- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (16-21) vs Denver Nuggets (24-12)
- When: 7:00 PM CT
- Local TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
- Line: Wolves +2 | Total: 233.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
the first one of 2023.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) January 2, 2023
Wolves vs. Nuggets
7pm CT, @TargetCenterMN
Preview » https://t.co/bp0S0dcZ5z pic.twitter.com/26eiFJffdH
What to Watch For
Timberwolves’ fans are all too familiar with how pathetic the team has been rebounding this season. It has been the sole factor in a myriad of losses and deflates any momentum they try to build. Rebounding will likely be a major factor against Denver as well.
Luckily for the Timberwolves, the Nuggets are just an average offensive rebounding team as their offensive rebounding rate of 27.9 ranks 17th in the league. Comparatively, the Timberwolves rank 25th with an offensive rebound rate of 25.3. Despite not being a major threat as a team, the Nuggets still have two players who can wreak havoc on the offensive glass and both rank above the 90th percentile in their respective positions, per Cleaning the Glass.
First, Aaron Gordon has an offensive rebounding rate of 5.0 (96th percentile). Gordon has been a monster all season, and his athleticism and rebounding prowess will be difficult for the Timberwolves to deal with. We’ll likely see Kyle Anderson and Jaden McDaniels as the primary defenders on Gordon for most of the game, which could lead to some hair pulling moments. Anderson’s defensive rebounding rate of 8.0 ranks in the 71st percentile at his position, but his lack of athleticism may prove fatal to containing Gordon on the glass. McDaniels is a much better athlete, but despite the rest of his defensive brilliance, he has yet to prove he can be a capable rebounder. His defensive rebounding rate of 3.9 ranks in the 12th percentile. McDaniels must refrain from fouling and lock in on the defensive glass, or else Denver could feast on second chance points.
The other player to keep an eye on is rookie Christian Braun. Braun has had a bit of an erratic role this season, but the high energy rookie is starting to see more minutes recently. Among combo guards, Braun’s offensive rebounding rate of 2.4 ranks in the 91st percentile. Braun is an excellent athlete who is more than adept at crashing the glass. Given his more restricted role, Braun has the energy available to exert in the messier areas of the game like rebounding. Anthony Edwards has been much better at rebounding recently, and his defensive rebounding rate has climbed to 8.6 (84th percentile). Based on rotations, Jaylen Nowell and Austin Rivers may see the most time with Braun, and their defensive rebounding rates of 6.2 and 6.5, respectively, could be a promising omen. The bigger concern is if the Timberwolves decide to hide D’Angelo Russell on Braun due to Braun’s more limited level of responsibility on offense. If this happens, look for Braun to actively exploit Russell’s poor defensive rebounding rate (4.5%, 29th percentile) to generate multiple possessions.
Execute and Get the Easy Ones
Consistent execution hasn’t exactly been one of the characteristics of the Timberwolves’ offense this season. If they want to have a chance in tonight’s game, they must execute the easy opportunities they get. If they continue to blunder open looks and layups, they will find themselves falling behind quickly. The most promising spots to exploit this Nuggets’ defense is in transition and at the rim.
Transition offense hasn’t been an area of renowned success for the Timberwolves this season, as they are scoring just 1.145 points per possession (PPP), which ranks 29th in the league. Despite this struggle, the Timberwolves need to look to push the pace to capitalize on Denver’s poor transition defense. This season, the Nuggets are allowing 1.369 PPP in transition, which ranks 29th and is shockingly lower than the Timberwolves’ mark of 1.299 PPP (27th).
Despite struggling in transition this season, the Timberwolves’ half-court offense is scoring 0.949 PPP, which ranks seventh in the league. The Nuggets’ half-court defense is on the opposite end of the spectrum as they are allowing 0.995 PPP (25th) in the half-court. The Nuggets’ defense wants to take away at-rim attempts by packing the paint and making life difficult inside the arc to limit second chance points. They are the second-best defensive rebounding team in the league and rank fifth in the league in PPP on putbacks. Despite these efforts, the Nuggets have almost no rim protection. They are allowing opponents to shoot 70.9% at the rim, which ranks 29th in the league. The Timberwolves currently rank 6th in the league in at-rim shot frequency (37.8%) and rank sixth in the league in at-rim shot accuracy (69.1%). The Timberwolves must execute when they attack the rim, because if they miss their easy chances, Denver won’t give them another one.
- Jordan McLaughlin (left calf strain)
- Taurean Prince (right shoulder sublaxation)
- Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf strain)
- Collin Gillespie (right lower leg fracture)
- Jeff Green (left finger sprain/hand fracture)
- Peyton Watson (G-League assignment)