The Sixers play their second home game of the young season tonight, hosting the undefeated Minnesota Timberwolves. To learn more about this Minnesota team, I talked to John Meyer, who covers the Wolves for Forbes and Canis Hoopus.
Let’s start with former Sixer Robert Covington. Covington made an immediate impact after being traded for Jimmy Butler, helping turn around what had been a bad Minnesota defense before suffering a season-ending injury. What are your expectations for Covington in his first full season with the Timberwolves?
I expect the Wolves to ease him back a bit slower and not ask him to play 40 minutes like Tom Thibodeau would’ve done if he were still around. RoCo is the second-best player on the team and clicks with Karl-Anthony Towns both mentally and schematically. I expect him to hit tons of threes and defend his ass off. He’s a small-ball 4 this season and it’s giving teams fits. It’s no secret that Covington is a premier 3-and-D talent capable of propping up any defense (by the way, the drop coverage the Wolves are using with KAT and Noah Vonleh has worked tremendously early on). Associate head coach and defensive coordinator David Vanterpool has been a miracle-worker on that end and the return of Lord Covington is obviously helping.
Just a couple of years ago, the Wolves were making a push for the third seed in the Western Conference behind a career year from Butler. Now, they are considered likely going to miss out on the playoffs for the second season in a row. How far away do you think this team is from being a likely playoff team? What do they need to get there?
Most people still expect them to miss the playoffs but this 3-0 start is an encouraging sign. Perhaps they aren’t as far away as many people might think. I certainly don’t think they are far away or even that sneaking into the 8th seed this season is unrealistic with the new culture and chemistry under the league’s youngest head coach in Ryan Saunders. The franchise has finally empowered Towns, and look who won the first player of the week award in the West. (Towns has been silly good to start with an offense fully centered around leveraging his immensely good scoring chops.) The new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas is still Star Hunting and the front office desperately wants a long-term point guard sidekick next to Towns. If and when that happens, another jump should be in store. But for now, it’s pretty clear to me that they’re going to give a lot of teams hell with their tempo and “react and react” offensive scheme this season.
With the season still being very young, let’s hear your most bold prediction for the Timberwolves this season.
PLAYOFFS. Enough said, right? Nobody thought it could be done after such dramatic change in the past year.
Thank you to John for chatting with us!