Minnesota Timberwolves at Utah Jazz Game Preview: The Northwest Cellar


Tuesday night’s showdown in Utah will likely only be viewed by two types of people – Minnesota Timberwolves die-hards and passionate Jazz fans.

Don’t expect the average NBA fan to tune in for this one, as tonight’s matchup features two of the bottom three teams in the Western Conference and neither’s placement in the Northwest Division cellar is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Despite the hideous win-loss records, both teams can look ahead to the future with a sense of optimism as both rosters sport intriguing young players. I mean how exciting of a starting five would Dante Exum, Andrew Wiggins, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Gorgui Dieng be, were the two teams to mesh together?

The Wolves come into this one on an eight-game losing streak and with the worst record in the west, while the Jazz entered play Monday night on a modest two-game winning streak before a tough four-point loss in Los Angeles to the Clippers to settle their record at 10-21.


Dec 16, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Shabazz Muhammad (15) dribbles past Washington Wizards forward Rasual Butler (8) during the fourth quarter at Verizon Center. Washington Wizards defeated Minnesota Timberwolves 109-95. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Timberwolves (5-24)

PG – Zach LaVine (17 GS, .396 FG%, .818 FT%, 2.5 REB, 3.9 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.2 BLK, 9.0 PTS this season)

SG – Shabazz Muhammad (7 GS, .495 FG%, .694 FT%, 3.9 REB, 1.0 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.2 BLK, 13.3 PTS this season)

SF – Andrew Wiggins (29 GS, .399 FG%, .688 FT%, 3.9 REB, 1.4 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.5 BLK, 12.8 PTS this season)

PF – Thaddeus Young (24 GS, .449 FG%, .562 FT%, 4.6 REB, 2.2 AST, 1.7 STL, 0.5 BLK, 14.5 PTS this season)

C- Gorgui Dieng  (21 GS, .500 FG%, .784 FT%, 8.1 REB, 2.0 AST, 1.1 STL, 1.6 BLK, 9.3 PTS this season)

Key Reserves

Troy Daniels (PG) –  The newest Timberwolves player had his first impactful game during Saturday’s loss against the Golden State Warriors. Daniels dropped 14 points on 5 of 6 shooting, including 4 of 4 from downtown. The majority of his playing time has come in two blowouts thus far, while he has received limited playing time during the other two games (which were much closer.) In what could very well be a close game tonight, we’ll see if Daniels can snag any of LaVine and Williams’ minutes in this one.

Robbie Hummel (SF) – After seeing three “DNPs” on his season stats during the season’s first four games, Hummel’s court action has picked up considerably lately. While he’s still buried near the end of Flip Saunders’ bench, the Purdue product has been sharp over the last three games, posting a stat line of 5.0 PPG and 1.6 REB, shooting 7 of 11 from the field, and having a combined plus/minus of +16.

Mo Williams (PG) – Which Williams will we see in this one as he squares off against a slew of young, athletic Utah guards? The 11-year pro has looked like a $3.75 million steal on some nights while looking like the aging veteran that he is on other occasions. Williams, who was drafted by the Jazz in 2003, was outstanding to close out the month of November, scoring double-digits in six straight games, including four double-doubles. Though he missed six games due to injury earlier this month, his play has been inconsistent at best of late.

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Utah Jazz (10-20)

*Stats as of 12/29/14

PG – Trey Burke (30 GS, .360 FG%, .820 FT%, 2.3 REB, 5.1 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.3 BLK, 11.4 PTS this season)

SG – Rodney Hood (3 GS, .311 FG%, .714 FT%, 2.1 REB, 1.1 AST, 0.4 STL, 0.2 BLK, 5.2 PTS this season)

SF – Gordon Hayward (30 GS, .457 FG%, .799 FT%, 5.3 REB, 4.0 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.4 BLK 18.9 PTS this season)

PF – Derrick Favors (27 GS, .559 FG%, .695 FT%, 8.3 REB, 1.6 AST, 0.6 STL, 1.6 BLK, 15.7 PTS this season)

C – Enes Kanter (30 GS, .513 FG%, .791 FT%, 7.2 REB, 0.7 AST, 0.3 STL, 0.4 BLK, 14.0 PTS this season)

Key Reserves    

Oct 13, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz forward Steve Novak (16) warms up prior to the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz won 102-89. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Dante Exum (PG) – The fifth overall pick out of Australia is stuck behind the barely older Burke on the depth chart, but you’d think that in drafting Exum so high, the Jazz plan on using him as a starter sometime down the road. Exum has played in all 30 games this season, posting a line of 4.5 PPG, 1.5 REB, and 1.9 AST. He has averaged 18 minutes per game as well.

Steve Novak (SF) – The former Marquette Golden Eagle has unsurprisingly played for seven different teams in his career. The large number of movements may not be a surprise due to the fact that Novak is a one-dimensional player. He has long been known for taking and making the three-pointer and his game does not figure to change over the remainder of his career. Amazingly, Novak has attempted and converted more than double the amount of three-pointers (556/1287, .432%) as two-pointers (171/369, .463%) over the course of his career.

Alec Burks (SG) – Burks missed his second straight game on Monday night due to a strained left shoulder and if healthy for this one, he would be the expected starter. One-half of the confusing backcourt mnemonic-wise, Burks is averaging 13.9 points per game this season, which ranks him third on the team. Wiggins could have a big advantage in this game is he matches up with Hood rather than Burks.


Unfortunately, nothing seems to be changing much on the Wolves injury report these days. Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, and Kevin Martin are all still out. Of those players still on the team from last year’s version of the Wolves, this trio were the three highest scorers.

3 things to look out for

1. Andrew Wiggins going off? As noted above, if Wiggins gets a match-up against Hood in this one, the number-one pick could have a chance at a big game. It’ll be interesting if Jazz coaching staff elects to play a zone defense though, or if they do decide to go man-to-man, if it will be Hayward versus Wiggins.

2. Worst in the west? With the Los Angeles Lakers playing better of late, this game may pit the two worst teams in the Western Conference against each other. Both seem to be virtual locks for a top-10 pick in next year’s NBA draft.

3. One shining moment from Hayward? When I hear the name Gordon Hayward, one image – one moment really – immediately jumps to mind. The 2010 NCAA National Title Game nearly provided us with the greatest moment in college basketball history. Despite the heartbreaking loss nearly five years ago, Hayward has crafted himself quite a nice NBA career.

With tonight’s game having a good chance of being a nail-biter, might we see another buzzer-beating attempt from the former Butler Bulldog?


It appears that the basketball gods really want the Wolves to win this one. All of the stars are aligning for Minnesota to snap their losing skid.

The road team is coming into tonight off of a two-day rest, while the Jazz presumably arrived home early this morning after playing a late game in Los Angeles. Burks, one of the better Jazz players, is questionable for the game and the Wolves are due for a win right? Yes, I am picking the Minnesota Timberwolves to come out on top in this one in relatively easy fashion, by 10 points.