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Wolves vs Magic: Punching Across

The Wolves face off against the Orlando Magic

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Minnesota Timberwolves (17-21) host Orlando Magic (17-20)
7:00 CST
FS North

The Minnesota Timberwolves should probably not have nearly the same record as the Orlando Magic. The Wolves theoretically have two (or one and a quarter) stars in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins compared to Orlando’s zero. The Magic just picked 6th in the last draft, picking up another Mohamed Bamba to go with their nonsensical core of Aaron Gordon and Jonathon Isaac. Their starting point guard is D.J. Augustin, which is somehow working. They have approximately 20 centers on their roster, which includes Timofey Mozgov. They are quite accomplished at picking players, giving up on them, and trading them away to watch them find success elsewhere.

They also are winning a decent amount of games, although it is hard to tell why. Their net rating is -3.3, 24th in the NBA, their SRS is -3.65, again 24th in the NBA, and their offensive rating is terrible with a mediocre defensive rating.

They shoot an average amount of threes (ranked 18th) and make an average amount of them (ranked 16th). They play slow, but take the least amount of free throws in the league. They do not rebound particularly well, nor do they get many steals.

Playing in the Eastern Conference must have its benefits.

However, the Wolves are going to be shorthanded yet again tonight. Robert Covington has been ruled out and Derrick Rose is doubtful. However, Jeff Teague will be returning to the starting lineup.

How Thibs handled this last game was a bit odd. With a limited wing and guard rotation, Anthony Tolliver was pressed into small forward duties over James Nunnally, Luol Deng, and Keita-Bates Diop. Against Boston that was a bit nonsensical considering their heavy wing rotation, but Orlando is more likely to run a heavy big lineup, which makes playing Tolliver down a position more palatable.

Orlando starts huge though, which will give either Andrew Wiggins or Josh Okogie a defensive challenge. Gordon, Isaac, and Nikola Vucevic make up the front court rotation, so either Wiggins or Okogie is going to be matched up against Gordon while the other chases Evan Never Google around. Fournier always kills the Wolves and the recent failure corralling three-point shooters is not promising.

The other defensive challenge will be for Karl-Anthony Towns. Nikola Vucevic has been having a career year, average 20 points and 12 rebounds a game while shooting at a decent clip from beyond the arc. He is one of the centers that has been successful at reinventing himself in the new NBA era.

On the other end of the court though, Towns should be able to feast. Vucevic has never been able to keep up with Towns. An interesting wrinkle that Orlando may try is throwing Isaac on Towns, as he is exactly the type of long, wiry player that frustrated Towns last year. The Wolves may not have enough spacing to take advantage of Orlando fronting Towns with Issac and letting Vucevic hang around the rim.

The Wolves really should win this game though. They are simply a more talented team than Orlando. But Orlando has taken some wins against solid teams this year, beating the Celtics, Spurs, 76ers, Lakers, Jazz, Raptors, and Pistons. It is certainly not out of the question for them to beat the Wolves, particularly a shorthanded version of the team.

If the Wolves lose this game, following on a bad road trip that came after that horrible loss to Atlanta, our vision of a bad season is going to start solidifying. They really need to pull out a win to get back on track. The Western Conference is not going to wait for the Wolves to get healthy.

Potential Starting Lineups

Minnesota Timberwolves

Jeff Teague
Andrew Wiggins
Josh Okogie
Taj Gibson
Karl-Anthony Towns

Orlando Magic

D.J. Augustin
Evan Fournier
Aaron Gordon
Jonathon Isaac
Nikola Vucevic

Our blogging friends are over at Orlando Pinstriped Post. Have fun everyone.