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Preseason Game 1: Previewing Suns-Wolves to kick off Rubio-time

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Both teams kick off their 2019-20 preseasons hoping a top pick impresses the fans.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: Minnesota Timberwolves at Phoenix Suns (Preseason)

When: Tuesday, October 8 at 7:00PM

Where: Phoenix, Arizona, Talking Stick Resort Arena

Watch: The game will be streaming on suns.com (as long you’re within 50 miles of the arena)

Listen: 98.7 FM


While the Minnesota Timberwolves hope their prized draft pick, Jarrett Culver taken 6th overall, impresses as a rookie, the Phoenix Suns are counting on last year’s top overall pick Deandre Ayton to finally prove he was worthy of being taken ahead of everyone else in that vaunted draft.

Neither will prove it once and for all on Tuesday in a meaningless preseason game. Their coaches won’t ultimately care to prove it, and might not even (gasp) give these players the minutes or tailored offensive and defensive systems required in a preseason game to put that final emphatic stamp on their career stars. Shocking, I know.

But still, both franchises’ fans would be happy if their guy racks up 20 points and a dozen secondary stats in roughly 18 minutes of playing time while also making aww-inspiring AND consistent defensive plays. Because preseason. So let’s go with that.

Projected starting lineups

Out - injured

Suns: Kelly Oubre Jr. (right hand - OUT), Mikal Bridges (knee - OUT), Aron Baynes (nose - QUESTIONABLE), David Kramer (tibia - SUPER OUT). All but Kramer are day-to-day.

Wolves: Jordan Bell

Wolves Preview

Check this out. Not much else coming out of Wolves camp yet.

Notable newcomers: Jarrett Culver, Jordan Bell, Jake Layman, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier

Notably gone: Dario Saric, Tyus Jones, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson

The Wolves enter this season just a couple steps ahead of the Suns but not that far ahead, actually.

They are led by second-year head coach Ryan Saunders, son of the late great Flip Saunders, as he tries to settle in to NBA-level head coaching. Suns fans have seen a lot of that kind of head coach in recent years, haven’t we?

Obviously, the Wolves best player is consensus Top-20 talent Karl-Anthony Towns (24.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.6 blocks, 40% three point shooter). The Wolves big man is what Suns fans hope to see out of Deandre Ayton one day. But everything around Towns is a bit questionable coming into the season, as they lost more talent than they gained over the summer.

Swingman Robert Covington could be an All-World defender at the wing, but on this team the 6’9” RoCo might end up playing a ton of power forward. All-”shouldn’t he be better?” swingman Andrew Wiggins, rookie Jarrett Culver and a host of others will man the bulk of the wing minutes around Towns and aging point guard Jeff Teague.

The Wolves depth includes swingmen Suns-killer Jake Layman, Tyrone Wallace and Josh Okogie, with Noah Vonleh and Suns-killer Gorgui Dieng along the front line. Shabazz Napier is the back up point guard.

Suns Preview

Oubre and Bridges are still out. The only development here is that rookie Jalen Lecque was NOT mentioned on Monday as injured, so he should be available for Tuesday’s game. Lecque was day-to-day with an ankle injury after turning it in training camp last week but looked fine at Sunday’s open practice and sounded ready and raring to go. I guess he is, indeed.

Expect Cam Johnson to get the start with both Oubre and Bridges out, but Monty is still being coy about it.

Tonight’s game is the first chance for Dario Saric to thumb his nose at the Wolves for dumping him just to move up a few spots in the lottery for Culver. I don’t know that Saric will care much about that, or even play more than 24 minutes, but you’ve got to think he’d like look good against Saunders and the Wolves to leave a bad taste in their mouths.

The other storyline here is how Ricky Rubio and Devin Booker look as a back court pairing. Will they look like they’ve been playing together forever, or will it come out as stilted and forced?

Summary

Just enjoy watching (if you’re there or close by) or just enjoy our recap which we’ll post right away when the game is over.

It doesn’t matter who wins or loses.

Unless the Suns win, in which case it means everything.