Parker vs. Wiggins, Episode I: Bucks – Timberwolves Preview

What to Watch For: Bucks (8-7)

The obvious storyline here is the first meeting between two of the most hyped rookies of the last decade. Neither Jabari Parker nor Andrew Wiggins have set the world on fire just yet, but they’re both off to solid, albeit relatively quiet, starts.

Parker hasn’t always displayed the assertiveness we saw at Duke, but he’s picked his spots well, for the most part, and demonstrated a wide range of scoring capabilities. Wiggins has been somewhat lost in the shuffle for a rebuilding Wolves team still trying to navigate Year 1 of the post-Love era. He’s coming off of easily his strongest game to date, a 29-point, five-rebound performance against the Kings on Saturday, so how much confidence he gained from that game will be something to keep an eye on.

Parker played well in Tuesday’s win over Detroit, going for 14 points (7-10 FG), nine rebounds and one nicely adjusted and-1 dunk on Josh Smith in 27 minutes. Lines like that have characterized Parker’s “good” games through the first month of the season, as he’s eclipsed 20 points only once. Part of the reason for that is he’s grown content with finding his scoring opportunities within the flow of the game, rather than dominating the ball in one-on-one situations. Plus, he’s been a virtual non-factor from beyond the arc. After attempting 3.0 three-pointers per game, and converting at a 36% clip, at Duke last season, Parker is just 4-of-16 from deep thus far with the Bucks.

What to Watch For: Timberwolves (3-9)

This banged-up Timberwolves defense is bad. Despite having a bevy of elite athletes, Minnesota struggles to contain shooters and especially struggles against good teams, allowing at least 102 points in all nine losses. The Bucks aren’t necessarily a good team yet, but they’re competent enough to give the Wolves trouble. The problem for Milwaukee is that with half-man-half-grizzly-bear Nikola Pekovic out due to a wrist injury, Gorgui Dieng – a far superior rim-protector – is expected to get the start at center.

And, of course, the Wiggins-Parker battle takes center stage for the Wolves, as well. Unfortunately for everyone, both rookies are already seasoned PR robots at this stage in their young careers, so there hasn’t been much build-up or trash talking, but another rookie, Zach LeVine, offered this:

So yeah. That’s about as close to a pregame shoving match as we’re going to get. Let’s hope LaVine is right.

When the two met in the preseason, Parker got the best of Wiggins, putting up 21 and 11 in a 105-98 Bucks win. Wiggins finished with 10 points and six boards in 27 minutes. The teams met again a few days later but Wiggins was held out with back soreness.

Logistics:

Time – 7:00 p.m. CST  TV – FS-Wisconsin  Radio – 620 WTMJ

Injury Report

Bucks: Damien Inglis (post-surgery — right ankle; out); Johnny O’Bryant (right knee sprain; out)

Timberwolves: Kevin Martin (fractured wrist; out); Nikola Pekovic (sprained wrist; out); Ricky Rubio (sprained ankle; out); Ronny Turiaf (hip injury; out); Mo Williams (illness; questionable)

Projected Lineups

Bucks: Brandon KnightO.J. MayoGiannis Antetokounmpo – Jabari Parker – Larry Sanders

Timberwolves: Mo Williams (?) – Corey Brewer – Andrew Wiggins – Anthony Bennett – Gorgui Dieng

Choose the Form of the Destructor: Mo Williams

Williams has stepped up nicely in the absence of Rubio, particularly as a playmaker. He’s averaging 13.3 points and 9.3 assists over his last four games and had 12+ assists in two of those contests. Brandon Knight will likely be tasked with chasing him around for most of the night, and Williams (assuming he plays, of course) should see big minutes with LaVine as the only available backup.

Moderately interesting note: Williams’ 15.7 career points per game against the Bucks is his second-highest against any team (Miami: 16.3).

Prediction: Milwaukee 105 – Minnesota 94

The Wolves have allowed at least 112 points in six of their nine losses, but let’s not get carried away here.

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