Wolves (36-44) vs Raptors (57-24)
If you’re still following along with the 2018-19 edition of the Minnesota Timberwolves, kudos to you. You’re a real trooper. These games are, quite literally, meaningless. The wins and losses don’t really matter. Yeah, a few extra losses could help the Wolves position in the lottery. However, I’d have to think that this group and franchise has experienced enough losing over the years. Building winning habits is much more important than awarding yourselves a few extra ping pong balls, in my opinion.
With that being said, I wouldn’t expect a lot out of the Wolves tonight. They’ve already been without a myriad of rotation players down the stretch, and it sounds like they could be without more players tonight.
Karl-Anthony Towns is questionable to play tonight against Toronto with right knee inflammation, per the team.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) April 9, 2019
Jerryd Bayless is also questionable — right ankle contusion
Taj Gibson, again, doubtful — calf strain
So, first things first, KAT should not play tonight. I know he wants All-NBA and generally takes more pride in playing every game than most players do. There’s no sensible reason to put him out there, however, if he isn’t 100%. The amount of harm that could cause greatly outweighs the positives. It might make this game unwatchable, but he should be sitting.
On the other note, I hope they rest Jerryd Bayless mostly so that we don’t have to watch him play tonight. Those of us still watching at this point in the season don’t deserve that.
In terms of what to look for in this game, I really think the Wolves should be taking note of how the Raptors have run their franchise. Masai Ujiri is bold and outspoken, but man, he is a damn good executive. After years of getting punked by Lebron James in the playoffs, they’ve set themselves up for a legitimate finals run.
It’s not necessarily that they’re set up for that playoff run as much as how they got to this point that is so phenomenal.
The big transaction is the Kawhi Leonard trade. Kawhi is Kawhi. What he brings to the table doesn’t really need any introduction. How about the fact, though, that they managed to get Danny freaking Green as a throw in, essentially?
In terms of role players, I’m not sure there are any better than Green. He plays hounding defense on your best player, for the first 40+ minutes, allowing Kawhi to focus more on the offensive end for the first part of the game. Beyond that, Green is making 45.6% of his threes on 5.5 attempts per game. That’s lights out. In all, he’s been one of the most pivotal players in the entire league this year.
This season's top 5 so far:— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) April 9, 2019
1. Curry +688
2. Durant +665
3. Giannis +654
4. Danny Green +628
5. Siakam +595
Yeah, not bad for a guy who was a throw in piece of a blockbuster trade. That list also brings us to the next guy, Pascal Siakam.
First off, the fact that Siakam didn’t make the all-star team this year is an absolute travesty. In the watered down Eastern Conference, players such as D’Angelo Russell and Siakam’s teammate Kyle Lowry made the team over Pascal. Those guys are good players, but Siakam is leaps and bounds better than Russell as a defender as well as scoring efficiently. Lowry is great, but he hasn’t had the same impact Siakam has.
Siakam, the 27th overall pick in the 2016 draft and soon-to-be Most Improved Player award winner, is a flat out star. His 17/6/4 stat line doesn’t necessarily jump off the page, but that ignores so much about his game. It ignores his insane efficiency (62.7 TS%), as well as his otherworldly defense. How many guys in the league can do this?
This Pascal Siakam defensive possession is the epitome of what makes him so good pic.twitter.com/zA3bAQ5BhF— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) April 8, 2019
Siakam guards, what, like four guys on this possession before forcing Dwyane Wade into a heave at the end of the shot clock? The guy is a stud. Your franchise can take off without a full-blown rebuild when you find guys like Siakam at the end of the first round.
As an organization, the Raptors have prioritized length, versatility, and shooting. That’s what gets it done in today’s NBA. An Eastern Conference Finals between Toronto and Milwaukee would be breathtaking. Minnesota needs to look at Toronto as a blueprint to future success.
Bet of the night
I’m in no way saying that you SHOULD make these bets. I’m not betting them. It’s just a fun extra thing that I’ll be tracking for the remainder of the season. All lines via Bovada.
We have scratched and clawed our way to 10-11 on the season. The home game against the Heat may have been the first time picking the Wolves to cover a spread has ever worked out for me. Anyways, if this one hits, I just might have to sign up for the last preview in hopes of pushing our record over .500 for the season.
The pick: Raptors -8 (-110)
Look, it brings me no joy to pick against the Wolves. The Raptors are simply that good, and it looks like they’re going to be playing all of their guys tonight. With the good possibility that Towns is either out or limited, this one could be ugly. I really wanted to find a Danny Green three-point prop, but there isn’t one currently available. Given the circumstances, I find it hard to believe the Wolves are going to be super competitive in this one. Instead, I’m going to take joy in watching guys like Josh Okogie and Cam Reynolds get some playing time as well as admiring the length and versatility of Toronto.