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 upcoming 76ers opponents — features today’s MLK Day matinee opponents the Minnesota Timberwolves.
We expect a high scoring affair this afternoon as the game will feature two of the worst defensive teams in the NBA. Minnesota is giving up 106.75 ppg. on the season, the third highest opponent’s scoring average in the League. The 76ers are allowing nearly 101 ppg., which ranks Philadunkia’s home team 12th in the NBA in opponents’ scoring average.
The biggest question for us regarding today’s game is how will the Sixers attempt to defend the T-Wolves low post tandem of Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. To start the game, Dalembert will probably draw the assignment of guarding “Big Al” and that’s most likely going to lead to early foul trouble for Sammy. On the offensive end, as the anchor of the Sixers defense and on the glass, Sammy has been playing out of this world of late, but he has yet to kick his habit of committing stupid fouls. So we would imagine the Wolves will go right at Sammy and hope to send him to the bench early.
We also predict that Sixers starting power forward Thaddeus Young will have trouble with Kevin Love (6-10; 265) down low. Obviously Brand will get a chance at guarding Love as well which is a better defensive match-up for the Sixers on the blocks, but could provide another challenge for the Sixers. Love is the best 3-point shooter on the Wolves (39%) and covering big-guys on the move and on the perimeter is not a defensive strength for Brand. Hopefully Brand can slow Love down some while keeping his own rhythm on offense. Speights won’t be able to guard either of the Wolves big men, so we wouldn’t be surprised if Jason Smith suddenly gets freed from the bench for some extended minutes this afternoon.
Despite the challenges he 76ers face with the two big men of the T-Wolves, we like the Sixers to win the game this afternoon and dare we say easily. The Wolves in general can not shoot, play no defense, struggle mightily from three-ville and their two premiere bigs are very slow. So the Sixers will get a W today by playing fast and owning the defensive glass.
For a little more insight into the Timberwolves team the Sixers face today, we turn to our man Patrick Hodgdon from howlintwolf.com to answer two questions on the Wolves from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on the Minny squad from an insider’s perspective.
Philadunkia : The T-wolves are 8-33, but a lot of so called experts like the “young pieces” that have been assembled in Minnesota. What are your thoughts on the roster of young talent the Wolves have in place for the long run (Love, Jefferson, Brewer, Flynn)? Can they eventually become a winning franchise again with this core group or are there some fatal flaws?
Patrick Hodgdon @ howlintwolf.com :The Wolves have done well to get good young pieces for their rebuilding effort. David Kahn likes to use the word ‘asset’ when talking about building the team into a contender and I think he is well on his way. The key to whether these particular pieces are going to be Wolves into the future is their play in Rambis’ triangle offense. Love is clearly a building block as his game is well suited in the triangle not to mention he’s been playing under the radar as a top 25 player in the league by just about any metric. (PER, Win Scores and adjusted +/-) Although there have been rumblings of trade rumors, Jefferson has really been coming on of late coming back from knee surgery and has shown improvement on defense and in the triangle. Likewise Corey Brewer has finally looked like an NBA player after starting the season looking like a bust. He still needs to go to Josh Smith reform school to cut down on the 3’s but his mid-range shooting looks good and he has been moving well in the triangle to go along with his defense and energy. The big question mark of the core is the future at point guard. Jonny Flynn is still the starter but is still struggling adjusting to an offense that takes the ball out of his hands. Meanwhile Ramon Sessions has proven himself to be solid in backup minutes and clearly the better defender. While neither has proven themselves yet to be the future at point guard Ricky Rubio has been playing well in Spain. So the point guard situation is still a big question mark. And all of this is without getting into the fact that all Wolves fans would love to add John Wall to the list of options. It should be interesting to say the least.
Philadunkia : Rookie Wayne Ellington is a very popular local kid here in Philly. He’s seeing limited minutes in Minnesota, but what have you seen out of Ellington so far this season?
Patrick Hodgdon @ howlintwolf.com : Ellington has actually seen an increase of minutes of late and is really starting to carve a nice role for himself as a wing shooter off the bench. He hit some big 3’s in that overtime game against Houston last week. I’d really like to see him start opposite Brewer soon. If he keeps up his good play he will keep earning more minutes and start to cement himself as another piece in the Wolves foundation going forward.
Two Points of Analysis from Patrick Hodgdon @ howlintwolf.com :
1) Key Matchup– Iguodola vs. Brewer. When Brewer plays well (which means shoots well) the Wolves have a chance to win. If he can do that and keep Iguodola from scoring a ton I like the Wolves chances.
2) Rookie Wall? – Jonny Flynn’s season has gone in the tank of late – 10 for his last 41 FGA (24.3%). Yet the hot free-agent point guard acquisition of the 2009 off-season Ramon Sessions continues to see limited minutes (21 mpg.) off Kurt Rambis’ bench