The pre-season has reached its’ fifth game. The Oklahoma City Thunder slowly trudge toward the start of the season, looking decidedly less dangerous than before. It’s still hard to pass judgement on this team, with various injuries holding players out. But as it stands, the Thunder haven’t put together very many good non-Westbrook stretches. Hopefully tonight’s game against the Timberwolves, the first for the Thunder in Oklahoma City, can provide some positive momentum.
The Timberwolves don’t look much different than last year. But they did add a very exciting young rookie in Kris Dunn. Out of Providence College, Dunn was the fifth pick in last year’s NBA draft. Dunn should provide a long-term solution for the Wolves at PG. Ricky Rubio has ably manned the position for years, but his lack of scoring ability limits his effectiveness. Thus far in the pre-season, Dunn is shooting 5 of 27 from the floor. And Dunn has 8 turnovers to 15 assists. But all rookies have an adjustment period. Dunn should have his hands full against the defensively-focused Christon and Price. The other addition for the Timberwolves is Brandon Rush, a middling three and d wing.
Tonight’s game will also be another nice battle between Karl-Anthony Towns and one of our bigs. More than likely, Towns will be covered by Adams or Lauvergne. That’s a lot of bulk for Towns to move in post ups, but Towns will certainly have his way on the perimeter. With Pekovic confirmed out for the year, former Thunder center Cole Aldrich will have to be the primary backup.
As far as lineups go, the Timberwolves have stuck to their rotation fairly consistently. Backups will finish the game, but the Timberwolves are always fielding a realistic lineup.
The Thunder have been playing along the same lines as the Timberwolves. The lineups will be as realistic as they can be (barring for injuries), and backups will finish the game. There haven’t been a ton of unusual lineup combinations from Donovan thus far. This pre-season seems to be more about finding basic stuff that works. However, the constant injuries to OKC’s centers has made it hard to get a really good gauge on how good this team actually is.
Victor Oladipo has been roundly disappointing thus far, but we knew that he would have cold nights. Westbrook’s pre-season has been par for the course. Others, like Josh Huestis and Alex Abrines, have turned out to be pleasant surprises. Backup point guard seems like the most pressing issue at the moment, with neither Price nor Christon able to give consistent production.
Three point shooting will continue to be a key area for OKC. The Thunder did well against the paint-focused Grizzlies on Thursday. But a lot of those shots were wide open. Surely the Timberwolves will be more focused on guarding the perimeter. Also, I hope that Roberson is healthy, so Singler won’t have to guard Wggins.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 96, Minnesota Timberwolves 94.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Drop a comment and let us know!
Injuries: Nikola Pekovic (Out), Steven Adams (Questionable), Enes Kanter (Questionable), Ronnie Price (Questionable), Mitch McGary (Questionable), Cameron Payne (Out)
Time: 6:00 PM Central Daylight Time
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: NBA League Pass