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Game 14: Prelude to A Fresh Start

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A depleted Wolves roster hosts Brooklyn

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Timberwolves (4-9) vs Brooklyn Nets (6-7)

7:00pm CST

FS North

After a wild weekend for the Wolves, the focus can (kind of) return to the hardwood tonight, and for the first time this year there is some optimism around this team.

Jimmy Butler, in case you didn’t hear, has been traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jared Bayless and a future second-round pick. The common reaction around the team and the fanbase is relief and optimism towards a fresh start, but we won’t quite get that fresh start yet. It’s highly unlikely we will see our return for Butler tonight, so Minnesota may be a bit depleted.

The statuses of both Derrick Rose (face) and Jeff Teague (knee) are unclear, and Andrew Wiggins (quad) is listed as questionable. Pair this with Butler’s exit, and the squad Minnesota will be running with tonight may be low on bodies. To partially make up for this, Minnesota has recalled Keita Bates-Diop from the G-League, so it will be worth seeing what Bates-Diop can offer the team right now.

In terms of the confirmed active players for the night, there’s a lot to watch for. It would not be surprising to see a KAT explosion, especially if Wiggins and/or Rose are out. There is going to be a ton of field goal attempts up for grabs, and we can only hope most of them go to KAT.

The injury report and roster moves also suggest that we’re going to get a heavy dose of Josh Okogie tonight. It will be intriguing to see what the rookie can do with his increased playing time tonight.

As for the Wolves opponent, Brooklyn comes in at a respectable 6-7. This is the type of team that will make you look foolish if you take them lightly. They are well coached, disciplined, and work their tails off. It is hard to say what exactly we should expect from Minnesota in tonight’s game, but if they don’t take the Nets seriously they will not compete in this game.

Brooklyn is driven by a quartet of young guard/wing players along with some intriguing front court pieces.

Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell will handle most of the ball-handling duties, while being flanked by Caris Levert and Allen Crabbe on the wing. There’s a lot to like about this young backcourt in Brooklyn. They bring an abundance of offensive creativity and shooting that Minnesota will have to lock in on defensively.

Dinwiddie, in particular, will probably enjoy his return to the Target Center where he sunk a game winner at the buzzer last year to beat the Wolves. He oozes confidence, and rest assured he’ll be looking to get his points again tonight.

Levert is maybe the least well-known of this group, but he’s been outstanding this season for Brooklyn. He’s giving them 19/4/4 a night on roughly 48% from the field, displaying much of the skill that made him an intriguing draft prospect at Michigan before injuring his foot.

In the front court, Brooklyn will line up with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jarrett Allen, a group that brings positional flexibility on defense, solid rim protection, and effort on the glass. If the Wolves continue their season-long trend of refusing to box-out, they are going to get annihilated on the backboards.

This is the largest area of concern, in my opinion. While some of it has to do with Hollis-Jefferson and Allen, much more of my concern comes from Minnesota’s inability to rebound thus far. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but this is going to be one of the main keys for the Wolves every single game this year until the problem gets corrected.

The other point of emphasis tonight for Minnesota, as mentioned earlier, has to be feeding KAT. With Butler and the chemistry issues with him gone now, we need to see KAT look like, well, KAT. We’ve seen that dominant player in spurts this year, but it’s time for us to see him each game, starting with tonight.

His shooting numbers are solid from behind the three-point line, but he is only shooting 48.5% on his two-point field goal attempts. That’s awful for a 7-footer, and it is extremely uncharacteristic from Towns. Until this year, his lowest field goal percentage on two-pointers was 55.9%.

I’d expect to see that number rise steadily throughout the year as Karl returns to his pre-Butler Drama self. I think we get a monster game from KAT tonight somewhere around the 39/19 he had against Sacramento on Friday.

We are close to truly beginning this fresh start, and tonight will be the prelude to that.

Projected Lineups

Minnesota Timberwolves

Jeff Teague

Josh Okogie

Andrew Wiggins

Taj Gibson

Karl-Anthony Towns

Brooklyn Nets

D’Angelo Russell

Allen Crabbe

Demarre Carroll

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Jarrett Allen