The Jimmy Butler circus is finally over in Minnesota, and the Timberwolves are now looking like a competent squad now that things have settled down. Minnesota is 4-2 since trading Butler and Justin Patton for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a second-round pick, and they’re coming off a matinee victory over the Nets.
The Wolves’ defense has enjoyed a significant turnaround since starting the season as one of the league’s worst units. Minnesota is fifth in defensive rating post-Butler trade, per NBA.com, with Covington playing a big role on that end. The Bulls’ offense has really struggled lately outside of the victory over the Suns, so the Wolves will have a good chance to keep this run of stellar defense going, especially with Chicago playing a second game of a back-to-back.
Offensively, Karl-Anthony Towns leads the way for Minnesota at 20.1 points per game, but Derrick Rose is having a resurgence and having arguably his best season since his MVP campaign in Chicago. Rose is putting up 19.4 points, 4.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game, but most notably he’s scoring at an elite level in terms of efficiency. He’s shooting 48.2 percent from the field and an incredible 47.6 percent on 3-pointers after struggling from distance for most of his career.
Rose has been especially good over the last month after starting the season a bit slow. He had a career-high 50-point game on Halloween night, and in November he’s posting a 52.4/56.8/96.6 shooting line. He had 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting against the Nets and is in a major groove, shooting over 53 percent in each of the last four games. You have to think he’ll be out for a #RevengeGame on Saturday night. And maybe Taj Gibson will, too!
Similarly, Zach LaVine had a pretty epic #RevengeGame against the Wolves last season, outdueling Butler in a thrilling Bulls victory. The Bulls will probably need that kind of performance again to have a chance in this one. LaVine’s efficiency has taken a dive in November, but he can go off at any time and will surely be motivated to beat his former team.
LaVine will need some help, though. The supporting cast outside of Justin Holiday and Jabari Parker was mostly awful in the loss to the Heat, and Parker was terrible for three quarters before exploding in the fourth. But with the Bulls still shorthanded, they simply don’t have many consistent sources of offense. It would be nice to see Wendell Carter Jr. stay out of foul trouble and make some noise, but he’ll have a tough matchup going against KAT.
On the injury front, Lauri Markkanen is nearing a return, but it’ll probably be another week or so. Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis are still weeks away. Chandler Hutchison just missed his second straight game with back spasms, and it’s unclear if he’ll be available in Minnesota.
Tip-off Saturday night is at 7 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on WGN.