Timberwolves

Grayson Allen Must Be Stopped At All Costs

Photo Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves are heading into the most crucial playoff series the franchise has played in 20 years, with Game 1 against the Phoenix Suns tipping off Saturday at 2:30 pm. The Suns are probably the last team Wolves fans wanted to see strolling into the Target Center in the first round as the team tries to win a first-round playoff series for the first time since 2004.

The Suns obliterated the Wolves in their three regular-season matchups, winning by 18, 10, and 19 points. It’s been an up-and-down season for Phoenix. Still, the 2021 NBA Finals losers finished 10-4 down the stretch and looked much more like the contender most media members pegged them to be at the beginning of the season.

It’s a scary matchup for Minnesota’s No. 1 defense, which must slow down Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, and Phoenix’s 10th-ranked offense. The Timberwolves employ the soon-to-be four-time Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert, and three of the best defenders in the league in Jaden McDaniels, Anthony Edwards, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Still, it will be nearly impossible to shut down Durant, Booker, and Beal in a full series.

Last year, Booker and Durant kicked ass in the first round against the Nuggets. Booker averaged 30.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 7.8 assists in the series, but they eventually lost to the eventual champions in six games. Meanwhile, Durant averaged 29.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, and five assists per game against Denver. Even with the two superstars going crazy, the Nuggets won the series in six games partly because they blunted the effects Phoenix’s role players had on it. The Timberwolves could take a similar tack this season, and Grayson Allen is the role player they can’t let get going.

You know Allen, and you probably hate him. It’s a tough beat when you combine looking like Ted Cruz’s bratty son, going to Duke, and tripping dudes in a professional work environment. But Allen is thriving in his first season in Phoenix. He led the league in three-point shooting percentage this season, and the Suns are the fifth-best team from beyond the arc this year.

‘G-Money,’ as he’s known to the ‘nudes in bio’ Twitter bots, absolutely torched the Wolves in their three meetings this year. He averaged 19 points per game on 74 percent true shooting while making 10 of his 16 three-point attempts. The Suns are 41.9 points per 100 possessions better in the 94 minutes Allen was on the court than the 50 minutes he was on the bench. That’s the biggest on/off margin of any Suns player against the Wolves this season other than future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant.

So, how do the Timberwolves stop the great Grayson Allen and keep the season from becoming an abject failure with a first-round exit? First, the Wolves have to figure out how to guard him. You would think that McDaniels and Edwards would take turns trying to lock down Durant and Booker, while Gobert will likely match up against Jusuf Nurkic.

Do you put Mike Conley on Allen and hope they can go three for three with each other, leaving Karl-Anthony Towns to contain Beal? Or do you trust Towns to shut Allen down to the point where it doesn’t matter how much damage Durant, Booker, and Beal inflict? Do you trust Towns to keep Durant under 50 and allow more natural matchups with McDaniels on Booker, Edwards on Beal, and Conley floating over to check Allen?

That might be the most traditional defensive scheme Chris Finch and the Wolves could deploy. But Towns is working back to full health after being sidelined for a month with a meniscus tear and could be cannon fodder for one of the best scorers the game has ever seen.

The best defensive team all season now has an awkward conundrum on its hands. Phoenix is the nightmare matchup for the two-big system to face a team with four legitimate perimeter scorers. Grayson Allen is a career 40 percent three-point shooter in the playoffs and would be the perfect villain to remind Wolves fans that we ain’t s— and send the three-seed packing a round or two earlier than anyone had hoped.

You’d be okay with Kevin Durant ascending the mountaintop once more with an epic playoff run or Devin Booker going nuclear to get back to the finals. You’d even rationalize things if Bradley Beal were our newest conqueror, but the hell Wolves nation will be subjected to if Grayson Allen does this is unspeakable.

The Wolves will have their hands full with Durant, Booker, and Beal. But if Grayson Allen gets going, it will be another long off-season crying into our Naz Reid towels.

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The Western Conference Finals are upon us, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are making their first WCF appearance since their historic 2003-04 season. While the NBA has changed […]

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