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See the future: Mavericks v. Timberwolves Preview

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The Minnesota Timberwolves, like the Dallas Mavericks, are missing a lot of what should make them a dangerous team this year. The difference is that the Wolves are trying to make some first time noise, while the Mavericks have somewhat higher aspirations.

There's no real timetable on Ricky Rubio's return, Kevin Love is not expected to be back this month while Brandon Roy, in what could only be dubbed the most shocking of all possible news stories, sat out the Wolves' last game with knee soreness.

Nevertheless, the Wolves have eked out a 4-2 record so far this season, beating the Nets, Magic, Pacers and Kings, and while their offense has sputtered (91.8 ppg, good for 23rd), their defense, helmed by Bond Villain Look-Alike Nikola Pekovic and recently returned Huge World of Warcraft Tattoo having Andrei Kirilenko, is 5th in the league, giving up a meager 89.5 points a game. They've played mostly terrible teams but, then, the Mavericks gave up 101 to the Bobcats Saturday so I'm not exactly pointing fingers.

If you're wondering whether Kirilenko got the hilariously hideous full-back tattoo to distract everybody from his admission that his wife lets him have one affair a year, I'd go with...probably?

Anyway. Here's what you need to know. Pek, a very capable big man but hardly a lights-out offensive player, leads the team in scoring (and in most Bond Girlfriends strangled), and recent Houston castoff Chase Budinger is right behind him, so it would seem to be a pretty favorable matchup for a Mavericks team that has not so far had much trouble scoring. That being said, the Wolves are a pretty deep team, with 6 players in the vicinity of 10 points a game, including old friend JJ Barea, the first official flopper in NBA history.

The Wolves also jettisoned all-world headcase Michael Beasley and all-world disappointment Darko Milicic in the offseason, finally giving up on their dream to collect as many of the worst #2 draft picks of all time as possible, and can only be considered a saner team for it.

As far as the Mavericks are concerned, if both teams are missing their two top players, the Wolves' top two are a combined 46 years old, so nobody's feeling too sorry for them.

The Mavericks are coming off a very disappointing loss to the Bobcats, which slipped out of their grasps several times, and we're starting to see a bit of a trend here. Against the Knicks, on the 9th, the Mavs offense scored 57 in the first half, 37 in the second. Against the Bobcats, it was 55 in the first, 36 in the second. Even against the Raptors, a game the Mavericks won, but which almost slipped away, they scored 61 in the first half and 48 in the second.

So: Can the Mavericks finish games? They'll get another chance to do so against a thin team, not at its best---but, of course, the very same words could be turned on them.

The good news for both teams is that, if they meet in April, this one won't mean anything.