When: 6:30 PM CT
TV: Bally Sports North Extra
Radio: Audacy App (WCCO-2)
Line: Wolves +5.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
What To Watch For
158 agonizingly long days after their Game 6 playoff loss, the Minnesota Timberwolves are finally back in action tonight to open their preseason schedule against the Miami Heat down on South Beach.
The Heat don’t have many additions to speak of, other than re-signing free agent guards Victor Oladipo, who was a nice asset for Miami defensively in the playoffs last season, to a two-year, $18.2 million deal and Cody Martin to a three-year, $20.5 million deal. Pat Riley and Co. also drafted 19-year-old versatile stretch forward Nikola Jović out of Serbia (not a typo) No. 27 overall. Funny enough, Jović would’ve been my pick where the Wolves took Walker Kessler (No. 22 overall).
While Jimmy Butler is out (rest) and we may not see much of Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo or newly-extended Tyler Herro, the Heat have some intriguing depth pieces in Martin, sharpshooters Max Strus and Duncan Robinson, and rock solid sophomore Ömer Yurtseven, an enticing 7-foot, 265-pound two-way center, figures to play significant minutes in the front-court against the Wolves’ Naz Reid and Nathan Knight center rotation tonight.
As for the Wolves, there are three things I’m going to be watching out for.
The fiercest preseason competition for regular season minutes in head coach Chris Finch’s rotation is in the Wolves’ back-court. Jaylen Nowell is the incumbent candidate to fill that backup 2-guard spot after an impressive showing last season, but new Denver Nuggets imports Austin Rivers (strong perimeter defense and solid playmaking off the bounce), Bryn Forbes (sharpshooting from a standstill and off movement), and PJ Dozier (two-way athleticism, cutting and perimeter defense) figure to give Nowell a run for his money.
The nice thing about the Wolves depth is that they can be situational in terms of which guards they deploy off the bench based on a given matchup that night, but the best case scenario is undoubtedly that Nowell’s defense has evolved to a place where the offensive value he drives is more impactful than his defensive lapses.
Clarity on What Jaden McDaniels’ Role Could Be
Obviously we won’t understand the full context of what McDaniels can do in Year 3 until we see him out there with D’Angelo Russell, Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert at the same time, but we’ll settle for Big Mac alongside his fellow rising star in Ant tonight.
McDaniels spoke during his exit interview with media in April about his hope to grow his offensive game, especially his handle, and he will have the opportunity to flex that in live NBA action against a Heat team that has some legit defensive players on the perimeter.
While we know what he can do defensively, where Finch and Co. decide to deploy McDaniels on that end of the floor. He is a weapon no matter where he’s placed, whether it’s as a rotating low-man on the back-side of the defense or as a point-of-attack stopper who can match up with point guards and bigger, ball-handling wings like Butler. It’s a bummer we don’t get to see if he can do the latter without fouling against an All-NBA talent.
Will Wendell Moore Jr. Look More Comfortable With NBA Teammates?
The Wolves’ 2022 first-round pick was a fantastic complementary cog in the Duke Basketball machine during his time in Durham, but struggled as a lead player on Minnesota’s summer league team. He will be surrounded by much better talent now that he’s playing with the NBA squad, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he felt more comfortable playing off of more high usage players such as Nowell, Edwards, Rivers or AJ Lawson off the bench.
With Russell not playing tonight, either, it would make sense to see Moore Jr. handle the ball at a higher rate, as he did during the team’s stay in Las Vegas. But he won’t be relied upon as the No. 1 offensive option, which is a pretty significant switch — one that puts Moore Jr. back in his comfort zone of making everyone better and getting his when the read calls for it.
No matter what happens tonight, it’s important to remember that the Wolves have not one, but two nationally televised preseason games — on Sunday vs the Los Angeles Lakers in Las Vegas and next Wednesday against the Lakers once again, but in LA — and five preseason games overall.
The Timberwolves smartly don’t want to wear out anybody. Given their 20-man roster entering tonight’s game, it makes complete sense to hold out anyone they plan on ramping up in the coming days.
- Rudy Gobert
- D’Angelo Russell
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- Jimmy Butler
- Victor Oladipo
- Gabe Vincent