Both teams have a big man whose skill defies being pigeonholed into one position. Both have a young core of players. But the Milwaukee Bucks, who played the Timberwolves at Target Center on Friday night, might be a year ahead of the Wolves in the process.
The Bucks are building around skilled point-forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and forward Jabari Parker. Forward Khris Middleton, who is recovering from surgery, has yet to make his season debut.
Antetokounmpo is in his fourth season. Parker, chosen right after top pick Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 draft, is in his third.
The Wolves have Karl-Anthony Towns (second season), Wiggins and Zach LaVine (third season each).
"I was in the same division. I watched what they've done," Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. Thibodeau was in Chicago when Antetokounmpo and Parker were drafted. "They've drafted well. They've added some good pieces; I had Tony Snell in Chicago. … They've added really good players and there is a lot of versatility and length to their team. Guys who can play multiple positions.''
Antetokounmpo's skill at 6-11 has been eye-opening, though Thibodeau was quick with the old-school point-forward comparisons. "Paul Pressey was one of the first," he said. "Oscar Robertson. It's happened before. But, with the utilization of the three, you're seeing guys stretch it out a little bit.''
Milwaukee won 15 games in 2013-14. A year later the Bucks jumped up and won 41, losing in the first round of the playoffs to Thibodeau's Bulls. Last season they won 39. They are 15-16 after losing to the Wolves 116-99 Friday.
"There is a lot of young talent in this league," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "Minnesota is one of those teams with a lot of young talent and a great coach. But it takes time. There are growing pains in understanding how to play the game at a very high level. You have to learn. These are 21-year olds learning to play the game at high level.''
It's never too late
Kidd was a past-first point guard who struggled with his shot early in his NBA career. Sound familiar?
Ricky Rubio is often compared to Kidd, who blossomed into a decent three-point threat later in his career. Starting at age 28, in his eighth season, Kidd hit at least 100 three-pointers in nine of 10 seasons, shooting 36.0 percent from behind the arc in that time.
"It was just practice and age," Kidd said. "It's just taking your time, trusting all the things you worked on. It takes time when you're a pass-first guy. You have so many things going through your head. When you become a little more selfish and starting thinking about yourself a little bit, that's when your shooting tends to improve a little bit.''
Rubio is 26, in his sixth season, a career 36.8 percent shooter, 31.3 on three-pointers. But Kidd said it's never too late. "You can always become a better shooter,'' he said. "As you get older, for sure.''
Local keep battling
Tyus Jones and Rashad Vaughn played together growing up in the Twin Cities. They played against each other when Jones was at Apple Valley High School and Vaughn was at Cooper. They were both chosen in the first round of the 2015 draft after one year in college. And both are still fighting for regular minutes in the NBA.
Jones, drafted No. 24 overall, has appeared in 20 games, averaging 11 minutes and 3.3 minutes at point guard. Vaughn, picked 17th, didn't make the trip with the Bucks because of a left ankle sprain. But before the injury he was fighting for minutes, averaging 4.4 points per game.
"We're pretty good friends," Jones said. "And we're in kind of the same situation, trying to earn our keep in the league.''