Minnesota Timberwolves: 3 things to watch against the Denver Nuggets

D'Angelo Russell, Minnesota Timberwolves (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
D'Angelo Russell, Minnesota Timberwolves (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

What better way to enjoy your Friday evening than sitting on the sofa for the second game of the Minnesota Timberwolves preseason schedule. Up next on the docket is the Denver Nuggets, who will undoubtedly prove to be a sterner test than the New Orleans Pelicans.

Encouraging signs were on display during that first preseason game, most notably on defense, as the Timberwolves flashed indications of an improved application when guarding the perimeter. Karl-Anthony Towns also seemed vastly developed at using angles to cut off drives and protect the rim. Offensively, D’Angelo Russell looked like a bucket every time he put the ball on the floor and ran the pick-and-roll in the expert-like nature we’ve come to expect from him.

Of course, this is preseason, and experimentation is the aim of the game, so reading too deeply into the final result is a fool’s errand. However, the Denver Nuggets boast one of the better rosters in the Western Conference, and watching how Chris Finch sets the team up to exploit their weaknesses will be an interesting caveat to the proceedings.

Every contest has its matchup battles and a chess game where each unit is looking to exploit the weaknesses of the other. Here are three things to watch for as the Timberwolves look to make it two wins from two.

#3 Naz Reid will be the Minnesota Timberwolves’ answer off the bench

Nikola Jokic is the only true center on the Denver Nuggets roster, with the squad having lost Javale McGee during the off-season. As such, the Denver Nuggets will either need to rely on small-ball fives such as Jeff Green or trot out the largely untested Bol Bol with the second unit. Naz Reid is already one of the better backup bigs in the league and should have no issue dominating any back-up center matchup thrown his way during the contest.

Reid’s ability to attack the rim, rebound, and also stretch the floor a little will give the Nuggets backup big’s fits. Denver doesn’t possess a clear matchup option to limit Reid’s impact on either end of the floor, so look for him to dominate proceedings when coming off the bench – so long as Nikola Jokic isn’t sharing the floor with him, of course.

#2 How do the Minnesota Timberwolves utilize Karl-Anthony Towns against the reigning MVP?

There are so many similarities between Towns and Jokic! Both aren’t blessed with great pace, both can stretch the floor, pass the rock, run the delay in five-out offensive schemes, rebound, and dominate a game. This matchup is going to come down to defense, and who guards the other better.

Towns is more mobile than his MVP counterpart and should be able to pressure Jokic on the perimeter while covering ground quick enough to still offer some rim deterrence. We saw a defensively upgraded version of Towns against the Pelicans, and that improvement will need to be on show again if he wishes to keep Jokic quiet.

Furthermore, the Minnesota Timberwolves are a more athletic unit than the Nuggets, which will give Towns an advantage in distributing the rock, due to the amount of off-ball actions we can expect the Wolves to run. The Nuggets are still the walking wounded, as Jamal Murray remains in recovery from last season’s injury, and their rotations will be limited due to the lack of depth at the five. This might be preseason, but a statement performance from Towns could go a long way in creating some momentum heading into regular season play later this month.

#1 Was the Minnesota Timberwolves defensive performance a true indicator of what’s to come?

This one’s the biggie, right? Anyone can put in a positive defensive performance once, but can they do so on a consistent basis? But now we need to see the seeds of consistency being sown. Another high-energy, hyper-locked-in performance from players such as Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns will go a long way to proving the team is committed to the defensive end of the floor.

It’s a tougher test, and we’re not asking for perfection, but the application has to remain consistent with what we saw earlier this week against the Pelicans. If the Timberwolves can keep their foot on the gas, and continue to get easy buckets off turnovers and runouts, this team is going to be a scary proposition for any opponent this season.

Next. Minnesota Timberwolves Roundup: Staff changes, training camp notes. dark

We will know more later today, but there’s every reason to feel good about what we saw in game one, and the possibility of a repeat performance against the Nuggets.