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Wolves vs Wizards: Staying on Track

Minnesota hosts Washington without Andrew Wiggins

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves vs Wizards

7:00pm CST

FS North

First things first, our thoughts and prayers go out to Andrew Wiggins and his family. Andrew will be out tonight as his family mourns the loss of his grandmother.

In his absence, the Timberwolves have called Kelan Martin up from the Iowa Wolves.

With Wiggs out, there will be plenty of opportunities for other players to step up. Wiggs has been playing a hair under 35mpg this year, so there’s obviously a ton of minutes available.

It would be nice to see Jarrett Culver see an uptick in both minutes and responsibility tonight. He might not be quite ready for the full-blown on-ball responsibilites that Andrew has had this year, but against an inferior opponent, it’s worth trying out.

I’d expect Keita Bates-Diop to see quite a bit of action tonight too, which should be fun considering we haven’t seen him at all yet this year. KBD was recalled from Iowa yesterday.

Andrew’s absence will also put more of the playmaking responsibility on the shoulders of Jeff Teague and Karl-Anthony Towns. While Washington isn’t the most talented team, Minnesota will still need a good JFT game. I’d assume Teague will slide back into the starting lineup, but given how he looked in a sixth man role against San Antonio on Wednesday, it’d be kind of fun to see Okogie slide in and leave the ball-handling to Culver and Towns amongst the starters.

Scoring has never really been this team’s problem, but without Wiggs, they’re going to need a big game from KAT. He should absolutely dust Washington, as they don’t have anyone who can really bother him. As long as he stays out of foul trouble, this could be a 35/15/5 night, or something like that.

With Washington, the key is all about containing Bradley Beal. Beal has free reign to do pretty much whatever he wants in this system, mostly because he’s at least three or four tiers ahead of whoever you consider to be their second best player (Davis Bertans?). Unfortunately for him, Minnesota has a plethora of wing defenders to throw at him.

I never thought I’d ever type that sentence, wow.

Anyways, forcing Beal into contested twos should be the goal tonight. He’s a lethal shooter when left open, and can be a force attacking the basket. He’s a capable, if not elite mid-range shooter, but that’s still a better option than the alternatives. Beal is actually off to a slow start from distance this season (32%), although that seems bound for positive regression with each passing day considering he’s hit 38% for his career.

Although Beal is the headliner, the aforementioned Bertans can absolutely kill you from deep if you lose focus, and Thomas Bryant is a really fun, young big. Isaiah Thomas can still put the ball in the basket, so Minnesota cannot take them lightly. It’s been an inspiring start to the season, but underestimating an inferior opponent is something we’ve seen time and time again from this franchise.

Minnesota handled Washington in their first matchup without Towns. This time, they’ll look to do the same without Andrew Wiggins. So long as KAT shows up to play, the Wolves should be looking at another victory, which would move them to 8-4. Sign me up for that.