Kyrie Irving, Karl-Anthony Towns
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

On Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET, the Brooklyn Nets will square off against the Minnesota Timberwolves to tip-off the regular season at Barclays Center. 

Probable Starting Lineups

Brooklyn Nets:

PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Caris LeVert
SF: Joe Harris
PF: Rodions Kurucs
C: DeAndre Jordan

Minnesota Timberwolves:

PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Josh Okogie
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Robert Covington
C: Karl-Anthony Towns

It’s a bit surprising that Rotoworld has Kurucs starting, considering Taurean Prince had a spectacular preseason by comparison. It’s also a bit of a surprise they have Jordan starting over Jarrett Allen.

Jordan has the size to limit Towns in the paint but Towns made 142 three-pointers last season on 40 percent shooting. Towns is also a good post player and a capable ball handler. With Allen adding some muscle this offseason he might be the better option to start and guard Towns.

Other sites like Yahoo! Sports have Jarrett Allen starting at center and Prince at power forward.

Injury Notes

Jeff Teague is coming off an ankle procedure he had done in April. When asked about how he felt to start the season, he said, “I didn’t play basketball all summer, so the thing for me is just trying to get the rust off and trying to build my endurance. I’m still a little ways behind everybody else. Shorter stints are probably better for me.”

Teague’s minutes will be limited. This means Brooklyn will see a lot of former Net Shabazz Napier who was waived this offseason by the Nets. Napier is a good facilitator, but due to Teague’s limitations, the advantage at PG swings heavily in Brooklyn’s favor for Irving to have a monster game.

Irving is still dealing with a facial fracture and facial contusion, but he’s no stranger to playing in a protective mask and looked good to go in the final Nets preseason game. However, his minutes may be limited since the Nets have a very capable backup PG in Spencer Dinwiddie.

Forget about Covington’s prior knee surgery being an issue in this game. When asked how he felt, Covington said he “feels no issues with his surgically repaired right knee and he doesn’t even think about it anymore when he’s playing.”

Matchups

While the advantage at point guard clearly favors Irving for the Nets with Teague limited, beware of Shabazz Napier playing with a chip on his shoulder. He may want to make a statement to his former team, that waiving him was a mistake. The Nets waived Napier this summer despite him having less than a $2 million team option on his contract. He may have an axe to grind and could play very well in this game.

Josh Okogie is slated to start at shooting guard for the Wolves; don’t be surprised if rookie Jarrett Culver gets significant minutes as his backup as Okogie is limited offensively. Caris LeVert should have no problem guarding either player. LeVert has looked stellar this entire preseason. This matchup is another substantial advantage for the Nets.

Okogie has looked good on defense but LeVert is crafty, two inches taller and more seasoned than the sophomore. Look for LeVert to get off to a fast start if Okogie is guarding him. He shouldn’t have much trouble guarding Okogie either as he only averaged eight points on 39 percent shooting last season.

However, Atkinson may elect to have LeVert guard Andrew Wiggins, which would probably be a wiser strategic decision. Wiggins is the better offensive player and LeVert is the Nets’ best two-way player.

Conversely, we may see a cross-match by the Wolves electing to utilize Covington on LeVert. Covington is an elite defender and could pose some match-up problems for LeVert if the Wolves decide to go this route. Kurucs, if he starts, is less of an offensive threat than LeVert. It’s doubtful the Wolves would squander Covington’s defensive prowess on Kurucs.

In this same vein, we may see more, cross-matches with Okogie guarding Harris and Wiggins guarding Kurucs or Prince, who have both struggled to create their own shots in the preseason.

We may also see Harris guarding Covington, who is less of an offensive threat than Wiggins. While these match-ups are no guarantee, they make sense since Harris struggles with on-ball defense and Wiggins is more explosive off the dribble than Covington.

The biggest matchup to keep a close eye on is obviously Towns vs. Jordan and Allen. Towns is one of the league’s best all-around big men and will look to drag Jordan out of the paint to create space for his teammates and expose Jordan’s perimeter defense.

If Allen starts, Towns will look to bully him on the block with his post-game. In many ways, the way this matchup goes is the way the general tenor of the game may go. If Jordan and Allen struggle to contain Towns, the floor will open up for the rest of the Wolves.

Nets Advantages

1. Perimeter Shooting: The Nets should be able to outscore the Wolves considerably from beyond the arc throughout the game with the sharpshooting of Irving, Harris, Prince and possibly LeVert, who looks much improved in this area. The Wolves simply don’t stack up in this area by comparison and their best hopes in winning the 3-ball battle are if the Nets have an off-night and they really scramble to contest Nets shooters.

2. Team Depth: With Teague expected to be limited, the Wolves are thin at the guard position. The Nets simply have a better bench and should be able to capitalize on this advantage once they deploy their second unit.

The backup players on the Wolves like Culver, Jake Layman, Noah Vonleh, Gorgui Dieng and Jordan Bell should be no match for players like Prince/Kurucs, Jordan/Allen, David Nwaba, Dzanan Musa, Dinwiddie, Garrett Temple or Nicolas Claxton. Look for the Nets to really get rolling once both teams get into their bench units.

3. Homecourt: The Nets will be comfortable at home supported by a reinvigorated fanbase excited over star player additions this summer. The Nets will be playing on a brand new court in their home opener, which will add additional excitement. The Wolves being a Western Conference team traveling from Minnesota to Brooklyn gives the Nets yet another advantage here.

Timberwolves Advantages

1. Perimeter Defense: Although Teague will be limited, Wiggins, Okogie and Covington are lengthy and athletic. The quartet can be effective in guarding the perimeter. This is only a slight advantage, however, as the Nets are an excellent perimeter offensive team.

2. Towns X-Factor: He is the best all-around player on the court in this game. His ability to knock down threes, rebound prodigiously, play in the post, score efficiently and block shots make him a big advantage for the Wolves as Allen or Jordan will likely encounter issues containing him either in the paint or on the perimeter. They may find it difficult to score against him as well.

3. Team Chemistry: The Nets have struggled to find chemistry in the preseason, admittedly so, by coach Atkinson. While the Wolves also have some new pieces, their core of Towns, Wiggins, Okogie, and Dieng are still staples of their team who are comfortable with each other. Teague and Napier are solid facilitating guards. Covington is a consummate role player so they have an edge here, albeit ever so slightly.

Final Thoughts

The Nets should be able to win this game decisively, but there are concerns over their perimeter defense and team chemistry heading in. If the Nets defend the perimeter like they did all preseason, it could be a disappointing night as NBA teams tend to make open shots and the Nets gave up a ton of those in the preseason. Their team defense overall just wasn’t good in the preseason.

Irving and Dinwiddie should have great games with Teague being limited and Napier defending them for long periods. The Nets will, of course, have to contain Towns and do their best to stop Wiggins from getting hot. While Wiggins has largely disappointed, playing below expectations, he is still capable of playing way above those expectations on some nights.

If the Nets can just be average or slightly above average with their overall defense, their up-tempo pace and three-point shooting should propel them to an easy victory.

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