The preseason narrative for the Timberwolves went a little something like this: Sure, they struggled to carve out any offensive consistency a season ago, but with better health and continuity this year would be different.
The Wolves planned to build an identity around stout defense and crisp ball movement, with the goal of reaching at least the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time in 20 years. An undefeated preseason was encouraging.
One game of the regular season, especially one of 82, should not undo that goal or cause us to overreact. But after watching the Wolves' 97-94 to the Raptors on Wednesday, this much is certain: The Wolves had better hope their offensive execution was the exception and not the rule in regards to the rest of the season, or else this roster won't be together much longer.
As I talked about on Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast, the Wolves fell back on alarming habits from a year ago.
Head coach Chris Finch had to use the dreaded word "sticky" to describe a lack of ball movement, while star Anthony Edwards had an even more puzzling but adjacent explanation.
"Started with me not moving the ball," Edwards said afterwards. "I don't know what I was doing tonight, but I'll get back to it. We'll be all right. ... I feel like I just got carried away and fell out of our strategy and started taking crazy shots."
Sorry, Ant. This is Year 4 of your career. This is your team. Getting caught up in isolation temptations might happen for a couple possessions in a game, but it can't define 48 minutes.
It was painful to watch in real time, and the resulting data was almost as ghastly. In shooting just 34% for the game, the Wolves took 18 shots (making just five) when a defender was within two feet of a shooter (defined as "very tight" coverage by the NBA's advanced data dashboard). They took another 43 shots with the nearest defender two to four feet away ("tight" coverage). Just 17% of their shots were wide open looks, third-lowest among NBA teams on opening night.
One game is a minuscule sample size, but one game plus one season (2022-23) is not. The Wolves need to hope the poor ball movement that led to contested shots and eventually a loss to a mediocre Eastern Conference team was not a standard set for this season.
If it was the standard? With salaries and the Wolves salary cap about to skyrocket, we'll surely see a much different roster on opening night next year.
Here are four more things to know today:
*At least the Wolves didn't have to have a players-only meeting after the first game of the season like the Bulls did.
*The Wolves game was a lesson in process leading to results. Kirk Cousins talked about the same concept — albeit in the sense of what happens when a mistake still yields a positive play — on Wednesday.
*Friday's podcast will feature La Velle E. Neal III on the Twins offseason plans and the World Series.