In order to get a bit more insight on the current state of affairs of Sunday’s opponent, the Minnesota Timberwolves, we spoke to Canis Hoopus contributor Logan Alten.
You can follow Logan on Twitter @LaltenNBA
Thank you Logan for participating in our Q&A.
1. Minnesota has started the year off 11-13. Is that record reflective of how the team has performed so far this season?
Alten: In a way, yes. There’s two versions of Minnesota, the motivated team vs the sluggish team. It’s always hard to tell which version you’re getting night to night. One day they’ll show up and be able to go blow for blow with the best teams in the NBA (they came the closest to ending Phoenix’s winning streak before Golden State ended it). They’re more aggressive in those games on offense and on the defensive side of things they chaotically buzz around the floor forcing many bad shots and turnovers. The other side of this though is the team that forces bad shots, is sluggish, and can give the Zion Williamson-less Pelicans one of their few wins. This side of the team often gets in its own way and makes it near impossible to win games. The record doesn’t match either of these sides of the team but it makes sense when you think of them as a collective.
2. How has Anthony Edwards progressed from Year 1 to Year 2?
Alten: A lot of Ant’s progression on offense came as the season went on last year. He progressed month to month ending the season with a 52.8% FG% and a 40.6% 3pt% for the month of May. His percentages have since regressed to closer to early rookie season Ant but the approach has changed. He’s now way more capable and willing to take a game over on offense. On top of that, he’s went from a traffic cone on defense to wanting to guard the opposing team’s best player. The biggest thing hurting Ant on his offensive progression is he’s reluctant to drive at times and turns into more of a shooter. This is due to two things. He’s not getting calls at the rate he should and the way team’s defend Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns has started having a forward guard him while a center lurks near the rim guarding Jarred Vanderbilt. This makes anything near the rim harder for Ant as even if he beats his man he has a center guaranteed to be waiting for him. Someone like Larry Nance could help with that a ton should Portland one day move to blowing it up *wink wink*.
3. If the Wolves pull out a win in Portland, why would that be the case?
Alten: The biggest reason Minnesota beats Portland, and this may sound crazy due to his public perception as being a giant negative, would be D’Angelo Russell returning. Russell has missed the past couple of games due to an ankle injury and it’s shown how much he’s needed. At face value, Russell’s known defensive shortcomings and career worst shooting percentages would point to his absence being addition by subtraction. The reality is that there’s a case that this is the best season of his career. He’s morphed into both a quarterback and cornerback on defense organizing the team and keeping everything running like a well oiled machine while playing the passing lanes. His shot selection hasn’t even been as cringeworthy either. Factor that in with Minnesota lacking playmakers and guys that can create their own shot and Russell’s absence hurts even more.
4. What is one thing that Blazers fans should know about the Wolves that they wouldn’t find in a box score?
Alten: Aside from the Russell information above, it’d be that Jarred Vanderbilt is an absolute mad man. Vanderbilt will make life hard for the defense as he’s an offensive rebounding machine and on the other hand, he’s the anchor for Minnesota’s defense. He always plays with high effort and does all the small things that amazing role players do.
5. What is your prediction for the game?
Alten: I’m unbiasedly picking Minnesota with Russell 110-90. If they’re without, I’m picking Portland 95-105.