NBA Picks ATS: Minnesota Timberwolves at Phoenix Suns

Harry Potter be droppin' dimes.
Harry Potter be droppin’ dimes.

Minnesota Timberwolves at Phoenix Suns
Time: 2:30 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: PHO -5
Total: 210.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

The thought was that the Minnesota Timberwolves had nearly made a 180 degree turn. However, the Wolves are starting to look far more mortal over its past six games, having lost five of them to fall to 9-13 on the season badly in need of a win as it travels to face the Phoenix Suns.

The Suns are 5-point favorites in the game, which has a high betting total of 210.5 at oddsmaker 5dimes.

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The Wolves most recent ‘L’ came to the Denver Nuggets, falling 111-108. In fact, the Wolves have allowed 109 points or more in all four of its last games, though Minnesota did defeat the Lakers 123-122. The team just has lacked defensively, which is somewhat hard to understand given the strength of its individual defenders.

The only implication one can draw is that the team defense must improve, because the Timberwolves are not so potent offensively that they can run teams out of the gym.

Not yet, anyway.

Minnesota has perhaps two of the brightest young and budding stars in the league, though, in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Wiggins leads the team in scoring at 21 points per game while also averaging 3.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.

The small forward from Canada has struggled a little with his shooting, nevertheless. He is hitting just 42.8 percent from the floor and just 26.8 percent behind the arc, though he does get to the line for 7.6 free throws per game. Wiggins is the player he is on the strength of his athleticism, but that alone will not be great enough to propel him to superstardom. His PER of 16.3 reflects that his efficiency needs to greatly improve.

Towns, on the other hand, is posting a PER of 22.0 and is a very efficient and deadly scorer. The rookie from Kentucky is hitting 53.2 percent from the floor, 41.2 percent from three and 81 percent from the line on 2.7 attempts per game.

What may make the Wolves’ model really work though is two of the players statistically impacting the least: Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince. The Wolves picked two very experienced veterans to add the leadership to this team, and that is what may eventually make it a feared team should it reach the postseason.

Though K.G. sees just 16 minutes a game and Prince 20, the pair is invaluable to teach the host of youngsters on this team. Kevin Martin also serves this purpose while averaging 13 points in 26 minutes a night. The Wolves have the right blend of experience and youth, and though Minnesota is four games below .500, it is very early and the Wolves can radically improve its chances by toughening up defensively. It is very doable.

The Phoenix Suns should produce a good test for that notion, as a team that is capable of putting up big points with a high scoring and difficult to stop backcourt in Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight.

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The 10-14 Suns get 42.8 points per game from that backcourt, and Bledsoe kind of does a little bit of everything. The multifaceted guard dishes out 6.3 assists per game while grabbing four boards and coming up with 2.53 blocks/steals per game.

Knight, too, comes up with 1.96 steals/blocks per game while averaging 5.4 assists. Having two playmakers who are both really point guards first gives Phoenix some unique options in its offensive sets. Both are high level playmakers and Phoenix averages 105.2 points per game.

Phoenix also does a lot of damage from behind the arc where it shoots 38.4 percent as a team. Bledsoe, Knight and newly acquired Mirza Teletovic all average over two threes per game. Teletovic played for the Brooklyn Nets last season but is right at home in the desert. He leads the Suns in three-point percentage at 45.5 percent and a full 80 percent of his shots come from behind the arc. His shooting acumen and overall play comes at a much cheaper rate than the departed Channing Frye who was not signed two seasons ago (now in Orlando).

No team in today’s NBA seems quite complete without a court-stretching power forward.

The Suns have an effective 10-man rotation and other than Bledsoe and Knight, no one sees more than 30 minute per game. Indeed, this will be a good offense to test the Timberwolves defense, as Minnesota is not going to be an unexpected playoff team unless it can improve its play on that side of the court.

The Suns meanwhile seem to have the model it wants offensively, but at 10-14 will have to become a much tougher team on the road where it is 4-8. The Suns are .500 at home, which is also not really a good enough mark to stir much fear in other teams.

Both teams are tied in the standings, but the Suns have one more win and have played two more games than Minnesota.  These two clubs, the Utah Jazz and the Portland Trailblazers, may be the clubs duking it out for the West’s final playoff spot—howsoever early it is to venture such a guess.

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