The upside of not quite being 16-10

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Timberwolves fall short of a 49 win pace as they try to survive a never-ending run of injuries

Back at the beginning of the season, S-n-P took a look at how the James Harden trade affected the playoff race in the west. We then followed that with an extrapolation of what the Wolves would need to accomplish by Christmas time to be in the playoff hunt.

The cliff notes version is the Wolves will need to win 49 games to be guaranteed a playoff spot this season. That would mean (proportionally) a 16-10 record today. Well, the Wolves are actually 13-13. But not all is lost.

'Sota actually nearly made the 16 win mark. Should have, in fact. Despite the stacked schedule and more injuries than Bruce Wayne could shake his own walking stick at.

We cannot recommend you go heli-skiing, Mr. Roy.

And keep in mind, that prediction was made before injuries took down Chase Budinger and Malcolm Lee, and dinged up Pekovic, Barea and Kirilenko.

In the four categories of teams the Wolves faced (will beat, should beat, shouldn't beat, no chance), the Pups in fact came out impressively, with wins over Brooklyn, Indiana, Philly, two against Dallas, a split against Denver, and a shocking upset over Oklahoma...

....which is what makes loses to Charlotte, Orlando, and Houston all the more painful. Not to mention letting a win over New York slip away. Had the Wolves won those 4 games....all very winnable....they'd be 17-9 right now: on pace for 54 wins.

But on the bright side....had the Wolves won those 4 games, they'd be 17-9 and on pace for 54 wins.

Even Rubio and Love out for the start, and Budinger and Roy out now, the Wolves have held court thanks to the efforts of The Crazies.

This is what they looked like before:

Player Andrei Kirilenko Dante Cunningham Alexey Shved JJ Barea
WS/48 .109 .147 .060 .056
PER 16.6 14.9 13 14.9

This is what they look like now:

Player Andrei Kirilenko Dante Cunningham Alexey Shved JJ Barea
WS/48 .151 .136 .091 .122
PER 17.7 14.4 13.3 16.5

Kirilenko's WS/48 leads the team (he's also first in net +/- production and second to Budinger in Simple +/-) Cunningham is just as dogged as he was in Memphis, Shved has exceeded his predicted mark, and Barea has blown up (more than double last year's WS/48?) These four guys....plus Budinger, when he had two functional knees....were what kept us afloat these first 26 games.

And one would certainly expect Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love to figure things out and get back into form eventually (don't compare Love to Derrick Williams right now....you probably won't like the results much (oh snap)) Like S-n-P said, healthy, this team can be scary good.

So here's the play: no, the Wolves are not a playoff team right now (performance-wise or in the standings) but they're very close. The loss to Dumbledore and the Rockets dropped the Wolves 1/2 game out of the 8th seed (tied with the Jazz). And they could have easily been the 6th seed right now.

That's not to say it will be easy. The two teams not performing as well as expected (Lakers and Mavs) are probably going to figure things out now that they're returning to health. The Nuggets are underperforming, but still above .500 and in the seeding. Houston has proven to be most definitely in our peer group. And a couple teams...the Warriors and Blazers....are playing much better than predicted. There's just a 2 game difference between the 6th seed and (what would be) the 10th seed. 1-8 are all above .500. There's a lot of work to be done. But if Love can remember what it's like to be the best power forward in the league and Rubio can make it back to the Land of the Killer Unicorns, this team is 5th seed material.

But just in case, keep working on the rules for Alexey in Space. Airballing clutch threes has drinking potential....just sayin'....

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