Possible Nuggets playoff opponent gets "great news" about injured star

Jan 7, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; NBA referee Ben Taylor (46) listens to Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15)
Jan 7, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; NBA referee Ben Taylor (46) listens to Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets have been locked in a tight battle for the number one seed in the Western Conference as they’re currently tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves at 54-24. The Thunder are also in the mix, only one game behind, but they’ve been dropping games and playing without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams recently.

It seems unlikely that those injuries are major and both players are expected to be back by the playoffs if not before. The Nuggets until recently had been playing without a star of their own as Jamal Murray missed seven games with knee and ankle injuries.

But he was able to return on Saturday night in a big win over the Hawks. Of the three teams fighting for the one seed, the Timberwolves are actually the team that’s been dealing with a lengthy absence of a star player.

All-Star forward Karl-Anthony Towns injured his meniscus and has been missing from the Timberwolves lineup since early March. Given the serious nature of the injury, it was considered a longshot that he would be back unless the team made a deep run in the playoffs.

Timberwolves injury update on Karl-Anthony Towns

But the Timberwolves received some outstanding news as it was announced on Monday by Shams Charania of the Athletic, that Towns was able to scrimmage five on five and there’s optimism that he will return and play in the regular season, which wraps up on Sunday.

This would be great news for Minnesota as Towns is an excellent offensive player and one of the best shooting big men in the entire league. The Timberwolves have been able to sustain their elite defense without KAT in the lineup, but the offense will not be as viable in the playoffs.

KAT will bolster the offense

KAT is a legitimate second option and one who can carry the offense as we’ve seen many times over his career. He’s happily taken a backseat to superstar Anthony Edwards this season and it’s been a big reason why the Timberwolves have been so successful

But at the same time, it’s become clear that without him, the offense simply won’t be good enough to get by in the playoffs. The fact that they’re able to get Towns back, possibly before the playoffs begin is outstanding news for Minnesota.

T-Wolves can pose a threat to Nuggets

The Timberwolves have been one of the best teams in the league all season and boast the league's best defense by a healthy margin. They’ve also had success against Denver, looking solid against them in the playoffs last year and beating them multiple times this season. They’ve been able to give the Nuggets trouble playing multiple big men with KAT in the lineup alongside Rudy Gobert.

It’s looking like the Timberwolves might be a second-round or even Western Conference finals opponent for the Nuggets if both teams should advance. Those chances got a lot more likely with the news that Towns is set to return and the Wolves will make for a formidable opponent for the Nuggets when they face off.