The Wolves go to Washington! No. We’re off to see the Wizards! No, again.
See, it’s reversed.
Since the Wolves no-good, heartbreaking, big-time bummer of a loss on November 19th in Washington, the Wizards have trended upwards, going 9-6 since and vaulting into the sixth seed of the Eastern Conference standing with some quality wins over the Lakers, Atlanta and… well that’s about it.
As tough as the Wolves losses in Los Angeles were, as tough as the Cleveland loss was, and as difficult as it’s been to watch the Wolves lose control of games they’ve otherwise appeared to have in the bag — the Eastern Conference is such a garbage barge, I can’t give any respect to a Washington record of 12-13. They are 5-5 over their last 10.
Washington’s probable starting lineup:
PG John Wall
SG Bradley Bel
SF Trevor Ariza
PF Trevor Booker
C Marcin Gortat
Nené has missed time with achilles issues and ceded minutes to (former Wolf draft choice) Trevor Booker. Another Wiz with Wolf ties, Martell Webster has recovered from his recent ankle issues but given Trevor Ariza the starting small forward spot he occupied the first time the Wolves saw Washington.
Ariza has shot an obscenely un-Ariza-like 49% from the floor and 46% from 3 for the month of December. Compared to career percentages of 43% and 33%, the comeback to reality drop off could be pretty steep when it arrives.
Martell is himself shooting 47% from 3 over his last five and still could be coming off the bench for some time.
Booker, on the other hand, has been feast or famine averaging 10 points and 8 rebounds in over 26 minutes for December. But he’s had games like the win in Boston where he played 14 minutes and pulled down 3 rebounds after 13 in 24 in Brooklyn and just 4 in 32 in New York — all of those games were wins for Washington.
For Wiz coach (and former Wolves coaching great) Randy Wittman starting Trevors Booker and Ariza gives his bench strength it wouldn’t normally have, as Webster and Nené can anchor a lineup that includes Garrett Temple and rookie Otto Porter Jr.
Minnesota probable starting lineup:
PG Ricky Rubio
SG Kevin Martin
SF Corey Brewer
PF Kevin Love
C Nikola Pekovic
Oh, but we haven’t talked about John Wall at all. In fantasy circles, Wall has always been referred to as a kind of Russell Westbrook lite version. With big points (20 a night for December), elite assists (9.4, again for December) and steals (2) with the same questionable turnovers (4.5 a game) and field goal percentages (41/29 from the floor and three) that give one pause when you consider Wall is not only the face of the franchise, but the recipient of a 5-year $80 million maximum contract extension.
Bradley Beal is three games returned from a stress fracture in his fibula that kept him out for a few weeks. Beal was shooting under 42% on almost 20 shots a night, but with 44% from three giving him a lethal edge to those chucker stats. Beal put up 25 against the Wolves last time out and although I propose the Wolves let Wall and Beal chuck to their hearts delight, it would be prudent to get back on defense first and let them do their chucking from deep.