Minnesota at L.A. Lakers
Time: 8:30 PM CT, NBA TV
Spread: MIN -5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers are both firmly out of the playoff chase, but NBA TV will air the two young clubs as the finale in its quadruple-header on Sunday night.
The Lakers have improbably won its past three-games following a 13-game skid, while the Timberwolves have dropped its past three, but still lead L.A. by seven-games in the standings (for whatever it matters; it does not).
Minnesota will be 5-point favorites in the affair, although the motivation for the Lakers should be much stronger to seek out a loss.
Should the Lakers not obtain a top-3 pick in the 2017 draft, it will be surrendered via trade—worse still, the same will happen again next year as part of the Dwight Howard trade. The drive to tank has never been fiercer, and after winning three straight expect Luke Walton to do what it takes to emerge as the losers in this one.
Unfortunately, this brutal honesty is something we must interject at this juncture for a team so engrossed in a tanking effort that it has rested its veterans down the stretch in attempt to fail harder.
The Timberwolves meanwhile may have disappointed some this season, but if so, it is only because the expectations were simply far too high to begin with. The Wolves have three of the game’s best young talents in Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, but it has little leadership to guide the crew, and even less defense to make up the picture of what could be a very good team, eventually anyway.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau, long regarded as a defensive mastermind, has been unable to instill simple help-defense concepts into his team, and given that Minnesota is NOT short on good individual defenders, there is no reason the Wolves should be surrendering 106.5 points per game, a defense which ranks third-worst in the Western Conference.
Partially to blame is Wiggins himself, whose defensive acumen still is far above his actual effort.
Wiggins has become something of a one-dimensional scoring monster, and that is hardly ideal for a guy who was billed to have Scottie Pippen-like two-way potential. Towns has anchored the defense well enough, but with so many guys being beaten on the perimeter, and the defensive rotations being slow or non-existent, the Wolves have suffered due to it.
The result is that the team will finish with just over 30 wins, which while not sufficient is a mark that can be built upon when the team seeks to add some veterans and defensive leaders this offseason. The pieces are in place, but does anyone trust that Minnesota can keep all the young talent together? Needless to say, it has yet to happen in the franchise’s history since joining the NBA in 1989.
The Lakers have a nice collection of talent, too, in their own right. And funny enough, the same issues that have plagued Minnesota have been the cause of L.A.’s noted underachievement this season. The Lakers possess the second-worst defense in the league, and so little effort has been given on that end that is even difficult to assess the value of the individual defenders within the Lakers’ lineup.
For instance: Is Julius Randle undersized and a poor defender, or is he simply being exposed due to the fact he has so little defense surrounding him to cover his inadequacies. That is to say: A good defensive team could easily hide Randle, and the Lakers have not.
Frontcourts have battered Los Angeles all season, ad though the team has been plenty competent on the offensive end, its defense is the reason that few are ready to crown this team as “promising” as many felt it would be during the preseason. Brandon Ingram has made a lot of progress and is far from being a bust, and the same applies to the wild combo guard D’Angelo Russell, but even team president Magic Johnson is unsure the Lakers have any superstars in the making.
It is simply too early to tell, and the team has been too dysfunctional to get an accurate gauge on just how good any of the young talents can eventually become. Of course, when the Lakers did trade their leading scorer and best veteran in Lou Williams, it became apparent the franchise was in an all-out assault to absolutely tank the second half of the season.