This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” – Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series, which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews key upcoming 76ers games – features tonight’s opponent, the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are 10-11 (against a brutal schedule), but feature Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and one of the highest scoring offenses in the NBA.
After the jump, I’ll look at Fo’ key items for tonight’s game. Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into this Minnesota team the Sixers face tonight from our colleague Tom Westerholm at howlintwolf.com, as Tom will answer Fo’ questions on his T-wolves squad from us here at Philadunkia.
Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight from the Sixers end…
1) A return to form by Spence: On Monday Hawes scored a season-low 2 points on 1-of-6 shooting. He also did not hit a single 3-pointer (0-2), which snapped his streak of 20 games with at least one trey. Obviously that’s not the Spence we have come to know and love in 2013-14. So, tonight I will be watching to see how Hawes responds to his first poor outing of the season. I’m willing to bet he gets back on track in Minny.
2) Wroten Watch (Part Deux): TWroe struggled in the two runs prior to the game at Charlotte last Friday night — 7 points total on 3-8 shooting. However, on the road against CHA Wroten slid into the starting lineup and responded with 21 points on 10-22 shooting. He then posted 20 points on 10-20 from the field in the Sixers next game vs. Denver. But he followed up those two solid efforts with a real clunker (9 points on 2-12 FGAs) against the LAC. More concerning for me was that Wroten was out of control for most of the night. I want to see TWroe contribute tonight, but play under control. I would also appreciate it if Wroten eased up on the 3PAs, as he is 2 for his last 22 from deep. (That is not a typo!)
3) The Defense: “We’ve been emphasizing defense so much,” said Hawes after the Clippers loss. “We’ve been playing a lot better in the last couple games there. Sometimes, it comes at the expense of some things on offense.” Really?!? Did I miss something?!? I’d like to see some of that “better” defensive effort tonight vs. the Wolves who are one of the highest scoring teams in the League (105.5 ppg. – 3rd in the NBA).
4) Keep it Close & Exciting: The Sixers have dropped 11 of 13 and three straight, all by double digits. Additionally, they have lost 8 straight on the road. The last road L was an embarrassing 17 point defeat in Charlotte. So while I don’t anticipate that the 7-6 will win this game tonight, I want the Sixers to come out with energy at the jump, play hard and compete for all four quarters. If they get blown out tonight, we could start to see some cracks appearing in the Sixer locker room. It’s too early for that type of drama.
Q&A with Tom Westerholm at howlintwolf.com:
Philadunkia: The Wolves are 10-11. The stats indicate that the team has struggled mightily on defense and ranks near the bottom of the League with a 42.3 field goal percentage. Is that what you expected from the T-Wolves early on this year?
Tom Westerholm at howlintwolf.com: I’m not particularly surprised, and I’d also contend that the numbers don’t necessarily represent how good the Wolves actually are. Minnesota has faced a murderer’s row of opponents in November, and it doesn’t get much easier in December. Wolves fans would certainly love to see the team beating the Thunder/Heat/Spurs/Pacers/the other elite teams Minnesota has had to face, but these losses are explicable and probably not a permanent fixture, especially as Minnesota’s January schedule projects to clear up a bit.
Philadunkia: Outside of Kevin Love’s ridiculous level of play, what else has impressed you about the Wolves so far this season?
Tom Westerholm at howlintwolf.com: After a slow start to the season, newly-inked (both in the contract and tattoo departments) Nikola Pekovic has been vicious in the post. Smaller defenders have been mostly powerless against him, and he seems to have a couple of new moves we haven’t seen before, in addition to a cleaner half hook which — given his girth — is very difficult to stop. Pek’s ability to fill up the lane will be crucial to Minnesota’s spacing going forward, and he has been playing well over the past few weeks.
Philadunkia: A good number of “experts” liked Shabazz Muhammad as a possible selection for the 76ers at the 2014 Draft. Muhammad has not had much of an impact so far in Minnesota. Can you give us some insights into his lack of tick?
Tom Westerholm at howlintwolf.com: My insight on Shabazz Muhammad is nearly as limited as anyone else’s, since Shabazz’s minutes have been so limited. His NBA career, thus far, has been 31 minutes long, and he’s facing the same problem Derrick Williams faced: This roster is talented and trying to make the playoffs, not bring along a project player. “Bazzketball” may continue to be a rarity this year in Minnesota.
Philadunkia: The 76ers will soon have a number of “assets” on the trading block. Do you see anyone on Brett Brown’s roster generating interest from Minnesota?
Tom Westerholm at howlintwolf.com: Minnesota’s bench could use a scoring punch, and Evan Turner would certainly be a nice piece to add. That being said, the Wolves already traded their biggest, most expendable trade chip (Derrick Williams), and it doesn’t seem likely Minnesota would be able to put together a package that would intrigue Sam Hinkie. But if the Sixers just wanted another draft pick from a team that might end up in the lottery if things go wrong, Evan Turner for Minnesota’s unprotected #1 and various pieces (any interest in Alexey Shved and Shabazz? …anyone?) would certainly be a tempting deal for Minnesota.
**Editor’s Note: We love this Minnesota trade idea that centers on their #1 pick in the 2014 Darft and here it is via ESPN’s trade machine.
Thanks to Tom for his time and answers.
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