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Game Preview #46: Rockets at Wolves

The Tanking Battle Continues

NBA: Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets (12-32) at Minnesota Timberwolves (11-34)
7:00 CST
Fox Sports North

Tonight, the Wolves will attempt to go on the saddest winning streak in the NBA, with a chance to win consecutive games for the first time since the opening of the season. Of course, it certainly helps to play a team that has won one game of the last twenty-three. However, as last night demonstrated, that provides no certainty of victory for this Timberwolves team that relied upon an improbably fourth-quarter run to secure a brief solace after a terrible performance.

But at least this game will feature the beginnings of a more complete team, as Malik Beasley is returning after his twelve-game suspension. The Wolves have clearly missed Beasley’s three-point shooting, energy, and spacing in his absence and there should be more room for Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards to operate as a result. Those two have spent a lot of time kicking the ball to wide-open shooters who clank away.

Beasley’s return also kicks off the roster crunch, which is an incredible position to be in with the worst record in the NBA. It seems difficult to believe that the Wolves have too many players worth playing and hold this record, but the team is full of players who are all around the same skill level. Now that Beasley, and D’Angelo Russell in the near future, are returning, there will need to be significant changes to playing time and usage opportunities.

A week ago, there was a fair concern that perhaps the backcourt’s return could negatively impact Anthony Edwards’ superstar rise. Now, after two fourth-quarter benchings and torrid shooting performances, getting Edwards some help on offense and is a welcome sight. Of course, Beasley’s reintegration is much easier to imagine than Russell’s, so the true roster and personality complications have yet to begin.

At least there is something new for us to care about. The first domino will be what happens with the forward spots, as Beasley slides Ant up a position, which then means the Wolves need to choose more selectively between Jarred Vanderbilt, Juancho Hernangomez, and Jaden McDaniels.

As for the Rockets, they are certainly barrelling down the tanking path to increase the odds of retaining their pick. The John Wall and Christian Wood show was marginally successful earlier in the season, but the team is not rife with talent. It’s frankly embarrassing that the Wolves still have a worse record than the Rockets after they went on a 20-game losing streak.

This Rockets team has blown up its roster, traded away a superstar for peanuts, and is losing as aggressively as possible in an attempt to keep its pick. The Wolves are fully capped out and have been attempting to win in order to prove out the foundation of its two superstars who have yet to share the floor. Somehow the Wolves still have a worse record.

Going to a fun one tonight.

Projected Starting Lineups

Minnesota Timberwolves

Ricky Rubio
Malik Beasley
Anthony Edwards
Jarred Vanderbilt
Karl-Anthony Towns

Houston Rockets

John Wall
Ben McLemore
Sterling Brown
Jae’Sean Tate
Christian Wood