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Wolves at Bulls: Visiting Old Faces

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Memories of the Jimmy Butler trade resurface

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves at Bulls

7:00pm CST

FS North

So, I believe we all hoped that these kinds of late-January games wouldn’t be apart of the 2019-20 season, however unrealistic and impatient that may have been. The reality, though, is that they are.

We are stuck yet again with having to manufacture storylines for each game that don’t really have much to do with the actual playoff hunt or Western Conference standings in general. While the Wolves are technically still in the playoff race, I think many would agree that this is likely another lost season in the Twin Cities.

That brings us to tonight’s game in Chicago, where the biggest storyline I can drum up is related to just how many points Zach LaVine is going to score against his former teammates.

LaVine is on a tear right now, and is making a legitimate push for an All-Star spot, which is much more difficult in the Eastern Conference this year than it has been in the past. Zach still exhibits many of the same flaws that made him grade out poorly in almost every advanced metric — especially defensively. The reality, though, is that he’s averaging 25/5/4 on 45/39/83 shooting splits. While he definitely gives some of it back up on the other end, that’s a damn good offensive player.

That’s really what I’m interested in tonight; will Minnesota show any sort of resistance against the exact player archetype that has absolutely shredded them this year. LaVine, like all other primary ball-handlers against Minnesota, will be free to come off of ball-screens and pull-up either from three or in the mid-range. I get that it’s the scheme that David Vanterpool feels is best, but as Eric discussed earlier today, there needs to be some sense of the moment and flexibility in scheme.

Take this basket by Will Barton, for instance. The tweet does a great job of explaining EXACTLY what our collective gripe is with this iteration of the Timberwolves.

This, frankly, is where I’m at with the Wolves right now. I could just be grumpy after a long day at work, but what are we doing here? Are we really so rigid that we can’t make adjustments that are so painstakingly obvious? What good is establishing a scheme and system if the system allows shots like that?

With that in mind, the biggest non-Jarrett Culver development item I’ll be watching for tonight is the defense. It’s no coincidence that the defense has looked much worse since Karl-Anthony Towns has come back into the lineup. He’s an incredible offensive talent, probably one of the five or so best in the entire league, but his defense has not gotten better under the new coaching staff.

With so much of the roster on short-term deals and not expected to be part of the long-term vision of the Timberwolves franchise, that’s the most noteworthy thing to keep an eye on each night. Minnesota is a one-point underdog tonight, against arguably the worst-coached team in the entire NBA. If they can contain LaVine in the slightest, this is a game they should be able to win.

Lastly, it’ll be interesting to see what Kris Dunn is able to do tonight. He’s still a nearly unplayable offensive player with the same flaws he exhibited in Minnesota, but he’s firmly one of the most disruptive defensive players in the league, averaging 2.9 steals per-36 minutes. He may be out for blood tonight as well.

Presented without further comment — Zach LaVine’s point total prop for tonight is set at 28.5 this evening on Bovada.

Projected Lineups

Bulls

Kris Dunn

Tomas Satoransky

Zach LaVine

Lauri Markannen

Luke Kornet

Wolves

Shabazz Napier

Jarrett Culver

Andrew Wiggins

Robert Covington

Karl-Anthony Towns