The Memphis Grizzlies will travel to Minnesota for a double-header series with the Timberwolves. Granted, we won’t get Jaren Jackson Jr. vs. Karl-Anthony Towns...or Ja Morant vs. D’Angelo Russell...or Justise Winslow vs. Anthony Edwards.
But hey, it’s still going to be a good one, right?
I talked with Jake Paynting from SB Nation’s Canis Hoopus — the Minnesota Timberwolves blog — for our “5 Questions” for this series.
What are your early returns on Anthony Edwards so far?
Anthony Edwards has been pretty much what most draft heads expected thus far. On the surface, his physical attributes jump off the screen, the size combined with the athleticism makes for jaw-dropping driving sequences and finishes around the rim and his ability to blow by defenders with ease thanks to his lightning quick first step makes those plays materialize more often than most. On the other hand, Edwards’ shot selection leaves something to be desired. His ability to create space for his jumper is one of his biggest strengths, but he leans on it too often instead of attacking the basket consistently.
Defensively, he is still learning the ropes. He is prone to off-ball lapses and misguided gambles on-ball, but, again, his size and lateral speed allow him to make up for some of those deficicneces.
What else does this team need in the rebuild?
To put it plainly, this team needs defenders who give a damn. Karl-Anthony Towns has only played three games, but he seems to have adopted a different mindset toward defense. Along with Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver, he one of the few on this team that has shown an inclination to defend. Minnesota have multiple players who can fill up the points column in the box score, but not as many who can - and want to - get down and dirty defensively.
Whether the Wolves acquire these players externally or they find another gear for the guys currently on the roster remains to be seen. But this rebuild will continue to stall until a more consistent defensive mindset is instilled.
Aside from KAT/DLo/Ant, which prospect on the Timberwolves has impressed you the most so far, and who comes across as a potential complementary piece next to them?
In the 14 games he played after arriving in the Twin Cities post-trade deadline and the 10 games so far this season, Malik Beasley has shown he has the tools to be a deadeye shooter with budding off-the-dribble game and eye-popping bounce at the rim. Heading into the Memphis tilt, Beasley is averaging 19.4 points per night, hitting a tasty 45.5 percent of his field goals and 39.1 percent of the 6.4 3-pointers he launches per night. Beasley’s 4-year, $60 million deal raised a few eyebrows in the offseason, but he is doing his best to keep that contract looking like a semi-steal so far.
On a cheaper and more under-the-radar note, Jarred Vanderbilt has quietly forced his way into the rotation early on and is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Vanderbilt is a tenacious rebounder, an energizer bunny defensively and a strong lob threat in pick-and-roll. He hasn’t played with Towns enough so far to get a good look at how the pairing work, but Vanderbilt’s strengths theoretically provide the yin to Towns’ yang.
Which non Ja or Jaren Jackson Jr. prospect from Memphis is the most intriguing?
To me, it’s the answer is easily Desmond Bane. Bane was a favorite of mine in the pre-draft process and, as usual, the Grizzlies made the smart pick. I don’t have to remind Memphis fans of his 3-point prowess, but it’s still unfathomable that he has walked into the league and is nailing 47.5 percent of his triples of 4 attempts per night. Throw in his strong frame which will help him become a stout defender and his high IQ passing feel, and the makings of a legitimate contender-style role player is plain to see. Safe to say, I’m jealous of anyone who gets to watch Desmond Bane every night.
By the way, there has to be an honorable mention for Brandon Clarke here, another Draft Twitter darling who has hit the big leagues with the same sort of impact he had in college.
Which matchup are you looking forward to the most?
It’s not really a battle of the biggest names, but Dillon Brooks and Josh Okogie should be a battle worth seeing. Brooks has consistently baked the Wolves since arriving in Memphis, and Okogie has become the Timberwolves’ most consistent and aggressive defender. While there is other matchups that have more name brand pizzazz, but the wing duel could be the one that decides the outcomes of the back-to-back meetings.