As the 2021-22 season for the Minnesota Timberwolves draws closer, we wanted to take a look at how this year’s squad matches up against other teams in the Northwest Division (i.e. Utah Jazz, Portland Trailblazers, Denver Nuggets, and Oklahoma City Thunder).
While we could continue to sit around asking questions about whether or not this offseason was underwhelming or filled with yet again too many distractions, the reality is that if the Timberwolves are to be in contention for a playoff spot, they will need to find success against these division foes. Through all the recent news, rumors, and scenarios being tossed around about a potential Ben Simmons deal, the preseason is already underway, which means it’s time to turn our full attention to analyzing potential lineups and getting a better understanding of how the new additions fit in (like Patrick Beverley and Taurean Prince).
To kick things off, let’s take a look at how the Minnesota Timberwolves match up against a very talented (and extremely stacked) Utah Jazz team.
Utah Jazz 2021 Offseason
After being eliminated by the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round of their playoff run and finishing with the best record in the NBA (52-20), the Utah Jazz have gotten much deeper. Although the Jazz lost big man Derrick Favors and three point snipers Georges Niang, Ersan Ilyasova, and Matt Thomas, they added some much-needed talent as well to fill out their rotation.
Starting with big man Hassan Whiteside, who while flawed in many other areas of his game, still is a fairly elite shot blocker and finisher around the rim. Whiteside, who averaged 1.3 blocks and 8.1 points last season (on 56.3% shooting), is expected to backup Rudy Gobert this season and play the “Derrick Favors” role for Utah coming off the bench.
Free agent C Hassan Whiteside has agreed to a deal with the Utah Jazz, @excelbasketball agent Sean Kennedy tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 4, 2021
Utah also added depth at the wing by signing veteran swingman Rudy Gay, who has averaged 16.8 points per game during his career. For the last couple of seasons, Gay has been averaging double digits in points for the San Antonio Spurs and could be a valuable two-way player for the Jazz when called upon. Utah also added Eric Paschall this offseason, giving them another undersized big off the bench.
Golden State has traded F Eric Paschall to the Utah Jazz for a protected future second round pick, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 4, 2021
Matching Up With The Jazz
Utah’s five-man lineup off the bench could look something like Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gay, Eric Paschall, and Hassan Whiteside, which has potential (emphasis on “potential”) to be one of the best all-bench lineups in the NBA. In my opinion though, Minnesota has the capability to match the toughness of this Jazz lineup. Looking at the way Chris Finch spreads out the minutes, we know that D’Angelo Russell or Karl-Anthony Towns are on the floor running with the bench unit at all times. This could also feature Anthony Edwards this upcoming season.
There are many combinations we could see, but let’s say Chris Finch puts out D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Josh Okogie, Patrick Beverley, and Naz Reid against the Jazz lineup. The toughness and defense is there, which was definitely what the Wolves struggled against the Jazz in their matchups last season.
Knowing the way Hassan Whiteside plays PNR, he will most likely play the paint and leave the perimeter wide open. This is where players like D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley, as well as Naz Reid on the kick out get their bread and butter. Personally though, I think the guard lineup with D’Angelo Russell and Patrick Beverley will be unique. With D’Angelo’s offensive abilities and Patrick Beverley’s defensive skillset, the backcourt duo should be able to offset with Utah brings to the table with Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell.
As many of you know, the Timberwolves defeated the Jazz in all three of their head-to-head matchups last season, all by a combined 11 points. The first two victories came on the road in Salt Lake City, while the third victory was an exciting one-point victory that was capped off by a D’Angelo Russell game-winner:
Looking ahead to this season, the Timberwolves will square off against the Jazz four times, with two games in Utah and two games in Minnesota. While Utah will likely be favored in all four of those contests (as they will be in a lot of their games this season), I’d expect this iteration of the Wolves to matchup well against their NW division rival and continue to find success against them.
What are your predictions on what we could expect out of this Northwest Division foe this upcoming season?