Presumptive rookie of the year Karl-Anthony Towns and reigning ROY Andrew Wiggins will make their first joint appearance at the Bradley Center, and in the process they'll be helping bring a subtle irony to the '90s Nickelodeon theme night that will feature Warren G at half time on Friday. Overall, five Bucks (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Tyler Ennis, Damien Inglis and Rashad Vaughn) and four Wolves (Towns, Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Tyus Jones) were born after Warren G's "Regulate" was released in the summer of 1994, underscoring just how young these teams are (and how old I apparently am).
Interestingly, the Bucks and Wolves entered their matchup in Minneapolis on January 2 with nearly identical records -- the Bucks at 13-21 and Minnesota at 12-21. But their fates have diverged somewhat since then, with Minnesota going just 7-21 and the Bucks 12-14 over the past two months. What that means for both franchises is of course open for debate; the Bucks' better record was expected given their success last year, though it won't be good enough for a playoff spot this season and currently has them picking four slots lower than Minnesota in the lottery.
Still, the young Bucks have provided reason for optimism of late, riding the improved play and increased involvement of Antetokounmpo and Parker to a 5-4 record since Greg Monroe and Michael Carter-Williams were moved to the bench in favor of role-playing starters O.J. Mayo and Miles Plumlee. The move has resulted in generally improved numbers from the team's starting five as well as some eye-popping numbers for Giannis and Jabari, all of which has made the not-always-smooth halfcourt offense a bit more digestible. I'm not sure the Bucks' ballhandling duties need to be quite so Giannis-centric -- Mayo and Khris Middleton could help take the load off -- but you get the sense that Jason Kidd is still testing out different approaches with his young team. That experimentation figures to continue on Friday, as Michael Carter-Williams (knee) still hasn't practiced since missing games on Monday and Wednesday.
Adding to the intrigue on Friday is Zach Lowe's report that the Bucks turned down an offer of Ricky Rubio and a protected first round pick for Middleton at the trade deadline:
After some initial talks, the Wolves told the Bucks they would swap Ricky Rubio for Middelton, and when the Bucks declined, the Wolves even discussed the possibility of tossing in a protected 2016 first-round pick, per league sources familiar with the matter. Other outlets have reported of the Bucks' interest in Rubio -- Bucks head coach Jason Kidd seems to have a thing for rangy point guards with busted jumpers -- but they never seriously entertained trading Middleton, sources say.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker were never on the block, leaving the Bucks with only one real counter: a point guard challenge trade of Michael Carter-Williams for Rubio. The Wolves obviously weren't doing that, and discussions died, sources say.
While I consider myself a Rubio fan, it's tough to fault the Bucks with being stingy over Middleton, especially given where the league is headed. Young two-way players who can shoot and are on team-friendly deals will increasingly be at a premium, and the Bucks have one of the most valuable in Middleton. Besides, given what we're seeing from the Bucks' youngsters of late, do they even need a pure point guard?
Wolves Scouting Report
After starting the season with Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince in the starting five, the Timberwolves are now clearly more focused on the development of their young talent than the amount of wins they notch, a point interim head coach Sam Mitchell made clear during his media availability on Friday.
"They all are going to make mistakes. Our young guys are starting to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
"We've just got to go play. We've got some things we're going to try and we hope it works.
Leading the way for Minnesota is Karl-Anthony Towns, the #1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and arguably the league's most untradeable young asset. The 20-year-old KAT is chipping in 17.3 points with 10.3 rebounds on the season and posted another double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds against the Wizards on Wednesday, his 35th on the season. In the last 10 games, he's posted a double-double eight times on top of averaging 21.5 points. The Rookie of the Year trophy is all but his.
Aside from Towns, Wiggins' ability to attack from the midpost and get to the line have helped him boost his scoring to an impressive 20.7 points per game, though his other numbers (25% shooting from three, paltry rebound and assist totals) still leave plenty to be desired. Two-time defending dunk champion Zach LaVine adds 13.2 points per night with a not-so-bashful usage rate of 24.9, though his sophomore year has been at times hampered by getting bounced between the point and his more natural off-guard slot.
|2015/16 NBA Season|
|March 4, 2016|
|BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee|
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|O.J. Mayo||PG||Ricky Rubio|
|Khris Middleton||SG||Zach LaVine|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||SF||Andrew Wiggins|
|Jabari Parker||PF||Gorgui Dieng|
|Miles Plumlee||C||Karl-Anthony Towns|
|2015/16 Advanced Stats|
|94.3 (24th)||Pace||94.8 (21st)|
|104.2 (24th)||ORtg||105.7 (13th)|
|108.6 (25th)||DRtg||109.9 (29th)|