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Wolves vs Suns: Surprising Playoff Contenders

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Minnesota faces off with a surprising Western Conference Contender

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves vs Suns

4:00 pm CST

FS North+

If you’d have told me in July that a game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns could have playoff implications, I’d have called you crazy. The reality, though, is that these teams are in the way-too-early playoff hunt.

Both teams are .500 or better, and being led by young stars. We know what Karl-Anthony Towns is about, and he’s definitely made a leap this year. His good pal, Devin Booker, has maybe changed the public perception about him more than anyone this season due to the Suns’ early play.

Once thought of as a gunner, and a guy who just put up empty stats on a bad team, Booker is thriving now that he has a real NBA-level point guard next to him. Booker is a legitimate all-star level player, and he should be recognized as such.

As alluded to earlier, maybe the biggest reason for Booker’s rise is that he actually has NBA players around him, most notably our dear friend Ricky Rubio. Rubio is playing some of the best ball of his career.

Unfortunately for Phoenix, Rubio is one of a long list of important Suns who will be out tonight, which has been a theme this year. He, along with DeAndre Ayton (suspension) and Aron Baynes (injury) will be absent today.

Minnesota will also be without a key player, as Robert Covington will be out due to a death in the family.

It’s going to be very, very interesting to see how Minnesota’s defense holds up without Covington. In the past, games without RoCo have resulted in disastrous defensive performances. I feel like we say this a lot, but IF this team is actually different, they will still play adequate defense.

With Covington and Jake Layman both out tonight, it’ll be intriguing to see how Minnesota rearranges their rotation. Those are really the only guys on the roster capable of filling that stretch-4 role. Maybe it’ll Treveon Graham?

Anyways, I’m not super confident in the defense tonight, but I am confident in Minnesota’s ability to score points this afternoon. With the injuries, Phoenix is without nearly all of their above average defenders, and KAT is going to get a healthy diet of Frank Kaminsky tonight. Needless to say, that should be a whole lot of BBQ chicken.

We also get to see old friend Dario Saric. Dario has been his usual steady self in Phoenix, which is something that the Suns haven’t been able to say at all over the past several years.

It’ll be interesting to see the Jarrett Culver trade in action, as it’ll be Culver against Saric and Cam Johnson. Culver looks like he could be a useful piece in the future, but it’s hard not to wonder if maybe it wasn’t the right move, at least right now. I don’t want to dwell on it, but the point was raised on twitter and it is some good food for thought.

The Timberwolves didn’t make the trade up for Culver to win just this season, but it’s an interesting hypothetical nonetheless.

Anyways, the bottom line is that if the Wolves defend even a little bit tonight, they should be able to walk out of the Target Center with a win.

Projected Lineups

Suns

Tyler Johnson

Devin Booker

Kelly Oubre

Dario Saric

Frank Kaminsky

Wolves

Jeff Teague

Jarrett Culver

Andrew Wiggins

Treveon Graham

Karl-Anthony Towns