The Canis writers decided to make their season predictions in honor of Opening Night for the Wolves. But we’re not going to tell you who said what. You’ll just have to use your imagination.
Thibs will get a technical in the first game of the season. I mean really, you can hear him working the refs in the preseason, even without a broadcast he's so loud. It's good he's engaged and apparently hasn't lost his fastball during his year off. He's gonna get whistled early, probably on purpose. Both to convey a sense of urgency to his players, and because he can't help himself.
Kris Dunn will not win rookie of the year. Joel Embiid, Buddy Hield, and Brandon Ingram all seem more likely to win the hardware over Dunn, who received 46.7 percent of the vote in the annual GM Survey on NBA.com. The rookie from Providence will open up the season as the backup point guard in Minneapolis behind Ricky Rubio and will need to shrug off a rough preseason where he's struggled mightily with his shot selection and decision making.
Dunn will make a big impact on the defensive end, especially for a rookie. The drop-off from Rubio to the backup point guard, now Dunn, isn’t going to be back-breaking per the usual. Many opposing point guards will speak highly in pre-game and post-game interviews about Dunn’s future in the league.
Zach LaVine will not win the dunk contest this season. Really, he shouldn't participate. Retire with two wins in two attempts, and let the legend grow as the years go by. In 15 years people will talk about it like they talk about Vince Carter's dunks now. If he does go back again, I think he gets beat. Aaron Gordon could have won last year, someone will step up this year.
Adreian Payne will not finish the season on the roster. They will trade him if they can, but if they can't he will be cut at some point when the Wolves need the roster spot for someone else. Which could happen sooner rather than later given the current roster imbalance. This became clear when they declined his fourth year option. He's not long for the Wolves.
Three players will shoot over 40% from three this season. Nemanja Bjelica was at 38.4 percent last season, and has looked more confident in preseason than at any time last season. Zach LaVine shot 38.9 percent last season and a scorching 43.7 percent after the All-Star Break and his move to full time shooting guard. Brandon Rush is at 40.3 percent for his career, and his 41.4 last season shows no signs of dropping.
Ricky Rubio will not be traded this season, though rumors will persist. It won't take very long for Thibs to see the light of the Unicorn, and fall in love with his game—if he hasn't already. And besides, Dunn isn't ready to run an NBA offense at this point. It's terribly difficult to imagine Thibs being patient with rookie mistakes. Wolves management will take the season to assess what they have on their hands before making any dramatic changes and that means assessing Rubio in Thibs' system.
KAT will make the All-Star team. It's a tough go in the West for bigs, but the Wolves will be better and he's obviously The Next Big Thing. This is probably not that much of an out-on-a-limb prediction, but someone has to say it.
Towns was voted to the All-NBA Third team as a rookie by a few writers last year and he’s certainly ready to take the next step in his game. What that looks like remains to be seen but it’s probably going to be pretty alarming. He’s also starting to get incredible name recognition and that always helps. The hype around KAT is crazy right now but it’s totally warranted. I think he’s a lock for the All-Star game and one of the All-NBA teams too.
LaVine will finish top three in the league's Most Improved Player Award. Points per game will likely account for his biggest spike in basic stats, but it will be his defense that really leads shows the vast improvement in year three, and ultimately gives him a strong shot at the MIP hardware.
LaVine is going to put on some stellar shooting exhibitions, which the Twin Cities have never seen. Don't you know? He's a three-point thriller like that Knick killer, Reggie Miller!
46 wins and the first playoff birth as the 7th seed in the West, officially shocking every basketball fan in Minneapolis and across the galaxy.
They will finish in the top half of the league in defensive rating. I'm not sure I actually believe that, but what the hell, it's a new season. Thibs will get this team defending in ways we haven't seen in over a decade. This will be the catalyst for their big jump in wins. Optimism prevails.
First in free throw rate. Last season, they ranked second at .332. Thibs knows damn well that getting to the line is one of the biggest strengths of his team. Wiggins and Towns are going to live at the stripe.
We’re going to see beautiful transition basketball a lot more often. This will be one of the best up-tempo teams in the league. Far better defense equals more stops which in turn creates more opportunities to run. It’s not exactly rocket science. Wiggins, LaVine, Muhammad, and Towns all have excellent PPPs (points per possession) in transition (see here) and Rubio is the perfect orchestrator. Many Vines and GIFs will be tweeted.
Cole Aldrich will have at least 10 games with more stocks (steals + blocks) than points. Although shooting with high efficiency and almost exclusively at the rim, Aldrich will not take more than a handful of shots per game, and will finish a lot of games with numbers in the zero to five range in the scoring column.
Andrew Wiggins will lead the team in scoring at 23 points per game. Over his first two seasons, the former Jayhawk has shown he can put up consistent points night in and night out due to his ability to get to the free throw line. Wiggins should have more room to operate when attacking the basket, especially with more deep threats on the roster and Towns garnering so much attention.
I'll disagree with this prediction above and say that Andrew Wiggins will not lead the team in scoring this year. Towns will be the top scorer but all three of Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine will average over 15 points per game. I envision Towns taking over the top scorer role this season.
LaVine will win the slam dunk contest and the three-point shootout at All-Star Weekend. I disagree with the prediction that Zach won’t win the dunk contest. Zach lives for dunks. He breathes 360’s. He eats windmills for breakfast. That’s his jam (please, don’t publicly shame me for this). Frankly, I'm not sure if this is even allowed—competing in both—that's how bold this prediction might be. This dude loves the spotlight and jumping is his favorite past time. If he gets an invite to the three-point shootout, there’s zero chance he turns it down.
Drake will drop a hit single called Jumpman 2 after LaVine’s epic All-Star Weekend. LaVine, LaVine, LaVine, that boys up to something.
I'll see myself out.
Yes, you will.
Please leave right now.
Exit this application immediately.
Fine. Take care. You can thank me later.
The Wolves will increase their three-point attempts by at least 500 this season. It has been a clear focus in preseason, and should continue. This will be especially pronounced from the corners, where it wouldn't surprise to see them double the number of attempts from last season. Thibs isn't exactly Mike D'Antoni, but it's been clear that he values the three a lot more than his predecessors.
"Can't wait," Bart Scott screamed.
Where do we think the Wolves finish in the Northwest division?
The hot take here is better than Oklahoma City and probably third behind Portland and Utah. That's a spicy one. Nuggets twitter is already probably mad at me for counting them out without a second thought, so I'll run with it. While the Nuggets, like the Wolves, have a promising young roster and a high-quality coach in Mike Malone, the drastic improvement under Tom Thibodeau will take Minnesota well above Denver. The Thunder will struggle to adjust in Kevin Durant's absence, and Russell Westbrook will be overworked trying to carry the team alone, possibly leading to injury and definitely fatigue by mid-season. OKC’s time is over. The Wolves' time is just beginning.
Shabazz Muhammad will end the season with a Defensive Box Plus/Minus (DBPM) greater than -2.2. Bazz has a career DBPM of -3.9 (-4.2 last season), which is one of the worst in the entire NBA. A little bit of Thibs Dust and a cumulatively improved and synergistic bench unit will propel the fourth year player to a much improved game on the defensive end.
Nemanja Bjelica will turn heads in his sophomore season.
Towns will be the most consistent scorer, while LaVine will have the biggest single-game explosions, as he tends to do. Zach will have the highest scoring game on the team this season. Book it. There will be one night he comes close to dropping 50.
John Lucas III will win the newly created "NBA's Most Enthusiastic Player" (MEP) award for his fine work at the end of the bench.
Brandon Rush will wind up playing a lot more than we expect, until he gets injured (sorry...let me quickly pray to the Basketball Gods). I think Thibs likes him—he's a veteran who can really shoot it, but also looks like he knows what he's doing out there, which can't be said for everyone on the roster. I could see him working his way into being the first wing off the bench role, in front of Muhammad, and playing in both big and small lineups.
The Rubio-LaVine-Rush-Bjelica-Towns lineup will make us feel immense joy when it happens.
I would like to see that lineup.
Here's a non-Wolves prediction: The Finals will not feature both the Cavs and Warriors. I don't know what will happen to prevent it, but something will. Have we ever seen the same Finals matchup three times in a row? I can't remember it happening, and while that doesn't mean it can't happen, I would bet against it. I wonder what the odds are? Can you bet on that?
Yes, you can bet on that. And you would get "+" money on that bet. Vegas has it at over 50 percent chance of happening. I also kind of disagree. I think it will happen.
Cavs vs. Warriors is -175 according to sportsbook.ag
Rush will lead the team in three-pointers made. If the preseason is any indication, Rush will have the green light to rip triples this season. Shooting 60 percent from deep in the preseason—with three attempts per game—Rush displayed a smooth stroke and even smoother transition from his old role with the Warriors to his new, yet similar, role in Minnesota.
Hmm...actually LaVine will.
If there is a change in the starting lineup, it’s most likely going to be Bjelica swapping in for Dieng at the 4. That said, it’s doubtful, presuming no injury. Some might think Dunn starting at point guard instead of Rubio is the most likely change but that won’t happen without a trade, and we already predicted there won’t be a deal this season.
Neither Dieng or Muhammad will be given a rookie extension prior to the October 31 deadline. This could be a risky move in both cases, but it seems rather unlikely. The long play here is probably the smart play. Additional time to evaluate both players in Thibs’ system before handing out long-term contracts is valuable. There should be no rush in these negotiations.
The iron man, Gorgui Dieng, will have an excellent fourth NBA season and Thibs will love him. He will play on the Wolves for years to come.
The Cubs will win the world series.
Isn’t this a Bucks blog? Why are we talking about baseball now?
Wiggins will be much better defensively, as defined by our eyes and his DRPM here (-1.17). Thibs will challenge him on a nightly basis by tasking him with guarding the opponents team wing threat.
John Lucas III receives more minutes at point guard than Tyus Jones through the first twenty games. Lucas III has been confident about his place on this team since training camp opened and Thibodeau has only reaffirmed that confidence in training camp and throughout the preseason games. Lucas III's veteran allure gets him spot minutes in real situations, a la Andre Miller in 2015-16.
Tyus Jones will be traded. There’s too much evidence to suggest otherwise at this point.
Jordan Hill’s hair will get in the way of fans sitting behind him. Have you seen his hair?
That’s...something. At least his DBPM was 0.9 last season. He will help when called upon.
On January 31, the Wolves will file for Pekovic's "medical retirement." At that point, Pek will be subjected to a third-party doctor to determine if the injury is career-ending. If this is ruled in a timely manner, there is a possibility that he will be off the roster and his salary off the books by the trade deadline. For the Wolves, waiving Pekovic prior to January 31 eliminates this possibility and therefore is an illogical move, since the only benefit is an additional roster spot.
The player who makes the biggest leap this year is Rubio. We are about to see what a fully realized Rubio looks like, unless they do the wrong thing and move him, and it’s going to be scary. Everything points in his favor this year, again, other than the persistent trade rumors. He’s been healthy over the summer for the first time in forever, he will be playing in an uptempo offense full of scorers and incredible athletes, and he will now play for the best defensive coach in the NBA. His basic stats might not fully reflect his improvements, but he’s going to have his best season ever.
Nemanja Bjelica is my pick for the “player who makes the biggest leap.”
Shabazz will not play for the team next year. Currently, the Wolves have three wings who we are relying on the magical Thibsdust to improve. It's hard to imagine all three dramatically improving on the defensive end. Muhammad will be the odd man out between LaVine, Wiggins, and himself and the Wolves will go in the a different direction to punch up their bench scoring. This also takes into account Shabazz's next contract. Bazzy, by every account, believes in himself and there is going to be some team out there that takes a chance on his next deal, which could end up being more than the Wolves feel like matching.
Minneapolis is going to adore Tom Thibodeau.