Any day now, the Timberwolves will have their Big Three back in the lineup. Will that day be this Wednesday when the Wolves host the Dallas Mavericks? The basketball odds depend on it.
Jason’s record as of Jan. 20: 24-24-2 ATS, 2-4 Totals
It’s going to happen at some point. The Minnesota Timberwolves (7-33 SU, 16-23-1 ATS) will get arguably their top three players back in action: PG Ricky Rubio, SG Kevin Martin, and center Nikola Pekovic. But when? All three are on the verge of returning to the lineup; Pekovic and Martin are both considered game-time decisions for Wednesday’s matchup with the Dallas Mavericks (29-13 SU, 21-20-1 ATS). Rubio is less likely to return, although he did participate in contact drills for the first time on Tuesday.
As we await word on the status of Minnesota’s Big Three, we also wait for the first betting lines to hit the NBA odds board. It might be worth taking a flyer on the Timberwolves if the price is right; Dallas is just 3-3 SU and 1-4-1 ATS in its past six games after starting the 2014-15 NBA season en fuego. We’ll do our best to set you up for Wednesday’s contest (8:00 p.m. ET) in the interim.
The Phantom Zone
Once upon a time, we thought the Timberwolves were a solid OVER pick when it came to regular-season victories. Then all those players started dropping like flies. First, it was Rubio (2.3 VORP last year), who’s developed into one of the Top 10 points guards in the league. Then it was Martin (21.2 PER this year), who was hitting 48.1 percent from behind the arc before having surgery on his right wrist.
But losing Pekovic (16.0 PER) in mid-November may have been the fatal blow. Since then, the Wolves are 5-26 SU and 12-18-1 ATS, leaving them firmly in last place in the Western Conference. Minnesota is dead last in defensive efficiency at 109.9 points allowed per 100 possessions, and just No. 25 on offense at 99.2 points/100. That’s not going to win you very many ball games.
If adversity builds character, then the Timberwolves should be the most mature team in the NBA by now. There have been some bright spots: Sophomore SG Shabazz Muhammad (19.7 PER) has made the leap in Martin’s absence, although he’s out for another couple of weeks with an abdominal strain. Second-year center Gorgui Dieng (18.3 PER) has also proven his mettle while Pekovic has been on the shelf.
Unfortunately, rookie PG Zach LaVine (9.1 PER) wasn’t able to step up and fill Rubio’s shoes – he was replaced in the starting lineup by veteran Mo Williams (15.1 PER), who responded with a 52-point outburst on Jan. 13 versus the Indiana Pacers. As for blue-chipper Andrew Wiggins (12.8 PER), he’s getting better and better with each passing game, posting a very healthy 114 Offensive Rating in 10 January starts. Imagine how much better Wiggins will be when the Big Three returns.
Bring Back Brandan
In the meantime, we’ve got the Mavericks, who will have all hands on deck for Wednesday’s contest. In theory. Rajon Rondo (13.0 PER) and Tyson Chandler (21.4 PER) have some lingering foot issues, and Dirk Nowitzki (21.2 PER) was given a maintenance day as all three players missed last Wednesday’s tilt against the Denver Nuggets. Dallas lost that one 114-107 as a 5-point dog.
Since then, the Mavs have won back-to-back games at 1-0-1 ATS with the roster replenished. Rondo’s offensive numbers aren’t good, but his plus-1.2 DBPM and his 8.6 assists per 36 minutes are just what Dallas needs to make a deep playoff run this year. The only real concern since making the Rondo trade is with the depleted bench. The backcourt reserves are stocked with Devin Harris (15.5 PER) and J.J. Barea (16.8 PER), but the Mavs are going to miss Stealth MVP Brandan Wright (25.8 PER) down low. Maybe as soon as Wednesday, if Pekovic suits up.
We'll see what happens when betting lines come out, but for now I'm looking to take Minnesotta with my selection of NBA picks today only if Pekovic and Martin play.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Timberwolves (if Pekovic and Martin play)