NBA League Pass Betting Preview: Minnesota T-Wolves at Utah Jazz

Being without 1st Team Defender Rudy Gobert is going to cripple the Utah Jazz.

Minnesota at Utah
Time: 8 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: MIN -3.5
Total: 208.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Utah Jazz just received the unfortunate news it will be without starting center Rudy Gobert for the next 4-to-6 weeks, and with that news, so goes Utah’s chances of climbing out of the mediocrity bin it has found itself in following the departure of team leader Gordon Hayward.

While Hayward’s fate in Boston was more disastrous still, the news that Gobert is out is a bit of a death blow to the Jazz. He is the heart of its still top-notch defense, and without the rim protection he provides, teams may have a field day on what remains of the Jazz defense.

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The first team to take advantage of this plight will be Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves, as the Jazz host Minnesota as 3.5-point underdogs to Tom Thibodeau’s team. The over/under is set at 208.5, but this is one that the ‘over’ seems particularly attractive on, given that Minnesota really could run up the score against a defense that will have to reinvent itself without its premier player.

And Utah is not a team without its problems—even with Gobert. The Jazz average just 98 points per game, and subtracting Gobert’s 13.9 hardly helps. Expect leading scorer Rodney Hood to further increase his workload. Hood is averaging 13.6 field goal attempts per game and averaging 15.6 points, but the Jazz are not a team resplendent with offensive options. Ricky Rubio can score, but that is not his calling card, and unless Donovan Mitchell steps up to put together an (even more) stellar beginning to his rookie season, Utah is likely going to have a lot of issues scoring the basketball.

Mitchell, to be sure, has been one of the steals of the 2017 draft so far, and he is averaging 13.9 points per game despite shooting just 36.6 percent from the floor. Perhaps the biggest unknown for the Jazz is whether it can coax the production it once got from Derrick Favors, who has becoming something of a missing piece and enigma over the past season and a half.

Favors is averaging 11.4 points and five rebounds per game, but two seasons ago he was good for 16 points and eight boards per game while shooting 51 percent from the field. His role has decreased since those 32 minute a night he saw in 2015-16, but Gobert’s injury changes that. At 6-foot-10, Favors has the size to step up and reclaim his role as a major center for the Jazz, but barring that it is easy to see Utah going on a major losing streak over the next month. The only recipe for success is Favors reemerging, Hood taking on a greater volume, and Mitchell playing far less like a rookie.

Minnesota has dropped its past two contests to fall to 7-5 on the season, but all things considered the Timberwolves have to be reasonably pleased with the progress the team has made this season. The defense is still poor, however, and Jimmy Butler is not pleased with it at all, saying it “must improve or else.” Taj Gibson feels the same. Recall, both Butler and Gibson are Thibodeau disciples from his tenure in Chicago, and Thibodeau coached teams are typically strong defensively. What makes it perhaps all the more perplexing is that the Wolves have good individual defenders, the issue really has been poor rotations, poor help, and overall poor communication. It is a systemic problem that can be fixed, but after giving up 125 points to the Warriors then giving up 118 the next night to the Phoenix Suns, it has brought about an impetus to change that must be acted upon collectively by the young roster.

Minnesota is giving up 111.8 points per game, which renders moot the fact that the Wolves are good offensively themselves (108.8 points per). The team has not rebounded well, either, with just 43 per game (tied-17th), again something that should be inexcusable with so many good individual rebounders like Towns, Gibson and forward Gorgui Dieng. Dieng’s role has dramatically decreased with the addition of Gibson, and Taj is simply a solid forward defender with minimal long-term upside. Perhaps he is the best fit for a team that is seeking some veteran leadership and presence, but the Wolves really need its young players to step up.

That means getting premier defense from Andrew Wiggins, as well as managing to turn Shabazz Muhammed back into the effective sixth man he was becoming. So, while the Wolves have made many strides and stepped forward, it is not a team without its problems. However, the biggest problem resides in its opponent, as the Jazz have an issue with (lack of) personnel, and the Wolves simply have some issues to iron out. Expect Minnesota to prevail, but if Utah gets its offense going that may sound an even louder alarm through the Wolves clubhouse as it searches for answers to an ailing defense.

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