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Game Preview #45: Rockets at Wolves (Part I)

After a quiet trade deadline, the Wolves welcome the Houston Rockets to town for a two-game series.

Dallas Mavericks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Info

Who: Houston Rockets (12-31) at Minnesota Timberwolves (10-34)
When: 7:00pm CST
TV: Fox Sports North (streaming on the Fox Sports Go app)
Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio

What To Watch For

What to watch for? How about a two-game series between the two worst records in the league?!

All jokes aside, with the NBA trade deadline now a thing of the past, these next 25 or so games should be a barometer of where exactly the Minnesota Timberwolves find themselves (and more so a good benchmark of just how far they still need to go to become relevant and consistently competitive in the NBA). While the Wolves decided against making any additions (or subtractions) to their current roster, they will welcome back Malik Beasley tomorrow night (after sitting out 12 games due to a suspension) as well as D’Angelo Russell sometime in the next couple of weeks (after missing extended time due to knee surgery).

Again, as many know by now, Minnesota remained very quiet leading up to the NBA trade deadline, and despite being linked to a variety of different players (most of whom play power forward), Gersson Rosas and his team decided against paying what had become an extremely steep price for a guy like Aaron Gordon or John Collins.

What does that mean going forward? Well, for starters (literally), this team will now turn it’s attention to it’s “post deadline acquisitions” of Beasley and Russell. Adding them back into the mix isn’t going to be easy, but getting both guys back with roughly 20-25 games back should give the front office (and the fan base) a better idea of what this team really has, and more importantly, what this team still needs to do to lift itself out of the Western Conference cellar.

Speaking of incompetence — the Houston Rockets! While Minnesota remained inactive prior to the deadline, the Rockets continued their rebuilding ways, shipping off the prized possession from their James Harden trade (Victor Oladipo) to the Miami Heat for... well, not a lot. After moving on from Oladipo, here is the total package of ass(ets) the Rockets received for trading their MVP guard to the Brooklyn Nets:

Under no circumstances am I defending some of the moves or lack of activity by the Wolves front office recently, but this graphic above should clear up any and all questions as to which franchise is currently the furthest away from NBA relevance. To move on from a former league MVP and not get one single blue-chipper is quite absurd, and before nerds like Nate Duncan bring up the five first-round pick swaps, ask yourself: “will the Rockets have a better record than the Heat, Bucks, or Nets within the next handful of years?”

If the answer is “no,” then what exactly can the Rockets hang their hats on when it comes to the James Harden deal? Also, similar to the Wolves, Houston doesn’t even have full control over their upcoming 2021 first round pick, as it’s currently only top-4 protected (which gives them a much better chance of retaining it than the 40.1% Minnesota has, but it still leaves them vulnerable).

So yeah... while this weekend’s home series against the Rockets might not be the most exciting thing you’ve ever tuned in for, the ramifications of the weekend could go a long way in determining which of these struggling franchises retains their pick in the upcoming draft. With the Orlando Magic recently blowing it up as well, it should be a thrilling next month or so as Orlando, Minnesota, Houston, and Detroit battle it out for the worst record(s) in the league in hopes of securing the best possible draft lottery odds.

*sets homepage to*

Injury Reports

No real changes here since Wednesday’s game against the Mavericks — Josh Okogie remains in the Health & Safety Protocols, while Jordan McLaughlin earns a new designation: “Post Health & Safety Protocol Recondition.” Expect copious amounts of Ricky Rubio running point this weekend, with the sharp-shooting Jaylen Nowell mixed in as well.

As for the Rockets, I’m not entirely sure who Houston will be throwing on the floor this weekend. After trading Victor Oladipo, it may take a few days for recently acquired Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk to join the team dur to various COVID-19 protocols. The Rockets are already without Eric Gordon as well after he suffered a groin injury, and Kevin Porter, Jr. (who Houston essentially stole from the Cleveland Cavaliers) is currently labeled as day-to-day with a quad injury. Expect a whole lot of John Wall this weekend as well as Christian Wood, who might be the lone bright spot for the team during this very tumultuous season.

Have a great weekend, everyone!