• An offseason that dramatically shifted the NBA landscape arguably began on draft night when the Timberwolves and Bulls agreed on a deal to send Jimmy Butler west. While the Celtics and Sixers had already completed their notorious trade, it didn’t vault a new team into the middle of the conference playoff picture where many expect the Timberwolves to prowl this season.

    After spending 13 consecutive years in the lottery the Wolves feel they have a legitimate chance to break their streak and host playoff basketball in Minneapolis once again.

    So what should be expected this season? Growth.

    Tom Thibodeau endured his first losing season as a head coach, going 31-51, and wasn’t able to deploy a group of players that fit into his style. Thibodeau tends to rely on a lead ball handler who is able to beat guys off the dribble, score at the rim and kick out if they need to.

    While departed point guard Ricky Rubio is an excellent playmaker and overlooked defender, he has been historically poor finishing in close, shooting under 50 percent within 3 feet of the basket.

    In come Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague. Each thrive in the pick and roll game and are able to get to the rim and finish, shooting 63 percent and 59 percent in their careers within three feet, respectively. Expect Thibs to interchange their roles throughout the season, and generally be effective.

    Up front Karl-Anthony Towns is the focal point, with Taj Gibson and Gorgui Dieng providing the bulk of support. Towns is a monster and is able to score all over the court, which fits with Thibodeau’s mold as he isn’t afraid of bringing his big men away from the basket and even facilitate some offense.

    Defensively he has room to improve, but that is to be expected out of a 3rd year center. Gibson is a vet that Thibs trusts and is likely to start while Dieng will come off the bench. Both players will struggle to find shots and are likely relegated to mid range jumpers, hard screens and defense.

    Where this leaves Andrew Wiggins is the key to it all. Playing two bigs and two dribble-heavy guards leads to concerns about floor spacing and in that regard Wiggins does little to alleviate it. As a coach in Chicago, Thibodeau would use a series of screens and back door action to get Luol Deng the ball in space so he could use his superior athleticism to score.

    Expect more of this action to crop up this season as Wiggins can show off his talent for scoring, and perhaps improve his efficiency, while they try to figure out how these pieces fit together.

    So where does this collection of players lead? The Western Conference is as competitive as ever, and this is Year 1 of the new Wolves era, with last season serving as an evaluation period for coach and president Tom Thibodeau.

    Offensively there is plenty of talent to make things work, and while it might take some time to get the pieces where they want, this should be a strong group despite spacing deficiencies. In order to make the next step, the biggest concern going forward is this team’s defensive ability. Towns, Dieng, Gibson and Cole Aldrich form a strong core to lock down the paint, and Butler is an All-NBA defender on the perimeter.

    While Butler will likely guard the opposing team’s best player, he cannot guard everyone. Teague and Wiggins must step up for these Wolves to separate from the pack, and Wiggins in particular will have the spotlight on him. Fresh off of a max contract extension, Wiggins is the man moving forward. The physical measurements say he can take the next step, but it is up to him in the end. How far the Wolves can go leans on the defensive improvements of the young players.

    In the shadow of the Golden State Warriors building a championship contender can feel like a hopeless affair, though these Wolves find themselves in a position unlike other teams. While they are still building towards a playoff appearance, bigger aspirations are also on the horizon. Moves were made to help the team now, but visions still remain on what’s ahead. Jimmy Butler was brought in to propel the playoff efforts, but the future rests on the shoulders of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Fantasy News

  • Austin Rivers - G - Houston Rockets

    Austin Rivers (sore right elbow) is being listed as probable for Friday's tilt vs. the Lakers.

    Rivers has taken a step back ever since Chris Paul came back from his injury and has been posting value outside the top-200. As long as the Rockets' starting guards are healthy, Rivers can be left on the wire.

    Source: NBA.com

  • Tyus Jones - G - Minnesota Timberwolves

    Tyus Jones, who is expected to practice on Thursday, says that he won't have restrictions once he's back, which could be on Friday vs. the Knicks.

    Jones' return is something to watch especially by managers in deep leagues. He's been known to be a viable stream target for steals. That said, as long as Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose are healthy, Jones is not an option in standard leagues.

    Source: Julian Andrews on Twitter

  • Trey Lyles - F - Denver Nuggets

    Trey Lyles hobbled off the court during the Nuggets' practice on Wednesday, so consider him questionable for Friday's game vs. the Mavs.

    Lyles has not held much value while Paul Millsap is healthy and active and this news does not help his short-term outlook. You can consider dropping him in deep leagues for a more promising FA.

    Source: Harrison Wind on Twitter

  • Gary Harris - G - Denver Nuggets

    Gary Harris, who has missed the Nuggets' last seven games due to a right adductor strain, is available to play vs. the Mavs on Friday.

    Harris has had a rocky 2018-19 season to say the least, dealing with an assortment of injuries that have kept him off the floor for multiple games. Hopefully, he can finally stay healthy for the second half of the season. He has a top-30 upside when at 100 percent health, so feel free to slot him in your active lineups.

    Source: Christian Clark on Twitter

  • Emanuel Terry - PF - Miami Heat

    The Heat have signed undrafted D2 All-American forward Emanuel Terry to a 10-day contract.

    Terry played in nine games for the Heat's G-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce this season and posted averages of 16.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He's currently not someone worth picking up in fantasy leagues.

    Source: Anthony Chiang on Twitter

  • Troy Brown Jr. - F - Washington Wizards

    According to Candace Buckner, Wizards rookie Troy Brown Jr., who missed the last several games due to an ankle injury, has been looking "fresh and spry" while going through a shooting drill.

    Brown has not made much of an impact in fantasy this season, but with the Wizards out of the playoff race, we could see Brown get some run. He's worth keeping an eye on in deep leagues for now.

    Source: Candace Buckner on Twitter

  • Emmanuel Mudiay - G - New York Knicks

    Coach David Fizdale said that he's open to Emmanuel Mudiay (shoulder) and Dennis Smith Jr. together in the backcourt.

    This would make for an interesting albeit the most inefficient scoring backcourt in the league. Even if Mudiay does share the floor with DSJ, he's not going to bring enough fantasy juice to worth an add outside of very deep leagues.

    Source: Ian Begley on Twitter

  • Robin Lopez - C - Chicago Bulls

    Coach Jim Boylen said "We have not discussed a diminished role for him at all" in reference to Robin Lopez, who was shut own post-ASB last season.

    Lopez looks like he'll be sticking it out with the rest of the Bulls starters until further notice. He's good for some points and boards with reasonable field goal shooting but that's about it. As long as you're not expecting to be wowed, Ro-Lo is a decent pickup in 16-team leagues or deeper. Cristiano Felicio is a drop as he won't hold value while Lopez is in play.

    Source: KC Johnson on Twitter

  • Kris Dunn - G - Chicago Bulls

    Kris Dunn (back contusion) is on track to play on Friday after going through Wednesday's practice.

    Dunn missed the last game before the All-Star break but wasn't expected to miss any further time. Ryan Arcidiacono will move back to a bench role going forward.

    Source: Mike McGraw on Twitter

  • Emmanuel Mudiay - G - New York Knicks

    Emmanuel Mudiay (strained left shoulder) will return to the lineup on Friday against the Wolves.

    Mudiay won't be usurping Dennis Smith Jr.'s starting role, so he'll likely have to settle for battling with Frank Ntilikina for backup minutes. He's safe to cut in the vast majority of fantasy leagues.

    Source: Zach Braziller on Twitter