Tonight the Wolves take it to Portland, where their excellent "pack it in, they will cool off at some point" defensive strategy will hopefully limit Matthews and Fernandez to a combined 37 threes in the first half.
Rather than hash out a boring game preview for a team we have played twice already this year, I thought I'd pose 5 things to think about over the next week and beyond as it pertains to the Wolves.
1. Has the recent emphasis on ball movement with Beasley out been a positive thing for the team? I think we all know Beasley is essential to this team, but over the past 2 games I have seen much better execution and a solid scoring attack within the flow of the offense. Last year we loathed about how Al Jefferson, while putting up numbers, would put a wrench right into the flow of things and stagnate our offense. Is this trend developing with Beasley? It doesn't take a rocket scientist nor a statisctician to see and understand how much better the Wolves play when Mike moves the ball and doesn't force it. Assuming Beasley is out tonight and perhaps Wednesday vs. LAC before a 5 day rest, it would be noteworthy if the Wolves win one or at least play tight against 2 surging teams. It could be more indicitive than we thought, at least short term.
2. Brewer in the starting lineup; and Brewer being here long term. Look, it again didn't take a brilliant wizard to notice how much better the Wolves played in the 2nd half the last time these 2 teams met with Brewer taking Wes' minutes. Brewer's energy when he plays big minutes is simply tough to top. With that said, Brew is a free agent and we have a decision to make on his future. I think his impact here has been a bit under-appreciated and I'm not sure Wes can top his production on both ends of the floor unless he (Edit: I intially had "she" written here as a typo. Thought about keeping it as it seems appropriate of late) expands his game beyond spot up and one-dribble jump shots and blown defensive assignments.
It's easy to peg Wes as a long term wing simply because he was once the 4th pick in a (historically bad) draft. Irrational draft pick fetish syndrome strikes again. But ask yourself, between Wes and Brewer, who's impact and style of play fits the bill for us long term? Obviously no decisions can be made on this today, but think of this in terms of categories: On offense Wes will probably never be a high scorer for us, nor will he need to be so let's weigh this factor a bit less than defense. However, Wes is obviously a better shooter and off the dribble it is about even. On defense, Brewer takes the nod most of the time, but Wes has potential. On fast breaks and in transition I will call a draw. BB IQ and intangibles go to Brewer. You get the idea. So, in Wes' likely role (modest scoring, defensive-minded, athletic wing player), is he the best fit based on his strengths? Or is this another classic Rhombus example of forcing a player to be something they just aren't? Can Wes expand his defensive game to Brewer levels, consistently pissing off the likes of Wes Matthews and Manu, and at the same time, improve his offense beyond Kyle Korver levels? Let's hope so, and he certainly deserves more opportunity to try.
3. Our 2nd unit. We are getting murdered off the bench due to Pekovic's continued idiot maneuvers, Flynn being amongst the worst players in the league, inconsistent shooting/questionable shot selection from Martell and Tolliver, and several poor defensive decisions mixed in. Would bringing Beasley off the bench be a good move to bolster our 2nd unit? Player/personality wise it would be a tough pill for Mike to swallow but I have to imagine the impact would be noticeable. This could also probably be fixed simply by having one of Love/Beasley on the floor at all times and with simple, intelligent rotations where we keep scorers on the floor.
4. Ridnour. Many ripped on him to no end earlier this year, but man is he playing extremely well for us lately. Good work, Michael Cera. Even if Flynn weren't playing like garbage, it would be very difficult for him to take Luke's starting job. And as a fan-base, I hope that after 4 years of this level of play we are past the "not playing vets b/c they take minutes away from the young guys" concept. So, my question: would you have rather kept Sessions, or do you like Luke's all around fast paced game and deadeye shooting better?
5. The D-League. Why have we not sent Lazar down to get some burn? Or Pekovic for that matter? Lazar has been pretty bad thus far even when he plays, why not get him some reps in Sioux Falls? Makes absolutely no sense to me. Oh, well.
Enjoy the game tonight and let's hope Brewer can shut down Wesley "Dave" Matthews and Rudy Fail-nandez early on to keep us in it. This Portland team is overachieving like no one's business and what better way for them to lose momentum than a loss at home? One last thought: keep an eye on the Portland/Memphis footrace. It is in our best interest to beat Portland if we want to get our top 14 protected draft pick from the Grizzlies this year. If Memphis makes the playoffs, we get it. If Portland does, that likely puts Memphis in the lottery and delays our pick to next year (which may also be a good thing)