NBA on ESPN Odds: Minnesota Timberwolves at Oklahoma City Thunder

kevin durant-thunder-2015-2Minnesota Timberwolves at Oklahoma City Thunder
Time: 6 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: OKC -13
Total: 209.5

Odds c/o Pincle

Things continue to slide downwards for the Minnesota Timberwolves, as losers of eight straight and nine of its past 10. The Wolves will travel to face the No. 3 team in the Western Conference in Oklahoma City and the Thunder are 13-point favorites over 12-28 Minnesota.

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Minnesota has yet to win in 2016, with its last victory having been a 94-80 win over the Utah Jazz on Dec 30, 2015. It is a little hard to understand given the way the Wolves came out of the gates in 2015, but the glut of talent on the team is still coming together in many ways. Second-year forward Andrew Wiggins is averaging 20.8 points per game, but he is shooting just 43.8 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range. Rookie Karl-Anthony Towns has been efficient and good, though, with a 21.4 PER a reflection of his 52.7 percent field goal shooting.

The No. 1 overall pick from the 2015 draft is averaging 15.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game this season. The Wolves have mostly had a horrid time trying to space the court with a lack of shooters both on the roster and the ones it has underperforming badly. Minnesota is shooting just 33.1 percent from three as a team while making only 5.1 per game. Kevin Martin is typically a good marksman and he has only made 36 percent, while Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio are both shooting under 32 percent from three-point range.

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The Wolves also are not blessed with an abundance of depth, given the struggles of Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng. Both are averaging under 10 points per game, while Dieng does come up with 2.2 blocks/steals in his 24.5 minutes per game. The Wolves are very much a work in progress on on the list will be shooters. This roster is not just short of them, it is mostly lacking in them. It is impeding an otherwise talented lineup from playing well in the half court or in transition, and that has led to the skid.

The Thunder won its past two games over its opponent tonight and also over the Dallas Mavericks. Kevin Durant and the Thunder held off Minnesota 101-96 on Tuesday night. Durant shot 11 of 25 in that game for 30 points, three assists and seven rebounds. Russell Westbrook shot 8 of 15 from the floor for 22 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.

Westbrook and Durant combine for 51.5 points per game this season and both have PERs approaching 30 (Durant, 28.4; Westbrook, 29.6). The Thunder have been pleased to get a consistent third option in Enes Kanter. Kanter is averaging 11.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game this season and came aboard last year around this time before the trade deadline. Kanter, Dion Waiters and Serge Ibaka can all do a rotation of being that third option that most are quick to say OKC lacks.

Waiters is averaging 9.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, but Kanter is posting the third-highest PER on the team at 23.9. The Thunder do have an assortment of guys who can eventually form a reliable second unit. But until that time: its top-two talents are so good it hardly matters.

There is scarcely a team with the top-end talent the Thunder have with two former NBA scoring champs in the starting lineup. Last year, Westbrook took the league’s scoring title and Durant had already won it three times before he was even 25 years old. Westbrook is still chasing his first career MVP award while Durant possesses one already, but both are undoubtedly more focused on securing a title together this season. The Thunder missed the postseason on the season’s final day last year when it fell to the New Orleans Pelicans, but this season the Thunder have a healthy, ready duo.

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