In the middle of a five-game homestand, the Wolves take on the Sacremento Kings. The Wolves really need a win here, coming after a tough overtime loss against the Philadelphia 76ers, and this game, as well as the next against the Phoenix Suns, is a game that the Wolves should be able to handle.
This is the Wolves first match-up with the new-look Kings, who are amidst their rebuilding after jettisoning DeMarcus Cousins last season. Over the last offseason, the Kings drafted De’Aaron Fox, as well as picking up Harry Giles and Justin Jackson, while adding a couple of veterans in George Hill, Vince Carter, and Zach Randolph to help mentor the young team.
That plan, similarly to the one Flip Saunders tried to pull years ago, has not exactly worked out. The Kings have the 29th ranked offensive rating with the 26th ranked defensive rating. They have the worst SRS in the league and, thankfully for the Wolves, play at the 3rd slowest pace in the NBA.
George Hill has recently been publicly open about his frustrations, particularly as his playing time is starting to get overtaken by the young players. The problem for the Kings is they have about 12 guys who are all getting about 13 minutes a game, with nobody above 26.3 minutes. They are mixing and matching lineups constantly, so it is likely hard for any of the veterans to really get into a rhythm when you are constantly being thrown out of the loop by new teammates.
The other issue is that, as Wolves fans were familiar with during the Point LaVine season, having a rookie out there at point guard is almost always a recipe for disaster. De’Aaron Fox is the team’s leader in minutes and takes the third most shots for the team, but he is shooting 40 percent from the field and 29.7 percent from three, with a 1.7 assist to turnover ratio. That is only with 3.9 assists per game.
Add to the mix a bunch of young players who are trying to figure it out like Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield, and Skal Labissiere, a group of NBA journeymen in Kosta Koufos and Garrett Temple, and then the aforementioned old fellas, and you got yourself a pretty abjectly awful NBA team.
Of course, the Timberwolves are particularly good at losing to teams just like this.
Just this season we have seen the Wolves lose to the Pacers without Myles Turner, the Phoenix Suns, the Memphis Grizzlies without Mike Conley, and the Wizards with John Wall, all while barely holding onto victory against a bevy of lesser teams.
Tonight, at least, hopefully offers a reprieve, particularly if the starters can amass a large lead and the bench unit can get a bit longer run. Of all the games in the season to utilize a deeper bench, this would high up on the list.
This will also hopefully be a game where Andrew Wiggins can get back on track. Looking at the Kings roster, I’m not sure who is going to be able to keep up with Wiggins, not to mention Jimmy Butler. The Wolves will really have an advantage at the wing position for this matchup, as the Kings best wing might very well be 41-year-old Vince Carter.
On defense, the Wolves will have to work to contain Zach Randolph, who is the Kings leading scorer. It is likely Taj Gibson is not going to get much of a break here, matching up with Randolph just a few days after battling Joel Embiid.
Let’s hope for a stress-free night tonight. The Wolves have not allowed themselves to have very many “easy” victories this year. This should be one.
Projected Starting Lineups
Prediction - Wolves 112 - Kings 99. Wiggins puts up 30-plus points.