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Preview: Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez return as Nuggets host Minnesota Timberwolves

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Denver looks to get back on track against familiar faces

Boston Celtics v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

One of the last things Malik Beasley did in the Denver Nuggets locker room moments after being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves was joke about dropping 50 on his former teammates.

Not even a month later and he’ll get his chance.

Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez and Jarred Vanderbilt make their first return to Pepsi Center since being included in the largest trade deadline swap in recent memory. Both Malik and Juancho have flourished in their newfound starting roles with the Wolves, a bittersweet consolation for two beloved players who simply weren’t going to have a consistent role in a crowded Nuggets rotation.

Today, though, the Nuggets can’t afford to get distracted by the homecoming. Coming off of a coin-flip loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, Denver will look to regain some of the momentum that carried the team into the All-Star break. Even with an almost entirely new roster, the Timberwolves are not a good team and will be without center Karl-Anthony Towns who will miss the next two weeks due to a fractured wrist. By all accounts the Nuggets should be able to put away Minnesota for the third time this season.

The Basics

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (16-38) at Denver Nuggets (38-18)

When: 4:00 PM MST

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE Altitude Radio 92.5FM

Rival Blog: Canis Hoopus

Project Lineups

Position Nuggets Wolves
Position Nuggets Wolves
PG Jamal Murray Jordan McLaughlin
SG Gary Harris Malik Beasley
SF Will Barton III Josh Okogie
PF Paul Millsap Juancho Hernangomez
C Nikola Jokic Naz Reid
Bench Monte Morris, Torrey Craig, Michael Porter Jr, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee Jarrett Culver, James Johnson, Allen Crabbe, Kelan Martin

Injury Report: Karl-Anthony Towns - out (wrist); D’Angelo Russell - out (rest)

Three Things to Watch

Beasley/Juancho revenge game. Look, it’s easy to justify the trade in that Beasley and Juancho were likely gone this summer anyways despite restricted free agency (Beasley did turn down a 3-year, $30 million offer after all) but the fact is the Nuggets effectively decided they were not going to pay for both of these guys next year. If you think for a second that Malik doesn’t understand this, you’re crazy. He is going to come out guns blazing.

Beasley has been on absolute fire in his four games since the trade: 23.5 points, 6 rebounds, 2.5 assists while shooting 44% from deep. Juancho is averaging 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds on a scorching 52.6% from three. Meanwhile, the Nuggets shot just 6-27 from three in their loss on Friday. One game does not a sample size make, but its hard to ignore what could have been in lineups surrounding Nikola Jokic with shooters like Beasley and Juancho. Which leads to...

Gary’s fall from grace. Here’s an interesting stat courtesy of Fastbreak Breakfast:

Harris once again looked not good on Friday and didn’t even have a trademark defensive performance to justify his severe lack of offense as Chris Paul tore the Nuggets up. The extremely early returns on the trade don’t look good for Denver as Beasley has been phenomenal for Minnesota; what’s not small sample size though is that Gary Harris has not been a consistently good basketball player for a long time now.

The Harris/Beasley matchup is interesting because it represents what the Nuggets gave up in Beasley for what they have in a shelled version of Harris. Still, the Nuggets are 20 games above .500 and the lineup of Murray/Harris/Barton/Millsap/Jokic has a net rating of 11.7 in 600+ minutes this year.

Will the trade come to back to bite Denver? Time will tell, but things aren’t nearly as bleak as they seem on the surface.

Bench lineups. The Nuggets are healthy once again which is good news, but the fallout from that is that it makes rotations a lot trickier for Michael Malone. Malone doesn’t have an easy job managing minutes by any means but some decisions seem like a no-brainer.

“Hockey” lineups of five bench players on the floor at the same time have killed Denver all season. Put Mason Plumlee, Jerami Grant and Torrey Craig out there together and of course the offense is going to get mucked up like it did on Friday when the Thunder took control of the game against the bench. And for the love of all that is good, play Michael Porter Jr. more than eight minutes. The reward far, far, far outweighs the risk.

Malone called himself out for how he handled the rotations against Oklahoma City - will rotations differ today?