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Five Questions for Grizzlies vs. Timberwolves

I talk with the opponent as the budding Grizzlies-Timberwolves rivalry continues in tonight’s matchup.

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Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images

After eliminating them from the playoffs six months ago, the Memphis Grizzlies will face the Minnesota Timberwolves for the first time, tonight. In what was one of the most exciting playoff series last year, Memphis prevailed in six games on the backs of incredible performances from Desmond Bane and Ja Morant.

Minnesota traded for Rudy Gobert during the offseason, shipping away Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler, four first-round picks, and a pick swap. The deal was heavily criticized but the Timberwolves were widely regarded as a contender in the Western Conference. Despite this, the Wolves are off to a 5-7 start and the vibes certainly do not seem immaculate.

Bane was incredible in last year’s series against Minnesota and he has been even better this season. Memphis will need another strong performance from the third-year guard to fend off the Timberwolves, tonight. To prepare for tonight’s exciting matchup, I chatted with Brendan Hedtke, a writer for Canis Hoopus — the Timberwolves SBNation blog.

Expectations were high for Minnesota this year but the Timberwolves are off to a slow start. What has been more of an issue: chemistry or team fit?

Honestly, it has been an effort issue more than anything. I think the pieces make quite a bit of sense from a fit standpoint, so I’m inclined to believe that isn’t their issue. While it’s clear there is a lack of chemistry on the court, which can be seen by the massive amount of turnovers, defensive rotation mistakes, and general miscommunication, I think that a lot of that gets solved by playing hard and trusting each other.

Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

It has only been 12 games, but how would you say the Rudy Gobert experiment has worked out?

I’d say it obviously hasn’t, yet. But, I also am pretty confident that it will work out. I don’t want to be the one who cops out and says they need time, but that is certainly a part of it. However, going back to the effort thing, it feels like a decently simple fix. Now it’s time to see if the Wolves have the personnel to fix it.

A lot of it also has to do with knowing how Rudy plays, where he’s comfortable, and how much they can trust him. Defensively, I think the Wolves could pressure the ball more and trust the fact that Rudy has their back at the rim if their man gets a step on them.

Desmond Bane was incredible in Memphis’s first-round series against Minnesota. He averaged 23.5 points on 50% shooting and 49.1% from three, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. This year, Bane took another leap and has been even more spectacular. What steps can Minnesota take to slow down Bane?

I think it will take a concerted effort and focus from Anthony Edwards. Jaden McDaniels will likely end up defending Ja Morant, which leaves Ant or D’Lo on Bane. But, maybe Coach Finch thinks Edwards will show up more for the Morant matchup and put McDaniels on Bane. Either way, those guys will not be able to get lost. There can not be possessions where they ball watch, because Bane will make them pay with his off-ball shooting.

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves - Game Four Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Anthony Edwards has struggled as of late. In his last three games, he has averaged 15.3 points on 41% shooting and 18.8% from three, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. From what you have seen, what is going on with Edwards?

I think it’s just been a focus issue. He’s always been an up-and-down player. Seems to me like this is just one of his short slumps. I don’t think there has been a big issue that he’s been frustrated with leading to him being unproductive. He’s a young player still figuring out how to be effective night in and night out.

It cannot be denied that Minnesota and Memphis developed a rivalry in the playoffs last year. If the Wolves are able to right the ship, do you think the Gobert trade propelled them over the Grizzlies in the Western Conference Hierarchy?

Before the season, I was incredibly bullish on this Wolves team. I predicted they’d be the 4th or 5th seed in the Western Conference at the end of the year. Believe it or not, I still think that is where they finish up. As for Memphis, I thought that the losses of Kyle Anderson and De’Anthony Melton were going to be bigger than many were giving it credit. Both of those players were key pieces to what the Grizzlies did last season. I actually thought Memphis was going to be the sixth seed at best this season. They currently sit 8-4, but I think they haven’t had much for real challenges yet this year. We will see how it goes. It’s hard to really get a feel for the league until 20-25 games into the year.

If I had to give you a straight answer, I think this Wolves team, at the end of the year, will have a better record than Memphis. That could be homerism talking, but I am not ready to back off my preseason predictions just yet. Going a step further, I think the Wolves set themselves up to have a better season next year than they will have this season and I don’t think I can say the same about Memphis.

Phoenix Suns v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Bonus Question: How has the Slo-Mo experience been?

Kyle has been great. He’s one of the steady players on this team that you can seem to count on. We had a stretch in the game against the Rockets when Anderson was effectively playing point guard on offense and center on defense, which is just awesome. As this team figures its stuff out, I think he will become an incredibly important piece for this roster.


Thank you, Brendan, for participating in today’s Five Questions with the Opponent. Make sure to follow Brendan on Twitter (@B_HedtkeNBA), along with Canis Hoopus (@canishoopus), for the best Timberwolves coverage.

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