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Game Preview #47: Wolves at Nets

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The Battle of the Titans

NBA: Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Timberwolves (11-35) at Brooklyn Nets (31-15)
6:30 CST
Fox Sports North

The Wolves are beginning an East Coast road trip with a battle against the Brooklyn Nets. This is shaping up to be a highly competitive game, as the Wolves are heading into Brooklyn after two tough matches with the newly surging Houston Rockets. The two teams are coming into the game tonight with similar records over the last two games, both going 1-1 in equally difficult matchups. The Wolves' biggest hurdle this season has been matching up against teams ahead of them in the standings and tonight gives them another opportunity to prove they can play up the competition.

This game tonight presents a chance for the Wolves to match up against a future idealized version of themselves. The Nets have heavily invested on the offensive end in the idea that they can outscore other teams with their high-powered offense, covering up any deficiencies on defense. We will see if the Nets can keep up with the Wolves’ offense.

The Wolves may not yet be on the Nets timeline, but the future of this team hopes to play a similar style of basketball. One does not need to squint too hard to see how D’Angelo Russell can be the Wolves’ Kyrie Irving, Anthony Edwards providing the unstoppable scoring akin to James Harden, Karl-Anthony Towns being a big-man version of Kevin Durant, and Malik Beasley providing the spacing like Joe Harris. The Wolves have their own Swiss-Army knives in Josh Okogie, Jaden McDaniels, and Jarrett Culver to round out the rotation.

As such, we can only imagine that tonight will be an incredibly competitive game. The Wolves may still be missing their second foundational superstar D’Angelo Russell, but the rest of this roster has more than proven they are up to the task of keeping this team afloat in the meantime.

While the Wolves may have faced a few small bumps in the road next season, one can only hope that the team is able to compete at the Nets level soon. Tonight gives us a great opportunity to see how the Wolves matchup against their future competition. A few of the key questions for tonight.

1) How does the Wolves backcourt matchup against Kyrie Irving and James Harden?

Kyrie will return tonight after missing the last three games due to a family matter. Now that Malik Beasley has come back to the Wolves, the team has a medley of opportunities to guard the Nets high-scoring duo. The most likely option is that Ricky Rubio will be matched up against Kyrie and Jaden McDaniels (or Josh Okogie) will be given the job of stopping James Harden. I like those odds.

However, if the Wolves are forward-thinking, they will realize that a complete Nets team featuring Kevin Durant will require McDaniels to guard the superstar. Hopefully, the Wolves will give Malik Beasley or Anthony Edwards a few reps against Harden or Irving to get some practice opportunities.

2) How will the Wolves' new talent match up with the Nets' new players?

The Nets have scoured the buyout market and picked up a few low-key rotation players in Blake Griffen and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Wolves were reportedly close to acquiring more marquee names, pitching the former superstars on playoff opportunities in Minnesota, but ended up deciding that they could not imagine finding players more talented than those on the roster. This understandable perspective led to similar decisions at the trade deadline so while the Wolves may not have any new players per se, those left on the roster will have an opportunity to prove themselves against Griffen and Aldridge as they get up to speed.

3) Which unstoppable offense will prove more stoppable?

The Nets and the Wolves are built around the idea that offense does not have diminishing returns. The Nets have been able to build around Irving, Durant, and now Harden, while the Wolves are building a similar structure around Towns, Russell, and Anthony Edwards.

The Nets lead the NBA in the offensive rating and the Wolves are only a few spots behind. The recent games against the star-studded offenses of the Rockets and the Thunder have highlighted how the Wolves need to play-up to the competition.

Projected Starting Lineups

Minnesota Timberwolves

Ricky Rubio
Malik Beasley
Anthony Edwards
Jaden McDaniels
Karl-Anthony Towns

Brooklyn Nets

Kyrie Irving
James Harden
Joe Harris
Bruce Brown
DeAndre Jorden

Hopefully, the Wolves can get back on track tonight. The future is bright.