Scouting Report | Wolves vs. Hornets
We saw what this new Wolves group could do in front of a sold-out crowd on Saturday, but now, we’ll also get to see what D’Angelo Russell can do in a welcoming Target Center.
Russell made his debut with the Wolves on Monday night in a 137-126 loss to the Toronto Raptors, in which he recorded 22 points and five assists. Russell already looks comfortable in Minnesota’s system but getting in a practice with the Wolves before Wednesday’s home game against the Charlotte Hornets could do him wonders.
The Hornets improved to 17-36 on the season after defeating the Detroit Pistons 87-76 Monday night. Keep in mind, the Wolves were up 75-74 against Toronto at halftime of Monday’s game. Charlotte’s record is good for 12th in the Eastern Conference standings.
This is the Wolves’ second matchup against the Hornets this season — although it feels like a lifetime ago since these two teams faced each other. The Wolves earned a 121-99 road win in Charlotte on Oct. 25, just their second game of the 2019-20 season.
Rising Star Okogie
Believe it or not, second-year player Josh Okogie is now the second-longest tenured Wolves players just behind five-year player Karl-Anthony Towns. That’s how new this team is.
Okogie will represent the Wolves at the upcoming All-Star weekend events and has recently given us plenty of reminder of why he deserves to compete in the Rising Stars game.
In his last five games, Okogie is averaging 14.4 points on 53.8% shooting from the field along with 3.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals. Not to mention, he’s currently averaging 1.3 offensive rebounds per game, which ranks seventh among guards (the position he’s listed as on NBA.com) who’ve played at least 30 games this season. Offensive rebounds aren’t the flashiest stat out there, but they make a big difference when you think of how many extra possessions they save for the Wolves.
After Monday’s shootaround, Wolves head coach Ryan Saunders gave Okogie the highest praise by saying, “His intentions for the team are always right.”
Saunders went on to commend Okogie’s diligence to being an active cutter and rebounder and said, “I think playing with guys who’re able to break down defenses, that will help Josh, too.”
Okogie will compete with Team World on Friday, Feb. 14, at 9 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on TNT and will also be viewable on the Watch TNT App and on TNT Overtime. In addition, ESPN Radio will broadcast the event from United Center, with audio also available on the ESPN app.
Finding Leadership On Young Teams
Both the Wolves and Hornets have committed to building around a young core of players. The Wolves have committed to investing in Karl-Anthony Towns’ and Russell’s futures, and the average age of their players is 23.6 years old.
The Hornets waived Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams after negotiating buyouts for the two veterans before the trade deadline. Charlotte is seemingly committing to building around 24-year-old Devonte’ Graham, 25-year-old Terry Rozier, 21-year-old PJ Washington and Miles Bridges as the average Hornet player is 24.1 years old.
The Wolves have recently found some veteran leadership in James Johnson, a 32-year-old player in the 11th year of his career who’s already taken it upon himself to serve as a mentor for his inexperienced teammates.
Who will serve the same role in Charlotte? Could it be 31-year-old Nic Batum who’s been with the team since the 2014-15 season? Or will the Hornets rely on their youngsters to show some initiative as they get acquainted with the league? Only time will tell, but both teams’ rebuilds will be eased with willing leaders on their rosters.
Wolves: Jake Layman (toe) and Karl-Anthony Towns (wrist) are out.
Hornets: Cody Martin (concussion) is out.
Wolves: PG—Russell, SG—Beasley, SF—Okogie, PF—Hernangomez, C—Reid
Hornets: PG—Graham, SG—Rozier, SF—Washington, PF—Bridges, C—Zeller