• OPPONENT: Minnesota Timberwolves

    RECORD: 31-18 (12-12 on road, 7-3 last 10 games)

    MEASURABLES: 110.8 offensive rating (3rd), 106.9 defensive rating (22nd), +3.8 net rating (5th)

    PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Jeff Teague, SG Andrew Wiggins, SF Nemanja Bjelica, PF Taj Gibson, C Karl-Anthony Towns

    INJURIES: Jimmy Butler (doubtful), Jamal Crawford (questionable)

    WHEN, WHERE, HOW TO WATCH: 10:00 EST, Moda Center (Portland), NBC Sports Northwest/FOX Sports North

    The past two games have shown what could make the Minnesota Timberwolves so, so dangerous – not just this season, but for years to come. Without the injured Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford, most penciled in Minnesota for losses at home versus the Toronto Raptors and at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Clippers two days later. The Wolves were dealt consecutive blowouts by inferior foes without Butler in late October, after all, and Crawford is a source of shot-creation and overall playmaking who was supposed to help pick up his slack.

    But this team, one year older and one year wiser under Tom Thibodeau, did what so many Minnesota iterations before it have failed to do since since the organization’s last playoff berth in 2004: Win when they where supposed to lose.

    The Wolves are now tied for third place in the West after dramatic victories over a pair of quality opponents. Andrew Wiggins, in a temporary reprisal as his team’s number one option, has been the driving force behind those wins, dropping 29 points and a go-ahead, crunch-time 3-pointer on the Raptors and 40 more on 16-of-28 shooting in a chippy contest with the resurgent Clippers. His recent performance has been a stark reminder of the acclimation period inevitably associated with such a major change in role from one season to the next.

    Wiggins is no less talented than he was a year ago, and his poor shooting numbers in 2017-18 are hardly a foolproof indicator of his long-term comfort playing with a bonafide alpha dog. It takes time for all players to adjust to new circumstances. That Wiggins has made marked strides defensively this season and quietly improved his efficiency of late is legitimate reason for optimism. That the superstar potential that prompted his max contract extension over the summer so clearly still exists is welcome cause for celebration.

    If only the Portland Trail Blazers possessed a similar means of upward mobility in the future while trying to win in the present.

    What makes Minnesota a total anomaly for a team of this caliber is that Wiggins isn’t even its best young player. That distinction goes to Karl-Anthony Towns, a first-time All-Star and offensive dynamo who’s steadily begun to clean up the embarrassing defensive miscues that highlighted the first few weeks of his third NBA season. Interestingly, Towns hasn’t benefited from the additional freedom afforded him by the absence of Butler and Crawford. He’s taken just 14 shots in the Wolves’ past two games, but scored 33 points in the process – the latest of mounting, season-long evidence that Towns could stand to be more aggressive.

    Then again, it’s not like Minnesota has struggled to score without Butler this season. Lineups featuring Wiggins and Towns sans Butler have an offensive rating of 116.4, per NBA.com/stats, nearly three full points higher than the Golden State Warriors’ league-leading mark. One problem: Those units, amazingly, still have a net rating comfortably in the red due to hemorrhaging points on the other end. The sample size there is small, but confirms the defensive influence of a hard-headed stopper like Butler and the limitations of his teammates.

    Nemanja Bjelica, a sharp-shooting combo forward who’s played more on the perimeter recently and assumed Butler’s role in the starting lineup, is a gamer defensively but lacks the quickness to keep up with most wings around screens or off the dribble. Jeff Teague’s effort wanes when he’s not jumping passing lanes. Wiggins isn’t ready to make life hard on the opposition’s best perimeter player on a possession-by-possession basis, and Towns is less effective as a pick-and-roll defender and rim-protector the more he’s forced to make decisions in space. Taj Gibson is still a cagey, versatile defender who knows the ins and outs of Thibodeau’s demanding system, but his voice doesn’t ring half as loud as Butler’s.

    With Butler doubtful as he continues rehabbing an ailing right knee, then, expect the Blazers and Timberwolves to run up the score on Wednesday at Moda Center. Minnesota is ill-equipped to handle the creative dynamism of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, while Portland doesn’t have the perimeter size to keep Wiggins and even Bjelica from wreaking havoc in the post. Towns is a matchup problem for any team, but especially one that employs conservative ball-screen coverage. Neither the Blazers nor Timberwolves mind a more free-flowing, offense-based type of style when it suddenly presents itself, either, chagrin of their coaches be damned.

    Games like this one make Monday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets even more frustrating for Portland. Most teams in the NBA aren’t good enough to beat a playoff competitor on the road without their MVP candidate, but Minnesota isn’t most teams. Wiggins and Towns are fully capable of leading the Timberwolves to victory by themselves, which wouldn’t even register as a terrible loss by the Blazers.

    But Portland needs every win it can muster to put more distance between itself and ninth place, and the absence of Butler represents a golden opportunity to do so. Unfortunately for Portland, it’s also a chance for some of the league’s most talented young players to make another statement.

Fantasy News

  • Myles Turner
    C, Indiana Pacers

    Myles Turner (right ankle sprain) went through drills in Monday's practice but didn't "go live."

    It means that Turner didn't complete a full practice and skipped the full-contact stuff, but he may still be able to play tomorrow if he responds well to today's work. A return looks to be coming soon, which will bump JaKarr Sampson from the starting five.

    Source: Nathan Brown on Twitter

  • Goga Bitadze
    C, Indiana Pacers

    Goga Bitadze (concussion) was unable to practice on Monday.

    It's safe to rule Bitadze out of Indiana's next game, and there's no timetable for his return. While it'd be great to hold onto the talented rookie so we can see what his minutes look like when Myles Turner is also healthy, he's getting harder to hang onto if you don't have an open IR spot.

    Source: Nathan Brown on Twitter

  • Draymond Green
    PF, Golden State Warriors

    Draymond Green (sprained left index finger) says he'll play on Monday against the Jazz.

    Green missed all of last week with the injury but is returning relatively quickly considering initial reports had him potentially missing more time than that. Get him back into all lineups as one of the few bankable players left on the Warriors. It'll be interesting to see how his return affects Eric Paschall.

    Source: Nick Friedell on Twitter

  • Otto Porter Jr.
    SF, Chicago Bulls

    Otto Porter (left foot sprain) will not play on Tuesday.

    Porter was last spotted using crutches to get around and the fact that he's being ruled out a day ahead of time doesn't bode well for a speedy return. He remains worth holding onto in all formats, despite his slow start to the year. Chandler Hutchison will continue to start in his absence.

    Source: K.C. Johnson on Twitter

  • Lauri Markkanen
    PF, Chicago Bulls

    Lauri Markkanen (sore oblique) sat out Monday's practice but will be good to go on Tuesday against the Knicks.

    Markkanen dealt with a vague "side" injury earlier in the year but didn't miss any time, so it sounds like something he'll just have to manage. Keep him in your lineups, as always.

    Source: K.C. Johnson on Twitter

  • Derrick Jones Jr.
    SF, Miami Heat

    Derrick Jones Jr. (hip) will remain sidelined on Tuesday.

    Jones sat out Friday's game with a groin strain and had just returned from an absence the day prior, so we're guessing the diagnosis is moving over from groin to hip. He's a deep-league play with standard-league upside, though the injuries have really put him behind the eight ball so far.

    Source: Anthony Chiang on Twitter

  • Kelly Olynyk
    C, Miami Heat

    Kelly Olynyk (knee) is questionable to play on Tuesday against the Pistons.

    There aren't any more specifics out there at the moment but it's concerning since a left knee injury kept Olynyk out for much of the offseason. The big man is sitting around top-180 value right now and should be able to climb his way into the top-125 over time, but he's not currently a must-own player.

    Source: Anthony Chiang on Twitter

  • Justise Winslow
    SF, Miami Heat

    Justise Winslow (concussion) will miss Tuesday's game.

    Winslow has been in concussion protocol since last week and there's no timetable for his return. As a late-round player when all the stars align, Winslow can be dropped in most 12-team formats — he's outside the top-200 in 9-cat leagues and is only a top-145 guy in 8-cat.

    Source: Anthony Chiang on Twitter

  • Tyler Herro
    PG, Miami Heat

    Tyler Herro (ankle) is questionable ahead of Tuesday's game against the Pistons.

    Herro's sitting just inside the top-150 and isn't a player you necessarily have to hold onto if you're worried about maxing out games played this week, though we've also seen him deliver stretches of top-120 value so far too. He is in line for a little extra run with Justise Winslow out so hopefully he doesn't miss time.

    Source: Anthony Chiang on Twitter

  • Bol Bol
    C, Denver Nuggets

    The Nuggets have sent Bol Bol to the G League.

    It's expected that Bol doesn't play in the NBA this season, but this procedural move may hint that he's close to getting cleared. We'll keep you updated.

    Source: Denver Nuggets on Twitter