Opponent Scouting: Minnesota TimberPups. (30-34)
Tonight at 7:00pm EST the Pistons are facing the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Pistons are on two days of rest after beating the Raptors and the Wolves are on the second night of a back to back and third game in four nights after beating the Thunder last night.
The Timberwolves are largely the same as the last couple of years but a bit better. They come into the game with the 11th best offense and 20th best defense in the NBA and the 15th net rating, that’s right, exactly league average.
They are now fully led by Karl-Anthony Towns (KAT) who, for all the crap I give him, is a brilliant player. He has fully cemented himself as one of the most dynamic offensive big-men ever. Looking at his offensive numbers is dizzying, 24.5 points per game on a TS% of 62.5% is absurd. On top of that he is a huge help even when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands, his shooting isn’t as well weaponized as some other great shooting bigs, but KAT is quickly putting himself in the conversation with Dirk as the greatest shooting bigs to ever live. And while he probably doesn’t pass as often as he should, when he does he is quite good at it. The downside to Towns is that he is often a disinterested defender, and still hasn’t put on the weight or gotten tough/mean enough to bang down low for rebounds with many bigs. There are times he does, last night for instance, but it’s an issue for him.
After KAT comes Andrew Wiggins, who is bad. He can still score in isolation but does pretty much nothing else and isn’t even that good at that. Welcome to Rodney Stucky, the max contract version. Jeff Teague is still around as the starting point guard, he’s not having a great year scoring but he’s passing the ball at a borderline elite level. Josh Okogie is sort of like Bruce Brown, good defender and athlete, still very raw on offense. Dario Saric is the same Swiss-army knife that is just good at everything.
Taj Gibson is a tough defender who can score in the post a bit, Derrick Rose is having a resurgent season off the bench and has hugely benefited from playing with KAT and the spacing he provides. Our beloved Anthony Tolliver is here, shooting threes and generally being beautiful. Tyus Jones is a solid backup point guard.
The Timberwolves still have a lot of good/interesting pieces. I wonder if they just need to find the right coach and they will click somewhat like the Bucks have this season. Defense is likely to always be an issue but I struggle to see how a offense led by KAT is only ranked 11th, with a better coach who could leverage his shooting better I’d think it could jump to elite.
Matchups to watch:
Andre vs. KAT: KAT has still never beaten Andre. 0-10 if you include last season’s all-star game. KAT struggles with Andre’s size and Andre is nimble enough on defense to not get slaughtered by KAT’s perimeter skills. Andre has owned this matchup but at some point a player of Towns ability will break through. It’s simply bound to happen at some point.
Pistons vs. Letting me troll: I get a lot of mileage out of the “KAT has never beaten Andre” line to the greater NBA community on twitter. It’s to the point where this game is like my super-bowl. I want another Summer of getting to use this line. Please win.
Blake Griffin vs. Forcing out Saric: Saric has proven pretty incapable of holding Griffin and Towns is not the sort of inside force to be effective on helping. If Griffin can force Gibson or Tolliver into heavy minutes it will work in the Pistons favor.
Andre vs. Being superman: The Pistons have asked Andre to defend pick and roll actions on an island all season, it’s the main reason they sport the best 3-point defense in the NBA. When Rose and KAT get going together that is hugely challenging for any big man. He did a respectable job earlier this season and will have to replicate it.
Luke Kennard vs. Letting it fly: Keep shooting Luke.
Pistons vs. Good vibes: After this they have two games against the Bulls before crucial games against the Nets and Heat. Win this, then go get those easy wins. If they can continue the high level of play and win those games they can put the 6th seed in the bag.
So in conclusion…
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
KAT looks very frustrated by the fact that he has to actually box out.
Blake Griffin is smashing all opposition.
Cocky RJax byke.
Run for the hills if:
Towns is raining death from deep and the Pistons are not up to cover it.
Andrew Wiggins decides to have his random “Oh I’m awesome” game.
Blake Griffin really is off somehow and isn’t effective.
Opportunities for me to look stupid: