot of minutes along with his elite company, that doesn't excuse the fact that the Timberwolves just looked like the better team out there today.
Am I saying they are? No, by no stretch of the means. Am I saying if the Lakers were healthy and they were playing the Wolves in the regular season would it be a close game? Maybe, probably closer than you think with a Lakers victory. In all, the main point is this: If you think that the Minnesota Timberwolves have not improved this season, and not in terms of wins and losses, but overall talent, you are a bona fide dummy.
While watching the game, I was very ecstatic, and I'd love to add my analysis and mental notes for each player. While this isn't something you can judge a whole season off of, I strongly believe that there's upside for this team, a very strong upside, and that you can take some observation from this game and draw fair conclusions. The conclusion, however, is for you to judge yourself.
Luke Ridnour: The point guard position in the Wolves offense requires point guards to be able to make reads and set his teammates up. Luke was fascinating on the court, both offensively and defensively. Very unselfish, not particularly flashy or eye gauging, but making the simple passes and reads is something that the Wolves haven't had consistently for a while. Luke also burned the Lakers with pull up jumpers, and that's key in the offense, while playing good off the ball defense and starting the fast break.
Wayne Ellington: I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Wayne Ellington can play point guard in the NBA. It might not be your Chris Paul-esque point guard, but he's useful in a pinch and very useful in our offense. He played point guard for 20 minutes, and it was good having a 6'5'' guard out there guarding the super quick Steve Blake. Because the point guard needs to be able to hit open jumpers, Wayne fits right in, but it was his solid passing and making appropriate reads that makes him valuable. Sebastian Telfair could lose his minutes; Wayne was fantastic playing out of position, hitting open and contested jumpers, and playing solid defense.
Corey Brewer: The worst player on the court as far as offensively. Corey looked like himself from three years ago as a rookie, still playing too quickly for his own good and taking ill advised shots. However, his energy off the bench was good for the Wolves in that he completely hounded his opponent on the defensive end. This might be his calling; anyone including myself thinking that Corey is a legit starter will have to take a look at this game and look at the other players that played his position, and really will have to question that statement. But again, a good defender that can hit the open three off the bench has a place in the NBA, especially on the Wolves.
Wes Johnson: This guy might not win Rookie of the Year; then again he could. Wes played like a veteran at times, but his inner rookie showed somewhat on the defensive end. He sometimes failed to make the proper rotation, something that can be easliy worked on, but Wes on the offensive end? This guy can just flat out get it done. He's by far the best mid range shooter that the Timberwolves have on the roster, and he's very athletic. The fact that he's not 100 percent really speaks as to what kind of upside Wes has. He doesn't waste possessions, and he makes good decisions. Not bad for a rookie is it?
Martell Webster: It's probably premature, but saying that this guy was probably underused as a Trailblazer wouldn't be far from the truth. Martell was sensational, not only was he playing solid defense and knocking down open shots, but he was creating his own shot and handling the ball with great efficiency. Posting up knocking down turnaround jumpers, running the fast break, and being disruptive on the defensive end. He looked like he belonged as a starter in the NBA and showed some serious flashes of being able to do damage from all over the court.
Michael Beasley: Starting lineup?. Check. Superstar? Maybe. Even playing the three against Ron Artest couldn't stop Beasley for the most part. What more can you say about a player that consistently knocked down open shots off his own dribble while defending decently? I recently thought that Beasley could play the three if he could be as fast as Danny Granger; he didn't look like he had any problems playing on the perimeter as well as in the post. Beasley looked like a go-to scorer in this game, and he only played 18 minutes scoring 21 points. Remember, he's only 21 years old and has a lot of growing to do.
Kevin Love: This guy is going to have at least one triple-double before the season is over. Kevin Love can flat out shoot and rebound, and while Timberwolves fans knew he could pass, Kevin showed flashes of being in the same passing class as his opponent Pau Gasol. His outlet passes are always on point, but his half court passes were even better. Kevin Love really looked like he matured his game, and this guy can flat out take charges. Kevin Love was the silent star of the Wolves. He looked like he could be a 20-10 guy, and that's on put-backs and open shots. NICE!
Anthony Tolliver: This guy straight up hustles and hits open shots. I know, I know, why am I making a big deal out of this? Well Tolliver just might be a key cog to this team; he can straight up get it done. Energy off the bench as well as being able to hit open shots, standing at 6'9'', and being able to play three positions gives you a very high quality bench player.
Nikola Pekovic: Huge, strong, and can really run the floor. Didn't really get to show his offensive prowess and struggled with fouls. But you can tell he's going to get to the free throw line a lot; he can really seal his man. Looked like Pau Gasol couldn't handle his strength. Hits his free throws and is a better rebounder than given credit for. Really needs to get better with his rotations. Really.
Kosta Koufos: Shouldn't see more than 10 minutes at most, but Koufos is a good pickup for the Wolves. He's tall and very energetic. He can really rebound the basketball but didn't show much for me to justify any more playing time. But much much better than Ryan Hollins.
Darko Milicic: For a guy that's lacking confidence noticeably, Darko looked like a uniquely skilled player out there. Judging from this game, the more minutes you give Darko over time, the better and more confidence he's going to get. His skill-set is very unique; he can really pass the ball, I mean really pass the ball. He has a basic post move that looks very good and hit a very sweet teardrop 10 foot jumper off of one foot. Showed some real potential there, but his defense was great and can be EVEN BETTER. Mark my words, he will average two blocks a game. Nice stat line, eight points, six boards, five assists, two blocks in 24 minutes.
In conclusion, yes this was preseason, but the fact is win or lose, this is a much better Timberwolves team than last season. Do I expect them to do this every night? No. Do I expect the Wolves to run teams off their home court this season? Likely
This team plain out has the shooters to knock down shots. But the most powerful offensive weapons that the Wolves have are in Darko and Love. They can average 10 assists a game together; it's uncanny how good they are at passing the ball.
Looking at this game, it was easy to see that the Wolves will score the ball; 111 points with 22 turnovers is insane stat. But it's the defensive end that I'm worried about sustaining throughout the course of a season. But like the announcers said in the game as well as Kobe Bryant, if the Wolves can figure it out defensively...
Thanks for reading!