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Sunday Upset Pick Preview Article


Man Crush on Kyle Guy
NBA Money Line Upset Alert: Timberwolves Are On The Prowl Against Denver

Denver vs Minnesota
Sunday, November 10, at 3:30 p.m. ET at Target Center

Offensively, Denver is limping. The Nuggets rank 26th in averaging 103 points per game and are trending downward.

It’s not just a matter of playing at a slow pace, either, because the Nuggets also rank toward the bottom in offensive efficiency.

Denver’s offensive struggles are emphatic in two areas. One is the bench. Last year, Denver boasted a more complete team from top to bottom. But this year, the Nuggets have dropped to 18th in bench field goal percentage after they ranked eighth in the category last year.

This regression in the bench’s scoring efficiency is important because it would have provided Denver with an advantage over Minnesota — an advantage that Denver would have enjoyed last year. This year, both teams struggle to rely on their respective bench.

Secondly, Denver’s frontcourt is struggling offensively. Nikola Jokic is lacking for efficiency at a career-worst rate. He’s converting only 45.9 percent of his two-pointers while he’s been even less of a force on the offensive glass than in prior seasons.

Fellow big Paul Millsap mirrors Jokic in this regression. He’s converting 43.5 percent of his two-pointers, which is 4.9 percent lower than last year, and he’s less able to get offensive put-backs.

Last year around this time, Jokic also had trouble finding his shot. Millsap’s case seems less hopeful in the long term considering his age (34). Their problems create significant worry because Denver rarely attempts three-pointers and is, instead, relatively dependent on its inside game.

We find the exact opposite sort of development in Minnesota’s frontcourt. In particular, Karl Anthony-Towns continues to flex his skill set as a versatile big.

KAT is tough in backing up his defender to the basket, he blows by most opposing bigs, and he’s one of the better passing bigs mostly because he uses his speed to draw defenders in attacking the basket while he can employ his vision to locate the open defender. Also, he’s converted at least 40 percent of his three-pointers in each of the past three seasons.

One could counter that Denver defends better, which negates any advantage that Minnesota has offensively. But the Timberwolves enjoy two key match-up advantages against the Nuggets.

An advantage derives from Denver being poor at defending in front of the basket. The Nuggets own the ninth-worst opposing field goal percentage within five feet of the rim. Their weakness in this area stems from the lack of shot-blocking ability above all of Jokic. But Millsap, too, averages fewer than one block per game.

Besides backing down opposing bigs with the likes of KAT, the Timberwolves also enjoy the personnel to consistently blow by their defenders.

KAT is great at this when facing the basket and forward Andrew Wiggins is also someone who consistently beats his opponent off the dribble.

With the likes of Wiggins and Anthony-Towns, the Timberwolves attempt the second-highest rate of field goal attempts within five feet of the basket.

Wiggins’ straight drive to the basket also draws defenders to him, which creates more three-point opportunities, which Minnesota loves to exploit.

Minnesota’s second advantage is in style of play. At home, the Timberwolves can more ably force Denver to play how they want to play. Minnesota’s style is very foreign to Denver. The Nuggets need to plod along methodically. Whereas they own the slowest pace, the Timberwolves own the fastest.

Against the Pelicans, who rank fourth in pace, Denver already showed that they struggle with opposing pace. The Pelicans handed Denver its worst loss of the season.

The Nuggets like to slow the game down and run sets deep into the shot clock in order to find the best shot, prevent opposing fastbreak points, and promote the defensive quality of their rather defensive-minded players. But they allowed 122 points in a 15-point loss to the Pelicans, who were able to run up and down the court.

While Denver heaves many bricks from three and underperforms in front of the basket, expect Minnesota to establish its fast pace and accrue many points at the basket.

Best Bet: Timberwolves ML at +126 odds with Pinnacle


Man Crush on Kyle Guy
I was planning to do a two-pick with Toronto. But ended up just talking about KG and Minnesota because it's late and I have to do college basketball.

For Toronto beating the Lakers I was going to talk about: L.A.'s dependence on scoring inside and Toronto's excellent two-point defense, Toronto's surprising three-point prowess giving it more offensive balance -- in particular Siakam, and series history.
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