A Night of Firsts
Tonight will be a big night for the Oklahoma City Thunder. It's the first time that they'll officially be on the court with their new coach, Billy Donovan. It will also be the first time that Kevin Durant has played in an official basketball game since February.
On the Timberwolves' side of things, there's plenty to get excited about as well. It's the first game for Karl-Anthony Towns, the #1 overall draft pick. Towns is supposed to be a franchise big man with dazzling athleticism. The Timberwolves will also be starting fellow rookie Tyus Jones. Jones was only the 24th pick in this year's draft, but he's notable for being the galvanizing force behind Duke's title run last year. If exciting rookies isn't enough for you, keep an eye out for Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica is a 27 year old veteran stretch four out of Europe, and he could have a very Pero Antic-like contribution to the T-Wolves.
Will the best players play?
On the Thunder's end, it might not be in the team's best interest to run the stars all night long. But Coach Donovan did commit to playing Durant and Westbrook about 18-22 minutes tonight. The minutes will reportedly increase as the Thunder approach opening night.
On the Timberwolves' end, the roster is full of really young players. Most of the recognizable names should see lots of action. There is a significant glut of older players, though. Expect Kevin Garnett, Andre Miller, and Tayshaun Prince to ride the bench for longer than usual.
Who will start?
Billy Donovan hasn't revealed his starter at shooting guard. Roberson played with the starters during the Blue-White scrimmage on Sunday, and reportedly scrimmaged with the starters in practice. But Donovan indicated that he's not sure who he wants as the starter yet. In fact, the lineup to start the second half may be different than the lineup that started the game.
Furthermore, it's looking like the starting center spot is firmly in the hands of Steven Adams. But it's uncertain whether Nick Collison will remain the starter in Adams place. Historically, Collison and Ibaka have been an effective combo in the paint. Nevertheless, Enes Kanter presents a much more effective scoring option than Collison does. Given Kanter's unique effectiveness, Donovan would have to be crazy not to use him with the starters occasionally.
Do Payne and McGary get a piece of the pie?
The Thunder have a solid stack of 11 veteran players that can cover every possible position. But lurking behind those veterans are Cameron Payne and Mitch McGary, the Thunder's two prospects.
McGary made a bit of noise last season with some double digit scoring games. Furthermore, McGary was really impressive at the Summer League, showing off a bunch of new moves and increased athleticism. Payne is no slouch, either. Payne's 10 points and 6 assists in Sunday's pre-season scrimmage definitely turned some heads.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 107, Minnesota Timberwolves 103.
What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!
|2015-16 NBA Pre-Season Game 1|
|October 7th, 2015|
|The Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota|
|7:00 PM Central Standard Time|
|Injury Report: Steven Adams (Out), Nikola Pekovic (Out), Ricky Rubio (Questionable)|
|Last Season's Matchups: Oct 29 (L 89-106), Dec 23 (L 111-115 OT), Feb 27 (L 112-115), Apr 15 (W 138-113)|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Tyus Jones|
|Andre Roberson||SG||Zach LaVine|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Andrew Wiggins|
|Nick Collison||PF||Kevin Garnett|
|Serge Ibaka||C||Karl Anthony-Towns|