clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Canis Hoopus Roundtable: Staff Predictions for Wolves vs Nuggets

Our Canis Hoopus staff gives their predictions for a 1 vs 8 Wolves/Nuggets series that figures to be a test of back-end depth and top-tier talent.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Well, after everything that Minnesota Timberwolves fans have endured this season, the team came through in its second Play-In Game to secure a second straight playoff berth for the first time since 2003-04.

Tonight, the Wolves hit the road to take on the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the Mile High City, so we got some of the Canis Hoopus staff together to make some predictions for what is to come over the next two weeks.

Despite winning five of their last eight games against the Nuggets, including two of the last four in Denver, the Timberwolves are +370 to win the series according to our friends at the DraftKings Sportsbook, which carries an implied win probability of about 21.28%. Not great, Bob.

Don’t let that scare you, though. Let’s get into it:

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Series Predictions

Outcome: Wolves in 6

X-Factor: Mike Conley

Favorite Prop: Wolves to win Game 1 and the series +850

As I wrote in my series preview, the Nuggets are in an eerily similar spot as the Memphis Grizzlies were last season. They didn’t play well to close the season, their star missed time late in the year, and they’re the ones with all the pressure on them, playing a confident group with nothing to lose. The Timberwolves’ best chance to steal a game in Denver is to keep that confidence rolling into Game 1, and Minnesota will need to win at least one game in Denver if are to win the series and advance to the second round. In order to do that, they will need a big game from Mike Conley, who is going to be fourth on the pecking order offensively and is likely to draw Jamal Murray defensively, who struggles to defend hand-offs and pick-and-roll, the two areas Conley is particularly dangerous.

— Jack Borman

Outcome: Nuggets in 7

X-Factor: Karl-Anthony Towns

Favorite Prop: Karl-Anthony Towns 25+ points in Game 1 +115

Coming off two very good Play-In games, I think KAT keeps it rolling in Game 1. Aaron Gordon will be there to pester him, but Towns didn’t play in any of the four Nuggets/Wolves games this year so hopefully there’s so unfamiliarity he can take advantage of and get things going right away.

— Gabe Schneider

Outcome: Nuggets in 6

X-Factor: Mike Conley

Favorite Prop: Nikola Jokić under 11.5 RPG for the series -110

I can’t say I’m overly optimistic about the Wolves chances to win this series, but I do think they have the personnel to give Denver some issues. Gobert and Towns should bring down Jokić’s ability to grab what seems like every rebound, and Ant provides their wing defenders with some issues. If the Wolves are going to have a real chance in this one, I think Conley has to turn back the clock and look like his Memphis self in this series. With Jamal Murray being the likely choice to guard Conley, he will have to exploit that matchup.

— Calif Poncy

Outcome: Nuggets in 7

X-Factor: Rudy Gobert

Favorite Prop: Mike Conley to lead the series in total 3s made +800

The Timberwolves have matched up well with the Nuggets the last two seasons, winning five of the teams’ eight matchups. Two of those losses came by two and four points, and many of the wins were by double-digits. They have multiple bigs to throw at Jokić and the depth to punish Denver’s porous bench. Still, with Anthony Edwards clearly not his best self and Jaden McDaniels out of the lineup, Minnesota lacks the reliable perimeter production to capitalize on Jokićs’s weaknesses sufficiently to move on. I do expect a long series where the Wolves characteristically vacillate between dominance and self-destruction.

— Aidan Berg

Outcome: Nuggets in 6

X-Factor: Karl-Anthony Towns

Favorite Prop: Karl-Anthony Towns to lead series in points (+550)

If it wasn’t for phantom concrete walls and we lived in a world where injuries didn’t exist, I might have a little more of an optimistic viewpoint heading into this series. At the end of the day, Ant is banged up, KAT is still not at 100% with his calf, Rudy Gobert can barely jump due to his back, and two of the potential x-factors of this series will be sitting next to each other with matching arm casts. When the Oklahoma City Thunder got blown out at Target Center on Friday night, they ran into a team that ended their season who just had a little more ammunition. Denver has that right now simply because of health, and I think that shows its warts in a seven-game series.

— Andrew Carlson

Outcome: Wolves in 6

X-Factor: Anthony Edwards

Favorite Prop: Mike Conley O 23.5 Pts + Rebs + Ast in Game 1 (+110)

The Wolves, behind probably just the Dallas Mavericks, have been the kings of Weird Vibes this season. I say that because things feel awfully weird in Denver right now. We all know that the Nuggets ended the season on a sour note. Now, they’re pushing out quotes about great practices. That screams “Look away! Nothing to see here!” energy to me. Add to that the Wolves consistently losing games they should win and winning games they should lose, there’s absolutely no reason Minnesota is going to follow the popular narrative. Also think about who the Nuggets can possible throw at Anthony Edwards

— Leo Sun

Outcome: Nuggets in 6

X-Factor: Anthony Edwards

Favorite Prop: Anthony Edwards to lead series in points (+185)

Over the last few seasons, the Wolves and Nuggets have put together some entertaining battles that have come down to the wire more often than not. In this first-round matchup, regardless of the seeding of both teams, I think we see a similar matchup especially early on in the best-of-seven matchup. I think Minnesota comes out firing in this series to try and steal a game on the road in Denver in either Game 1 or 2. With the Wolves winning one of those games, they are able to return home to claim victory in one of those games as well before the Nuggets ultimately pull away. I think each game will be decided within single digits, which should make for an entertaining series. The difference-maker to me in this series is health, with the Wolves not only missing a few key players but the players who are on the court aren’t 100% either. If Minnesota wants to put a strong showing together and put itself in a spot to pull off the upset, I think we need a superstar-type series from the one and only Anthony Edwards. Although he’s clearly banged up, it’s time for A1 to take another step on the big stage.

— Mitchell Hansen

Outcome: Nuggets in 6

X-Factor: Michael Porter Jr.

Favorite Prop: Michael Porter Jr. to lead series in 3s (+160)

I was really tempted to put this as Nuggets in 5, but the optimist in me took over. Unfortunately, the Timberwolves just haven’t showed the necessary discipline on either end of the floor this year that makes me think this is going to be close. The Naz Reid and Jaden McDaniels injuries are killers, and there may not be enough scoring off the bench to make up for it. Even if the Timberwolves pull ahead in a few games, they’ve shown for a year plus now that they are more than eager to give it away. The Nuggets offense, ball movement, and transition offense will be too much for the Timberwolves to overcome.

— Tyler Metcalf

Outcome: Wolves in 7

X-Factor: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Favorite Prop: Karl-Anthony Towns to lead series in 3s (+2200)

This series provides a ton of interesting matchup questions for both teams. The Timberwolves can throw some weird looks at Jokić and try to keep him on his toes. We could see Towns, Gobert, or Anderson guarding him with options to double team him at any moment. Conversely, the Nuggets will have a decision to make on how to defend the Wolves. Will they trust Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on Anthony Edwards? Or will they be forced to put Aaron Gordon there? If KCP can’t guard Ant, that gives Towns a huge advantage with not having Gordon on him. Both benches are suspect at this time, so that will be interesting to track. Overall, I like the Wolves half-court defense a lot and I’m not as worried about the Nuggets running in transition as I would be about a team like the Grizzlies. Plus, I think Anthony Edwards is in for a big series.

— Brendan Hedtke

Outcome: Nuggets in 6

X-Factor: Aaron Gordon

The Timberwolves have the size to make life difficult for Jokić. They will need to match that with speed, as the Nuggets are lethal off of defensive rebounds in the open court.

A key player to watch in this series will be Gordon. Deserving of an All-Star nod this season in an otherwise crowded Western Conference, Gordon has the ability to post on the mid-block, create shots for himself and others off of the dribble and be an overall five-tool player. Look for Gordon to be the middle-man in many half-court sets, catching the ball in the midrange off of dump-offs and looking to be dynamic.

Ultimately, the Nuggets win the series, though the Wolves put up a fight. Their 34-7 home record will ensure that they get theirs in Denver, and their 19-22 record away from home gives Minnesota a chance to steal one of the first two games and give Wolves fans a reason to cheer before being closed out in six.

— Matthew Legros

Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Excuse Me?

Rookie Watch

One of Josh Minott or Wendell Moore Jr. will play important minutes in at least one game of the series. Finch talked after the Play-In victory about needing to lengthen the currently seven-man rotation now that the Wolves are in the playoffs, and the rookies each provide skills that will be valuable in this series. Minott is a fantastic cutter and transition force, while Moore Jr. is a capable perimeter defender, rebounder, ball mover and 3-point shooter. I’m not saying they should be in the rotation, but if rotation players aren’t giving Finch and the team what they need, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Finchy pull that lever.

— JB

A Husky Reemerges in the Rockies

If the first few games look anything like the second half of the Lakers game, Finch will have to search for offense outside of his star players. If he’s active and healthy, I’d expect Finch to turn to Jaylen Nowell for an injection of offense. If Anthony Edwards gets in a slump and/or Karl-Anthony Towns is in foul trouble, Nowell’s on-ball creation could keep the Wolves afloat for a stretch or two on the offensive end.

— GS

Slow-Mo Legacy Game

Kyle Anderson has been a godsend for Minnesota in his first season, and I expect him to continue to prove his worth in the playoffs. Now, a Slo-Mo 50-piece probably isn't in the cards, but with the variety of players in Denver’s rotation, Anderson could be the one tasked with guarding any of Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at one time or another. I think that Slo-Mo’s defensive versatility could be huge in spots, and as someone who roots for the Thunder, I saw what happens when you decide to leave him open in the corner. I am predicting Anderson to drop 25-5-5 in a game in this series, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he did it multiple times.

— CP

KAT outscores Jokić for the series

This would feel like a surprising result because Jokić is a candidate for a third-straight MVP while Towns missed 51 games and is still dealing with a somewhat clunky scoring fit alongside another big. There’s a reason Jokić averaged 24.5 points in the regular season and KAT averaged 20.8. But Towns is coming off a Play-In Tournament in which he averaged 26 points on 67.9-37.5-100 shooting splits; he’s playing his best ball at the right time. Jokić will still have the biggest impact on this series because of his playmaking and efficiency, but in terms of pure scoring output, Towns is trending toward big things.

— AB

NAW solidifies a future in Minnesota

Although his spot start versus the Oklahoma City Thunder may have appeared to be a one-off situation, I still believe his ability to do all the little things necessary is going to earn him significant minutes in this series. Finch is going to need all the defensive muscle he can get and Nickeil Alexander-Walker will be called on to flex his. He’ll get to chase around Jamal Murray, but I think his basketball IQ will be clutch for timely doubles on Jokić or jumping passing lines. NAW will net himself a multi-year contract with the Wolves.

— LS

NotKittenAround Anymore

My overview above didn’t have room for this, but here goes nothing.

This past offseason, Karl-Anthony Towns signed one of the most lucrative contract extensions in NBA history, and it was deserving coming off of his 2021-22 All-NBA campaign. He’s been continually better since coming back from injury this season as well, but a spot like this is REALLY where supermax players prove that signing on the dotted line was worth everyone’s while.

His team is essentially collectively limping, will be able to rotate eight guys max on a nightly basis, and will absolutely need games where him or Anthony Edwards can pull through and win a game or two themselves. For financial and experience reasons, I look more in Towns’ direction here. Besides, KAT has caught one of the highest frequencies of strays in the national media for no shows in big games and the playoffs. Now is a prime opportunity, with (let’s face it) some of the freshest legs on the team, for him to quiet some of the discourse, and remind a lot of people that he still has a place in the same conversation with Nikola Jokić as being in the league’s top tier of big men.

Trade Deadline Acquisitions Step Up

Down the stretch of the regular season and in the two Play-In Tournament games, the trade deadline additions of Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker have stepped up when the Wolves have needed them. In this opening-round matchup against Denver, I think those two play key roles for Minnesota in putting up a fight against the top-seeded Nuggets.

Oftentimes, especially in the postseason, the role players and “non-star” players on a team prove to be the difference-makers. With Denver likely being able to key in on and slow down Minnesota’s star players at some point in this series, the Wolves will need other to step up. We saw Conley and NAW step up already in the postseason, and I think we see them continue to step up in the first-round showdown against Denver.

— MH

Kyle Anderson Tops Jokić in Triple-Doubles

Jokić nearly averaged a triple double over the course of the season, but I’m going out on a (very shaky) limb and saying that Kyle Anderson will have more triple doubles this series than Jokić. Anderson has been a huge factor for the Wolves this season and is seemingly always flirting with a triple double, so I’m betting on him out-dueling Jokić in that category.

— BH

Mike Conley Provides Poise Minnesota Lacked Last Postseason

Runs, lack of timeouts and rushed play plagued the Timberwolves against the Memphis Grizzlies in last year’s first-round playoff series. This time around, having a point guard like Conley who is battle tested will give the Wolves sound decision making and floor generalship. Conley has meshed well with his Minnesota teammates since the deadline and brings a varied pace of play that is appropriate for the right situations. He will be the difference maker in the two games I see Minnesota winning in this series.

— ML

New Orleans Pelicans v Minnesota Timberwolves

“Shot Clock Winding Down!”

  • Anthony Edwards goes for 40 to steal a game on the road. — JB
  • At least one Nuggets player gets thrown out of a Wolves win at Target Center. — JB
  • Josh Minott cracks the rotation and scores 15+ while wreaking havoc on defense in Game 3. — GS
  • KAT explodes for 7+ 3-pointers in Game 2 to steal home-court advantage from the Nuggets.— CP
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker remains a starter throughout the series and gets one 5x5 game. — AB
  • One of Games 3 or 4 at Target Center feature both Jamal Murray and Anthony Edwards going off for 50 points on the same night, a la Murray vs. Donovan Mitchell in the bubble — AB
  • Luka Garza breaks out a new three-point celebration on the bench. Has been a pretty consistent “bow and arrow” recently and we’re in need of a change up. — AC
  • We see one big-to-big pick and roll that ends up in Nikola Jokić facing the baseline. — AC
  • Nathan Knight goes off for a double-double... all in garbage time. — LS
  • KAT earns the postgame on-court interview after a victory in Minnesota and The Internet continues to demonstrate that they have no understanding of what code-switching is. — LS
  • Can fans win a free Arby’s Classic Beef ‘n Cheddar — which occurs when the Wolves make 12 or more 3s in a game — in the playoffs? If so, it will happen at least twice in this series. — MH
  • Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns combine for at least 70 points in multiple games this series. — MH
  • Timberwolves go even bigger and slower by starting Gobert, Towns, and Anderson. — TM
  • Towns and Gobert get in foul trouble, and Knight comes in and have a huge five-minute stretch that forces Denver to take a panic timeout. — TM
  • Towns receives five or more fouls only twice in a 7-game series. — BH
  • Refs you suck chants will be in full force by the 6-minute mark of the 1st quarter of Game 3 at Target Center. — BH