Wolves at Wizards
Minnesota travels to our nation’s capitol tonight, to face off against the lowly Washington Wizards. The Wizards, once a perennial playoff team with oodles of talent, now consists mostly of Bradley Beal and support. Things are not looking well for the Wizards, and given John Wall’s contract status, things will likely have to get worse before they can get much better.
Rui Hachimura has been a bright spot for Washington so far, at least in terms of counting stats. The Japanese product has shown a penchant for hitting tough mid-range shots, which has worked for him to this point but is unlikely to be sustainable with much efficiency moving forward.
The headliner for this game, though, is how the Timberwolves will look without Karl-Anthony Towns. To this point, they’ve looked awful without him on the floor this season, and this is a trend that goes back much longer than just this season.
If Minnesota is going to pull out a victory, first and foremost, they need the good version of Andrew Wiggins. With KAT out of the lineup, Wiggs is quite literally the only player who can create offense for himself at a somewhat reliable rate.
This can’t turn into Andrew relying on his mid-range pull-up jumpers, though. It needs to be a steady diet of Wiggins attacking the rim. Washington does not defend the rim well, and there isn’t anyone on their roster that should actively deter Wiggins away from attacking. Granted, the biggest deterrent of Andrew’s attacking has usually been himself, but they desperately need an alpha-dog game from the former number one overall pick.
Jarrett Culver has mostly underwhelmed thus far, but tonight would be a great time for him to show more of the talent that we believe he has in him. The Wolves are going to need someone, anyone, to create offense tonight, and Culver seems to be a decent bet to pick up some of the playmaking.
The other guy that’ll really need to bring it tonight is Jeff Teague. He’s not going to give you 20/10 every night, but he is obviously talented enough to do that on occasion, especially against a bad defense like the one he’ll face tonight. The key for Teague will be to stay aggressive. He cannot shy away from a pull-up three off of a ball screen. Those are likely to be the best looks Minnesota can get on most possessions, and he needs to shoot them with confidence.
I’d also look for Gorgui Dieng and Jordan Bell to get some minutes tonight. It’s been somewhat surprising that Bell has been so limited in usage thus far, but he’ll certainly get his chance this evening. Obviously, these two won’t be able to get anywhere close to matching KAT’s production, but even giving a fraction of what KAT did would be incredibly helpful.
In reality, this is likely to be a somewhat brutal game. Washington is bad, very bad. The Timberwolves without Karl-Anthony Towns are... also bad. At the very least, we should expect some impressive shot-making from Bradley Beal to keep the viewers engaged. While it was surprising to see Beal sign an extension in Washington, it has provided him the freedom the be somewhat like a James Harden-lite in the sense that he’s in total control and command of the offense. It’s made for some standout performances already, and there are many more to come.
It’s hard to know exactly what expectations should be in a game like this. It would be incredibly beneficial for the Wolves to be able to get through this one with a win. This is a game they should’ve/would’ve won with KAT, and there’s a decent chance they’d lose Monday’s game against the Bucks with or without KAT. Therefore, staying afloat in this one tonight can help to take some of the sting off from Towns’ suspension. In a conference with a razor thin margin for error, each of these 82 games are immensely important.
Our friends over at Bullets Forever have the Wizards side of the story.