Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves are officially back in action on Wednesday night as they hit the road to take on Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby and the Toronto Raptors in a non-conference matchup to open the 2023-24 NBA Regular Season.
- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves at Toronto Raptors
- When: 6:30 PM CT
- Where: Scotiabank Arena (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
- TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: Wolves Radio App, KFAN FM 100.3
- Line: Timberwolves -1 | Total: 221.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
UPDATED AS OF 5 PM CT WEDNESDAY
- Jaylen Clark (right achilles tendon rupture rehab)
- Jaden McDaniels (left calf strain)
- Christian Koloko (respiratory illness)
What To Watch For
The Timberwolves’ defensive alignment may look different in the opener, as the newly-extended Jaden McDaniels is unable to play due to a left calf strain. Nickeil Alexander-Walker shined in place of McDaniels in the Play-In Tournament and Playoffs last season and is started during the preseason. However, our friend Dane Moore hinted at Head Coach Chris Finch potentially starting Kyle Anderson.
Jaden McDaniels (calf) has been ruled out of tomorrow’s game, team says.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) October 24, 2023
I think the assumption would be that Nickeil Alexander-Walker starts in his place — but I wonder if Kyle Anderson, given the Pascal Siakam matchup, might be the direction Finch goes.
Given the Raptors size with a pair of 6-foot-7, ball-handling wings on the perimeter in Anunoby and Scottie Barnes, Mike Conley will likely have to guard the 6-foot-1 Dennis Schroeder on the ball.
Defensive Coordinator Elston Turner will have a few different routes to take. Does he want Towns to guard a 5 like KAT did in the first-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets in hopes of keeping the three-time All-Star out of foul trouble? If so, would Gobert guard Scottie Barnes given that Barnes is the worst (and least eager) 3-point shooter of the Raptors three wings? Does he assign Towns to take Siakam to keep Rudy Gobert in better rebounding position? Or could the Wolves play zone in an effort to use their length to limit dribble penetration and force the Raptors, who ranked 28th in 3-point percentage last season (33.5%), to shoot more jumpers? If I were Turner, I’d opt for a zone considering that outside of Conley, the other nine players in the projected 10-man rotation are all at least 6-foot-5 or taller and have a wingspan of at least 6-foot-10. If the Raptors make shots, shake their hand, and either revert to a switching man defense or play plenty of deep drop coverage.
The Dawn of Anthony Edwards’ Senior Season
No one is in more control of where the Timberwolves go this season than Anthony Edwards, who is entering his fourth year in Minnesota on the heels of a fantastic summer. Edwards starred in a leading role for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup, headlined by an incredible performance against Team Germany in which Ant scored 34 points on 11/21 shooting, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks. He followed that up with a strong preseason; per 36 minutes, the first-time All-Star averaged 27.5 points on 45.0/43.8/75.0 shooting splits, 8.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists to 3.9 turnovers, and 1.1 blocks across three appearances. Edwards looked as explosive as ever,
Now, he is expected to set the tone to open the season for a Wolves squad looking to improve upon its 5-8 start to the 2022-23 campaign. Entering 2023-24, there are no excuses for Edwards to not take his game to a All-NBA, superstar level. Towns and Gobert are both healthy, Naz Reid is back in the fold, Alexander-Walker and McDaniels will handle the lion’s share of the on-ball defensive reps, and he has enjoyed a full offseason and training camp playing alongside a better playmaking point guard in Mike Conley. The stars are aligned for Edwards to prove he is as good as we all think he can be, and now it’s time for the kid from Oakland City, Atlanta to put Minneapolis on his back and on the map.
Winning With Depth
The most eye-opening element of the preseason was not Edwards’ strong showing, Towns’ scoring aggressiveness or a healthier version of Gobert, but rather a wealth of riches off the bench. Reid, Anderson, Alexander-Walker, Shake Milton and Troy Brown Jr. in particular displayed a wonderful combination of confidence and chemistry playing with their teammates in Finch’s system that will undoubtedly be a weapon the Wolves use to swing games. The Timberwolves’ bench unit outplayed the Chicago Bulls’ starters in the second half of the preseason finale to put the cherry on top of a rock solid exhibition season.
Each player put on film what they bring to the table. Reid scored 32.7 (!!) points per 36 minutes on 60.0/50.0/71.4 shooting splits; Anderson found a groove as a secondary playmaking hub in the middle of the floor en route to leading the team in total preseason +/- and assists; Alexander-Walker defended at a high level while also shooting 35% from 3 and maintaining an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.5-to-1.0; Milton got off the ball quickly in the half-court, attacked close-outs for scores, knocked down open 3s, and was solid above the break as a defender; and finally, Brown Jr. led the team in made triples (10) and fit in as a low-usage, off-ball player that provides spacing and can do the dirty work defensively.
Toronto will return Malachi Flynn, Apple Valley native Gary Trent Jr., Chris Boucher and Precious Achiuwa off the bench, but is a slow-footed crew that Minnesota should be able to score on efficiently if they maintain good pace. A key part of that will be keeping the Raptors bench out of the paint, cleaning the glass, and getting out in transition.