Timberwolves vs Hawks – NBA Pick for January 29th
- Spread: Timberwolves -6
After a wild weekend in the Association, Monday brings us a moderate 6-game slate in the NBA. One of the first games to tip-off will be a contest between a couple of teams going in different directions. The Minnesota Timberwolves, who appear poised to make the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, are in the ATL tonight to take on the lottery-bound Hawks.
After missing 4 games with a sore knee, All-Star Jimmy Butler returned to the floor for the Wolves on Saturday. Butler helped Minnesota snap a 2-game losing skid by scoring 21 points in a 111-97 win over the Brooklyn Nets in Minneapolis. When they’re operating at full health, there aren’t many teams that can match the Timberwolves’ talent level.
The Wolves got a dominant effort from Karl-Anthony Towns against the Nets, as well. KAT contributed 16 points along with a whopping 19 rebounds, 10 of which came on the offensive end of the floor. He also blocked 3 shots and he’s stepped up his defensive effort considerably since struggling on that side early in the year.
Perhaps the blessing in disguise regarding Butler’s recent injury was that it allowed Andrew Wiggins to find some confidence. The former No. 1 overall pick has seen his offensive role sliced since Butler joined the team in the summer, but he certainly took advantage of his time as the offense’s top option. Over his last 5 games, one of which came alongside Butler, Wiggins averaged 24.8 points on excellent 49 percent shooting from the floor.
It looks as though Minnesota will be jockeying for seeding with the likes of the Spurs and Thunder all season long. Entering play Monday, the Wolves are a game back of San Antonio for the No. 3 seed and a game up on OKC for the No. 5 spot. Catching the Rockets, who are 5 up for the No. 2 seed, looks unlikely at this point.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the Hawks, who own the league’s worst record at 14-35. This team won 60 games just a few years ago, but just about all of those players are gone. Kyle Korver was traded last year, while Al Horford left in the summer of 2016. Jeff Teague was traded last year, as well, while Paul Millsap fled to Denver as a free agent this past summer. Atlanta also shipped Dwight Howard to Charlotte in a blatant salary dump.
Now, the Hawks appear primed to begin the tanking operation. Dennis Schroder has put up some numbers as the team’s lead guard this season, but there’s no telling whether he actually has a future in the league as an above-average point guard. The artist formerly known as “German Rondo” has some fairly gaping holes in his game that will need to be filled in order for him to take the next step.
Still, he could be in for a nice night tonight against a Timberwolves team that has struggled to defend point guards this season.
There’s not much to get excited about with the rest of the roster, either. Kent Bazemore is a nice role player, but Atlanta overpaid by signing him to a deal worth $70 million in the summer of 2016. Among the players currently on the roster, rookie John Collins looks to be the most promising.
Collins’ playing time has been rather limited due to his tendency to foul too much, but he puts numbers up whenever he’s out there. If you extrapolate his numbers on a per-36 minutes basis, Collins is averaging 17.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. Once he gets acclimated to the speed of the NBA game, he could be a beast.
The over/under on this game is set at 215 points, which actually seems a bit low. Tom Thibodeau’s teams are known for defense, but the Wolves have been a bottom-10 defense in the league this season. Minnesota is 24th in defensive rating, while the Hawks are 26th.
The Wolves also have the third-best offense in the league, so they should make mincemeat of the Atlanta “defense” in this one. Betting the over on 215 points looks like a very strong play at this point.
You can also take Minnesota to cover the 6-point spread, but the total looks like the better option right now.
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