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Wolves at Hawks: Can Minnesota Contain Trae Young?

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The Wolves will key in on the second year ball-handler this evening

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Atlanta Hawks Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves at Hawks

6:30pm CST

FS North

Losers in 4 of their past 5 games, the Minnesota Timberwolves desperately need to get back on track. Luckily for Minnesota, the Atlanta Hawks are possibly even colder than they are, as Atlanta has lost 6 in a row, and 9 of 10. The schedule has been brutal, but still, the Hawks haven’t done much to instill confidence outside of Trae Young.

That’s where any conversation about the Atlanta Hawks must start. The Hawks’ franchise player is so, so much fun. In his second season, Young is averaging 25.9 points and 8.7 assists per game. His style of play is exciting and pleasing to watch.

I’d be lying if I said that I won’t be dreaming of Young throwing some of his dazzling passes to Karl-Anthony Towns in the PnR. Minnesota never really had a path to make that a reality, but still, let me dream. He’s really that special in that area.

Outside of Young, the Hawks are a bit shorthanded. John Collins is still serving his suspension for taking PEDs, and Kevin Huerter is out with a shoulder strain. Cam Reddish has missed the past few games with a wrist injury, but he participated in shootaround and is probable to play.

Anyways, all of those absences have forced coach Lloyd Pierce to play some lineups together that he probably didn’t expect to depend on so much. He definitely wasn’t planning on counting on Jabari Parker so much, but that’s where they are this season. Parker has actually been playing pretty well, and is thriving as Young’s PnR partner.

As talented as Trae Young and a few of his teammates are, this is one of those games that will ultimately be decided by which type of Timberwolves team shows up. It’s a classic spot where the Wolves come out flat and play to or below the level of their competition, make a mad scramble in the third quarter to make it a game before ultimately running out of gas. It’s a movie we’ve seen a thousand times, and this is a game that fits that billing.

How do they avoid that? Well, it all starts with KAT. Atlanta is going to run a front line that consists mostly of Damian Jones, Jabari Parker, and Alex Len. Lloyd Pierce will likely send doubles and try to get the ball out of his hands, but he should still feast on that group.

Here’s the thing, though. For KAT to feast, he’s going to need SOMEONE to make some shots. He occasionally is capable of going God-mode where nothing really matters, but the lack of shooting around him is becoming a real issue. It’s something we expected coming into the season, but as Minnesota seems to be more competitive than we originally expected, it’s becoming more important.

The problem there is obviously that there just aren’t many good shooters on this team. Robert Covington qualifies. Jeff Teague is adequate, but his reluctance to shoot negates a lot of his value. The remainder of the wing spots are made up of bad or inconsistent shooters.

Thankfully, Atlanta’s defense is so woeful that none of that may matter. According to NBA.com/stats, the Hawks own a DRTG of 113.9, which is better than only the Wizards, Warriors, and Pelicans. Yikes. If there was a game for Minnesota to get it going again on the offensive end, this is the game. A heavy diet of Wiggins/KAT PnR should work wonders for the struggling offense.

The point here is that if the Wolves show up ready to play tonight, they should be able to put Atlanta away early. The Hawks are undermanned and generally just not very good.

Trae Young may destroy the Wolves scoring the ball against their drop coverage, but shutting down his passing lanes may be more important. Young’s going to score. If they can keep him from getting everyone else involved with some easy looks, that should be good enough to secure a victory tonight.

Projected Lineups

Hawks

Trae Young

DeAndre Bembry

DeAndre Hunter

Jabari Parker

Damian Jones

Wolves

Jeff Teague

Andrew Wiggins

Treveon Graham

Robert Covington

Karl-Anthony Towns

For the Hawks side of things, check out our friends at Peach Tree Hoops.