Things are quietly going well in Raptor-land. The Raptors have won 14 of their last 15 games, are 3-1 on the current road-trip, with the final game of their pre-All Star slate going tonight in Minnesota. After opening the 5-game road trip with a blow-out loss to the Denver Nuggets, they've rebounded nicely in beating the Suns, the Blazers and the Pistons. DeMarre Carroll should be close to returning after the team returns from All Star Weekend, so there's reason to be optimistic about where this team is headed this year. Injuries to teams around them have solidified the Raptors' 2nd place seeding in the East at 35-16.
On the flip side, the Minnesota Timberwolves have had a tumultuous season, most of it no fault of their own. After the tragic passing of Flip Saunders, and the subsequent hiring of Sam Mitchell as interim head coach, the Timberwolves have had problems adjusting to the modernization of the NBA. Notoriously averse to shooting threes (last in the league in attempts per game), and running a rudimentary offence, the Wolves have floundered to 16-37. There are better times on the horizon though, as Karl-Anthony Towns is having as good a rookie year as any player in recent memory, and with Andrew Wiggins already on the roster and another lottery pick on the way, at some point, they'll have too much talent to keep stumbling over their own feet.
Things to Watch For:
Wiggins and Towns
Ask anyone who's a member of Wolves nation and you'll find it's a no-contest as to who's more on track for success in their respective careers. While Wiggins does some nice things defensively, has a knack for getting to the line and scores at a good rate, Towns is having a Tim Duncan-esque rookie season in terms of numbers. Routinely putting up monster numbers in the blocks and rebounds department, and with range out to the three point line, Towns is a freak who probably should have a bigger role on offence. Towns is averaging 17 and 10 with a TS% of 59, while Wiggins is averaging 21 and 4 with a TS% of 52.6. Different roles, yes, but that's a nice tandem to start building your team around. Both guys have usage rates above 24%, but the more Minnesota relies on Towns, the better off they'll be.
The Raptors' lineup of Lowry + the 4 bench guys has legitimately been one of the best 5-man units in the league. The Timberwolves actually have some lineup combinations that have been potent for them too, most of them featuring Ricky Rubio, Wiggins and Towns on the floor. However, one of Mitchell's big problems has been mismanagement of the bench, and that's where the Raptors should look to capitalize. Sister blog Canis Hoopus' David Naylor expressed some concern about the Wolves' bench unit.
@IamHarshDave which will inevitably play against Jones-LaVine-Bazz-Payne-Pek and go supernova— David Naylor (@ProfCedar) February 9, 2016
Ricky Rubio is a very good player. His shooting struggles have been well documented but he and Kevin Garnett are the only two guys on the Timberwolves with a positive net rating (Rubio plays twice as many minutes). With Rubio off the court, the team's offensive and defensive ratings are the worst on the team compared to when any other player's off. Simply put, he's the engine of that team. The way he runs the offence, the way he anchors their perimeter defence, make no mistake, Ricky Rubio is good.
Where to Watch: 8 PM EST, TSN National