The Timberwolves face the Lakers at the Staples Center tonight where they need to draw a line under Jimmy Butler's stint if they're to rescue their season, writes Mark Kirwan...
"It seems Butler only wants to play against high-profile opponents - usually games his team would lose whether he shows up or not - and not in games that could make a difference come May. It's not clear if he'll show up tonight."
Butler a big distraction
Minnesota Timberwolves @ LA Lakers
November 7, 03:30
Live on Sky Sports Arena
The Minnesota Timberberwolves made the playoffs by one game last season, but were just two games out of the third seed. That's how tough the Western Conference is.
It makes the continuing Jimmy Butler drama look all the more confounding. To all intents and purposes it looks as though the former Bull is picking-and-choosing when he plays, and it's screwing up everything for Tom Thibodeau's team.
It seems Butler only wants to play against high-profile opponents - usually games his team would lose whether he shows up or not - and not in games that could make a difference come May.
It's not clear if he'll show up tonight. The Wolves need to make a decision on this now, as it could cost them their season and Karl-Anthony Townes' future. They've lost their last three and failed to cover in any of them, and this is the fourth of a five-game road trip.
It all makes Magic Johnson's confusing chatter on coach Luke Walton look reasonable.
Everything's relative, but the Lakers are at least bringing down the average points they're allowing to opponents, and are continuing to score at a good clip.
Signing 18-year veteran Tyson Chandler from Phoenix will help further in that, but it's not clear if he'll make a debut tonight.
Neither of these teams look functional right now, but LA look to be moving in the right direction.
It's not with great confidence, but along with Butler's "general soreness", Minnesota are handling Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose injuries, so if you want a play on Sky's televised game tonight, Los Angeles -5 is the side to be on at [1.91] or thereabouts.
Nuggets strike gold
Denver Nuggets @ Memphis Grizzlies
November 7, 01:00
Live on Betfair Video
At the other end of the Northwest Division, the Nuggets have developed a golden formula, with Jamal Murray's scoring and Nikola Jokic's dominance on the boards lifting them to 9-1 through the opening weeks.
The point guard hit the Celtics for 48 on Monday night. He also knocked Kyrie Irving's nose out-of-joint as Denver came back from an early 18-point deficit behind the the 21-year-old's pitch for 50 points.
Their brilliant form is built on improved defence though. The Serbian giant is the crucial piece in their play at both ends, snaffling rebounds and double-digit scores through the opening fortnight.
They're 6-0 at home and are the only team to to have beaten the Warriors this season.
Memphis are the kind of gritty team who can beat anyone on the right night too - but will then go and lose the next. This season they've upset the Jazz twice on their own court, but then they helped the dreadful Suns snap a seven-game losing streak on Sunday.
Their defensive prowess explains the total here. Denver, however, are capable of scoring heavily in their current form. The over appeals at [1.91] on this low number.
Hawks' leaky defence
New York Knicks @ Atlanta Hawks
November 7, 00:30
Live on Betfair Video
The Hawks are floating above the bottom of the league's weakest division thanks to Washington's awful start. They've posted some big numbers through the opening games, avergaing 110 points per game and only being held under 100 points twice in 10 games, but it's on defence that they're losing out.
That's just going to be a fact of life for coach Lloyd Pierce in his first season. This is a team with exciting scoring potential thanks to the young pieces they've assembled, Trae Young chief among them, but it'll take time and work at the other end of the court for them to become competitive again.
New York are in a similarly transitional phase.
They're more towards the league average in allowing points, but are scoring fewer, too. However, against bad defences they've managed to post respectable scores this season - see their last outing against the Bulls, for instance - so they'll likely be able to post a decent total here too.
With Atlanta returning home from last night's loss at Charlotte, which will be logged as another game this inexperienced team allowed to slip away, they're likely to make it a tad easier for the likes of Tim Hardaway and Enes Kanter to score too.
We'd fancy this game to see points and would take the over 221 line at 10/11 on the Sportsbook.
0.5pt on the Lakers -5 @ 1.91 on the Exchange
1pt on Over 204.5 points in Nuggets Grizzlies @ 1.91 on the Exchange
1pt on Over 221 in Knicks Hawks @ 10/11 on the Sportsbook