WHO: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
After a fantastic double-overtime victory against the Houston Rockets on Saturday, which brought their preseason record to 4-1, Memphis’s remaining healthy bodies head to the midwest to fend off the league’s latest new young whippersnappers, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Incidentally, Minnesota will also start the regular season proper against Memphis, though the Grizz will get home court advantage for that matchup.
Timberwolves Roster To Watch:
PG: Ricky Rubio - Oft-derided for his broken jumper or his broken body parts, a healthy Ricky Rubio still brings some dangerous skills to the table: crazy Steve Nash passes and good defense. Guarding Rubio is one time when it’d be okay for Mike Conley to unabashedly roam the passing lanes for picks.
SG: Zach LaVine - The reigning Slam Dunk champion has been terrific during the preseason, jumping out of the gym as usual, but exhibiting a refined scoring touch, too. Maybe his more-touted high-flying perimeter partner isn't the only T-Wolf threatening to have a breakout season.
SF: Andrew Wiggins - The former Canadian high school prodigy promises to make quick work out of Memphis’ makeshift small forward corps. Wiggins is a 6’8’ super-athlete with hops for says and an improved shooting stroke, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Cavs GM LeBron James totally regrets letting the late Flip Saunders fleece him in the trade that gave Minny future All Star Wiggins and Cleveland former All Star Kevin Love.
PF: Gorgui Dieng - I’ll bet Thibodeau still wishes the Bulls had drafted the Louisville product over their just-traded, little-used wing Tony Snell. Dieng, a free agent next summer, still is more shiny promise than finished product, but he’s 7’1’’ and mobile. Of course, Hasheem Thabeet was 7’3’’ and mobile, so... best of luck, Wolves.
C: Karl-Anthony Towns - Assuming David Fizdale doesn't play Marc Gasol tonight (and there is no earthly reason he should), look for KAT (assuming Thibs does play KAT, and honestly, there is no earthly reason KAT needs to, either) to posterize Brandan Wright again and again and again. One intriguing option for Fizdale to consider is shifting JaMychal Green to jump center, and letting Z-Bo tally a charity start so he can hopefully fake out Gorgui Dieng with his still-potent low-post game.
Key Bench Player
PG: Kris Dunn - The 2016-17 Rookie of the Year was giving off some Point Guard of the Future vibes heading into the preseason, and if his chops continue to improve, there’s a pretty good chance he replaces Rubio among the starters sooner rather than later.
Maybe the Thibs-erwolves will rest guys this time, as they did last Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder? This would previously have been a very un-Thibs-ean move. One Bulls preseason (2013 I believe), Tom Thibodeau played his starters at averages of 30+ minutes, the Bulls won all eight preseason games, and then... they received no plaudits of any kind, the wins counted for nothing as soon as the regular season started, and Derrick Rose tore his meniscus ten games into the season. Then again, the Wolves’ big names may have just been taking a mandated breather due to the Thunder game falling on the second night of a back-to-back in, again, a meaningless preseason game. Why there are any back-to-back games, at all, is a mystery to me — why there are any in the preseason, though, is a middle wrapped inside an enigma.
The big change from Saturday’s starting lineup, of course, is the loss of Marc Gasol to a bone bruise in everybody’s least-favorite Marc Gasol foot. Only two of Memphis’s anticipated starters will be healthy enough to play tonight: Mike Conley running point, JaMychal Green pogo-sticking in the paint as the power forward. Joining them will be that Rockets contest’s sharpshooting small forward Troy Williams (in for Chandler Parsons), Andrew Harrison (in for Tony Allen), and Brandan Wright (the Gasol substitute).
Williams, by the way, made five three-pointers on Monday, and shot seven-of-15 overall. When Memphis signed Troy Daniels this summer for $3.3 million, you can bet they would have pegged him to be Chandler Parsons’ prime sub, not the undrafted, unsigned rookie Williams). As Joe Mullinax noted on Monday, this six-game preseason has been a really big deal for three established perimeter rotation-level players in particular: Harrison, rookie Wade Baldwin; and Troy Daniels.
Baldwin’s horrible offense has mitigated his tantalizing tools at the other end; the more seasoned Harrison has looked like the more NBA-ready player, posting respecting shooting clips from the field, and an underwhelming percentage from the charity stripe (although Baldwin’s is worse). Daniels has looked awful, but the preseason emergence of Troy Williams just might offset Daniels’s disappointing Grizzlies start.
Overall Performance Outlook: Timberwolves win, 100-88.