Ready or not, the Minnesota Timberwolves hype train is surging full speed ahead and it isn’t slowing down any time soon.
Throughout the summer and into the preseason, the hype had been provided mainly by NBA fans and media. Whether it was the Vegas line for Wolves wins set at 41.5 or Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post projecting the Wolves to win 50 games, the hoopla surrounding Minnesota has only increased.
The annual 2016-17 NBA.com GM survey only added steam to the hype train.
Minnesota received a ton of praise in several responses to the 48 questions in the survey. Here is a brief summary of notable questions in which the Wolves or a Wolves player/coach was mentioned.
- 48.3% of GMs said they would start their franchise with Karl-Anthony Towns over any player in the NBA, which was the highest mark. Kevin Durant was second at 20.7%.
- 13.8% of GMs said Towns is most likely to have a breakout season in 2016-17, which is second only to Devin Booker’s 31%. Andrew Wiggins finished tied for fourth at 6.9%.
- 56.7% of GMs said Minnesota will be the most improved team this season, topping second place Utah at 23.3%.
- 46.7% of GMs said Kris Dunn will win the NBA Rookie of the Year, with Buddy Hield and Ben Simmons tying for second (13.3%).
- 60% of GMs said Tom Thibodeau is the best defensive coach in the NBA, beating out Gregg Popovich (33.3%).
- 78.1% of GMs said Thibodeau is the coach who will make the biggest impact with his new team. Frank Vogel in Orlando was second at 10%.
- 10.3% of GMs said Zach LaVine is the most athletic player in the NBA, behind only Russell Westbrook (62.1%) and LeBron James (17.2%).
- 10.3% of GMs said Ricky Rubio is the best passer in the NBA, behind Chris Paul (62.1%) and LeBron James (20.7%).
First of all, that’s a LOT of representation from the smartest basketball minds in the world. I’ve been scared of getting too excited about this season, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to refrain when the Wolves keep garnering national attention like this.
The survey did raise my eyebrow a few times. Particularly, I was surprised to see Dunn receive the most votes for a projected NBA Rookie of the Year winner. I’ve written before about Dunn’s chances at receiving the award and making it a three-peat of Rookies of the Year in Minnesota. Basically, the chances are slim for a defensive-minded role player when the award focuses more on gaudy offensive numbers than anything.
It is pleasantly surprising to see Rubio receive some praise as a passer. Most Wolves media and fans will agree that the Spaniard is at least a Top 3 passer, but generally ineptitude as a scorer overshadows other things he does really, really well. Kudos to the GMs on that one.
I’ll end with probably the most telling survey answer. The fact that over half of NBA GMs think Minnesota will be the most improved team is fascinating to me. There are so many solid candidates for that question — Utah, L.A. Lakers, Philadelphia, Houston and more — and for so many of the brightest minds in the game to answer with the Wolves is scary, really. I’m not sure I’m ready for the Wolves to have this kind of national attention.
Do the Wolves have the potential to be a powerhouse team very soon? Absolutely. Is there also a chance that this team full of 21-year-olds that make up so much of the core continues to undergo significant growing pains? Absolutely.
To put it simply — the Wolves will probably win a lot of games they are supposed to lose, and lose a lot of games they should win as they did down the stretch in 2015-16. Will that be enough to earn a playoff berth for the first time in 12 seasons?
A majority NBA GMs seem to think so.