The Scouting Report: Minnesota Timberwolves
Projected starting line-up: Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, Tayshaun Prince, Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng
Injuries: Kevin Garnett (knee), Kevin Martin (wrist) is doubtful for Sunday, Zach LaVine (ankle) is questionable
The Minnesota Timberwolves began the season as one of the biggest surprises with Karl-Anthony Towns playing far beyond his years. And while Towns is still showing that he’s the best player in this year’s draft class and arguably an All-Star already, the Wolves haven’t quite followed the trajectory of their star player.
Andrew Wiggins will present problems for the Blazers and he will get to the line against them. He’s made a small jump in effective field goal percentage while expanding his game ever so slightly from the 3-point line. He is also a bully in the post, ranking 7th in the NBA in points per possessions out of post-ups among players who’ve posted up 100 times or more according to Synergy Sports.
Perhaps some of that can be the team regressing as a whole, but it the Timberwolves have one of the five worst coaching situations in the league, which they did not plan on. After the untimely death of Flip Saunders, Sam Mitchell has taken over the squad and while the Wolves are an encouraging team long-term, they’re quite frustrating in the short term. And while Ricky Rubio’s inability to shoot and the costs of learning on the job are part of being a young team, sometimes it’s hard not to wonder where this team could be with a coach like, say, Terry Stotts.
In the last match-up between these two teams, Towns had 27 points and 12 rebounds, exposing the Blazers down low. Towns is a problem because he can post up against almost anybody and also drag defenders out to the 3-point line. Plumlee will have his hands full, but this could be a game in which Meyers Leonard’s may be most useful. Towns is an excellent player, but he won’t blow by Leonard with speed and Leonard’s shooting can pull the transformative towns away from the rim on the other end.
The Blazers guards have had success attacking the basket against the Wolves, however and some of that has been because Mitchell has not always stuck with Towns. The Wolves are also a much better defensive team with Kevin Garnett on the court and he’s fighting a knee injury, so the Blazers should have plenty of driving lanes even though Towns is a terror at the rim on his own.
The Wolves bench will provide more resistance than most units against the Blazers second units. Shabazz Muhammad has the strength to post-up against almost anybody and Nemanja Bjelica looks like he could be a solid rotation player for years to come on the wing with his 6-10 frame and 35 percent 3-point shot.
The Blazers have come back from huge deficits in both wins over Minnesota. The Wolves have lost three straight and Towns has played like a star in all of them. He even criticized his own play after the last game, so I don’t think his tear will suddenly stop when he gets to the Moda Center.