If you’re familiar with Canis Hoopus, you know by now that one of our most sacred annual traditions here is providing a laundry list of definitely correct predictions prior to the start of the upcoming season. With yet another offseason of change and dysfunction now behind us, let’s kick off the 2021-22 season with our hottest #takes and fool-proof predictions about will undoubtedly hold up over the next handful of months.
2021-2022 Wolves Predictions
OVER and Out: Will the Timberwolves exceed their Vegas win total (34.5)?
Yes - Kyle
Full transparency — in the past, my solution to every new Wolves season was simple: hammer the UNDER. Therefore, no matter how the season played out, I was guaranteed some level of profit in regards to my overall happiness level (either the Wolves would once again disappoint us, resulting in free money, or they would shockingly overachieve and the lost money from my bank account would quickly be washed away with the sweet smell of a handful of surprising victories).
Well, friends, not this year. Maybe I’m too optimistic, or maybe my mimosa was spiked with Timberwolves Kool-Aid, or hell — maybe both! Either way, I haven’t been this confident in a Wolves roster since I started covering the team six years ago, and with the addition of tough-nosed veterans like Patrick Beverley and Taurean Prince, I see no way whatsoever that Minnesota fails to secure at least 35 wins this upcoming season. Grab an item out of Nikola Pekovic’s toolbox and hammer the OVER.
Yes - Jack
When you look at Vegas’s over/under projections, it’s surprising to me to see teams like the Pelicans, Kings, and even Memphis have a higher projected win total than the Wolves. Simply put, the Wolves have the most talent and the best coach of the bunch in Chris Finch. As Kyle mentioned, replacing Jarrett Culver and Juancho Hernangomez — neither of whom should be in an NBA rotation — and Ricky Rubio (a poor offensive fit) with hand-in-glove-like schematic and locker room fits in Beverley and Prince, was massive. The Wolves’ perimeter defense will get a big boost from Beverley, especially, and Prince has the potential to guard 3-through-5 with his mobility, size, and length. Yet, those acquisitions only moved the Wolves’ win total by one game. That’s hard to argue on behalf of if you watched the Wolves last season. I’d set the Wolves to win a total closer to 41 or 42 games.
Anthony Edwards overcame no real training camp or preseason, injuries to KAT and D-Lo, a coaching change, and becoming the center of opposing teams’ defenses to average 24 points, five rebounds, and three assists over the final 36 games. If he gets anywhere close to that, while maintaining the excellent defense we’ve seen from him in the preseason, this team could be an average defense on top of the expectation to be a top-10 offense and will win more than 35 games even if KAT and D-Lo miss stretches of time. Edwards can be that good. Combine that with the Wolves having 10 legit NBA rotation players, three of whom have All-Star talent, and a very bright coach and you have a pretty easy decision — the over.
Yes - Mike
I’ll admit it, I’m scared, guys. I’ve been able to guard myself every offseason by assuming the team would be bad and the under would be the play. Each time, this has been the correct strategy. I just really struggle to see this team finishing with fewer than 35 wins. I expect this season to be a bit of a rollercoaster ride, because all Timberwolves seasons sort of end up like that, but something about this group feels different in a tangible way. There’s no rah-rah BS coming out anymore. It almost feels like a calmness is radiating—is that possible?—from the coaching staff and players, led by Chris Finch. If I wanted to protect myself, I’d just take the under like every other year. But I’m going to take some advice from one of the best in the business, and “risk a good attitude.” Let’s hit the OVER.
I get shrewdness of fallback cynical position vis a vis the Wolves--the track record alone nearly demands it. But I'd still rather get my hopes up that I'll be covering better hoops this year--my genuine assessment--then stay dour against my instincts. Let's risk a good attitude.— brittrobson (@brittrobson) October 5, 2021
No - Leo
I’ve only ever bet on sports through an online bookie site once, and that was on November 19, 2020. The day after Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves prodigal son, Canis’ beautiful unicorn, and my personal god, returned to Minnesota via trade. There was no way that the ultimate floor raiser who just helped push the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns to the next level couldn’t get a fully healthy KAT-D’Lo squad to a measly 30 wins, right? Wrong. Do I think and wish the Wolves will improve this year? Absolutely! But let’s not forget just about a year ago, the CH hivemind predicted a 35-37 record (We also predicted Jarrett Culver to be the Most Improved Player in the NBA). Hope is a cruel mistress and I will refuse to be scorned again. As my favorite adult cartoon wisely said, “Life is a series of closing doors, isn’t it?” No, BoJack. It isn’t. Only the Timberwolves.
Yes - Brendan
Let’s be realistic here. Wolves, assuming relative health to the rest of the league, are talented enough to hit the over. It would be a huge disappointment to fall under that number. They have Karl-Anthony Towns in the best shape of his life, Anthony Edwards seemingly locked in on defense, D’Angelo Russell healthier than he’s been, a mastermind calling the shots, Jaden McDaniels in year two, and NAZ REID.
The Wolves had a fantastic finish to last season, even without Malik Beasley. Though Beasley is still working back into game shape, I have no doubt he will get there. Plus, the Wolves have a defensive scheme that fits their personnel, and, speaking of defensive personnel, they have three more rotational defenders than they had last season (Beverley, Prince, and Edwards).
The offense is also good, I’ve heard.
It’s the over, unquestionably.
Yes - Andrew
This all depends on whether your glass is half-full or half-empty, but there are two ways to look at this. If Karl Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell collectively play 70 or more games as a unit, I think the win total can exceed 40, which is where I personally want to lean towards, and am basing this pick off of. Not only is there offensive talent in that group, but efficiency, with all three having different spots on the floor and ways to score the ball. Ugh, here I go again getting my hopes up. Death, taxes, October Timberwolves Kool-Aid.
Unfortunately, as we know all too well, that is not how this has normally gone in the context of the last two years. My worries trickle in if extended time is missed by any of the names mentioned above. There are solid depth pieces on the bench, but none I would feel comfortable inserting as a long-term starter (unless you count Patrick Beverley or Malik Beasley in that mix, who are also prone to missing time). My worries grow larger if anything happens to KAT or Naz Reid, as rebounding will already be an issue.
But here I am, typing this as my cup runneth over. It’s not half-full, it’s completely full. The energy, cohesion, and now competent coaching of an offensively-intriguing group is too much to overlook. You’re betting on health, but it’s a payoff that could be worth it.
Look for a fast start, a midseason lull during a daunting road stretch in January, and a late-season rebound that pushes the team into the 8-10 range in the west.
Next, go to the bank, apply for a mortgage, fly to Vegas, throw it on the over. There is NO way this ages poorly…
Yes - Cooper
The Timberwolves have cursed me. Every time I say something optimistic about the Timberwolves whether it’s in a podcast or writing, I always finish my sentence with a warning.
“I think the Wolves will be good this year... that’s a dangerous path”
“Wow these preseason games are fun... oh no I’m hopeful”
“I enjoy watching Timberwolves basketball again... for now”
Despite my constant fear and doubt in this team, my optimism and outlook for this team win out. Surely they won’t make me look bad. I think this team has a legit shot to win 40-42 games and make the playoffs. The Towns, Russell, Edwards trio is elite offensively and seemingly almost competent on defense. The head coach, Chris Finch, is amazing and the veteran leadership is so much better than in years past. Give me the over!
Yes - Logan
Before I get too ahead of myself, I was one of the biggest “Jarrett Culver for Most Improved Player” culprits that Leo mentioned. Now, that being said I am absolutely drinking the Kool-aid and am smashing that over the button. Since the Wolves are so irrelevant and a historic dumpster fire, national media usually fails to keep up with any developments on their end. Truth be told, Chris Finch looks to be a legitimately good NBA coach, Anthony Edwards looks like he’s remembered that defense is a thing (best preseason development in my opinion), and the reshuffling of supporting cast pieces looks to be significantly better fitting. Barring the usual Minnesota injury bug decimating the team like it did last year, I’m feeling very confident about this team.
No - John
OK. OK. I feel like the Wolves should hit the over this season with Finchy leading the crew but if history and experience tell us anything it’s that the under is always smart money up North. Hopefully, this year is wildly different and when the team inevitably encounters a little adversity, they can find a way to stay afloat instead of spiraling into a free fall down the Western Conference. Can the defense find enough of a pulse to drive wins when the offense isn’t humming? This team certainly has the skill to make the jump, as others have mentioned. 34.5 is a low number. They could blow this number out of the water and it wouldn’t be all that surprising. But I’m playing wait and see. KAT needs to be All-NBA, D’LO needs to play most nights, Ant and Jaden need to make big leaps forward, and the role players need to shine. I am not as confident this team can sustain a major injury or persevere through some turbulence. Someone has to say it.
Yes - Tyler
I liked this number a lot more a few weeks ago when it was closer to 32, but 48 losses seem like a ton for a roster with this much talent and a significant improvement in coaching. My yearly preseason optimism with this team has yet to pay off, but without hope, what else do we have?
The new defensive philosophies are incredibly encouraging, but there are still very few sound defensive players on this roster. The hope is that the effort we saw in the preseason continues and guys at least being in the right spot is enough for them to compete. Rebounding could easily kill this team on a nightly basis, and this team failing to end possessions is my biggest fear regarding their defense. In terms of offense, there aren’t many reasons this team shouldn’t be a top-10 offense. Injuries could derail this team immediately for the third year in a row, but the talent and atmosphere with this team are just too much fun to not believe in right now.
Yes - Clyde
In the West, the Wolves will face a lot of stiff competition,
but, if they continue to make hustle and muscle the focus of their mission,
since they’re already stellar at dishin’ and swishin’,
they’ll exceed the win total for which Wolves bettors are wishin’.
Yes - Jake
This is about as easy a choice as you’ll ever have to make. And there are two compelling points why. First, past performances have no impact on future results. That’s just a fact! If a roulette wheel has landed on black for fifteen consecutive spins, it doesn’t make it any more likely that the next spin won’t be red. The whole thing about over/unders is they are made to be as close to 50/50 as possible: both short term and long term. If the roulette board has routinely landed on black over a short period of time, long term probability will tell you the results will normalize, and come back to even.
This leads to my second point: the law of averages (I can’t definitively prove this is real). The same has to be said for the Timberwolves historical underperformance as it does for the roulette board. They’re due. Couple the almost certainly provable “law of averages” with the fact that 34.5 wins “feels” low for a team that should be much improved and proved they could play above .500 for a significant stretch to end last season. It’s an easy choice to make... if the point is getting it right! And if they don’t hit the over this year? I’ll be right back here at this time next year finding another reason to convince myself why this year it will be different.
The Price is Knight... for Iowa
Jordan McLaughlin and Naz Reid walked so Nathan Knight (and Leandro Bolmaro) could run. We’ve already seen the early returns on this pairing in the preseason and although their time will come with the big leaguers, they will easily guide the Iowa Wolves to their SECOND championship. That’s right. The Iowa Energy won their first chip in 2011 with former Wolves great, Othyus Jeffers. Jeffers will be honored at halftime of the championship-clinching game and I will shed not 1, but 2 tears of joy.
Mr. Towns Goes to
...as part of being selected to his third NBA All-Star game. Listen, this isn’t quite a hot take, but 2021-22 is totally going to be REVENGE SZN for Big KAT. His numbers may not differentiate too much compared to what he’s already (astoundingly) putting up each season, but 25/10/5 on 50/40/80 shooting splits hit a bit different when his team is experiencing more success. However, the biggest difference will be on the defensive end where he will be given the freedom to switch onto perimeter players more. Dare I say a handful of All-Defensive 2nd team votes?
NBA Star Awarded Times (Sixth) Man of the Year Award
I love this one — Malik Beasley NEEDS to come off the bench if Russell, Edwards, and Towns are starting. Having Beasley start alongside them makes no sense and I think Chris Finch agrees. Malik Beasley seems like the perfect guy to win this award. He’s a scorer off the bench, he will embrace this role if the team is winning, and he’ll be the best shooter. If he embraces this role and sees how successful he can be off the bench then he’s gonna win this award. Book it.
Big Kat, Long-Term
Two things here — for starters, this would be awesome for everyone involved. The Wolves should want to keep KAT around as long as possible, so getting the max-extension taken care of would be wise on their end. Secondly, it makes sense for Towns. The new norm is for players to just take the money (teams that drafted players/have bird-rights can offer the most money), and if things go sideways, he can always ask out. It makes sense for both sides to get a deal done sooner rather than later.
Not Brain Surgery: Gupta Helps Wolves Get Their Affairs in Order
As we all know by now, former POBO Gersson Rosas was dismissed by the team earlier this offseason, and Sachin Gupta was quickly thrust into his position to oversee the direction of the franchise (at least for now).
While we may not know whether or not Sachin is new ownership’s preferred pick long-term, I believe the creator of the ESPN Trade Machine will be fearless in his pursuit to improve the team, swinging at least one sizable deal prior to the NBA Trade Deadline. Maybe that’s something like “Malik Beasley for an upgrade at PF,” or maybe Sachin parlays his strong relationship with Daryl Morey to snag disgruntled star Ben Simmons from Philadelphia, but either way I expect the new front office captain to be extra aggressive this season as he tries to show Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore he’s the man for the job (long-term).
Drive & Thrive, Right
Ant can surely go on an occasional hot shooting streak, but what makes him special is that he is an athletic freak. We all know he’s a football fan, and if Ant wants to be all he can, he’s gotta embrace the contact and attack the lane like a running back. Take it to the rack, Jack! If Ant can get to the line at a per-game average of 7 or 8, his All-Star chances and the Wolves record will look great! If he only shoots four, he’ll be playing near his potential’s floor.
Thurski For More Buckets
The Minnesota Timberwolves are not short on scoring talent, KAT, DLo and Beasley all put up over 19 points per game last season. However, the Timberwolves have another player who did the same: Anthony Edwards. Edwards was an unstoppable force once Chris Finch took over and he showed is all what a dynamic wing player with unlimited athleticism should play like (I’m looking at you, Wiggins).
Even with a post All-Star Break scoring average of 23.8, I believe Edwards wasn’t near the offensive player he should be this season. With Towns funneling more energy on the defensive side of the ball with the new scheme, I wouldn’t be shocked if he averages *only* 24 points per game this season, which I am (ever so hotly) predicting will come at least a full 5 points per game lower than Edwards’ nightly contribution. You asked for hot predictions, and it doesn’t get much hotter than that.
Asked Ant what thurski means— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) October 15, 2021
His response: "thurski"
A Knight in King Finch’s Front Court
The PF position is clearly the biggest hole on this team and holding out for a two-way player as the answer isn’t promising. However, the Timberwolves have proven on multiple occasions that they can find, develop, and use players from those two-way roster spots. Vanderbilt appears to be the best option right now, but his chemistry and production have felt more natural with Reid instead of Towns. McDaniels and Prince will also see significant minutes at PF, but their lack of size will be a significant reason they will be one of the worst rebounding teams in the league.
Towns needs to play alongside a PF who can protect the rim (especially given the team’s new reliance on the baseline defender) and get physical doing the dirty work. Nathan Knight has proven he can do both. If he can demonstrate some offensive consistency and the ability to not average 100 fouls per 36 minutes, he could find his way into the rotation as the season progresses.
“Shot clock winding down!”
- Isaiah Miller will represent the Timberwolves in the dunk contest and break out an Isaiah Rider homage dunk, becoming the 8th player in franchise history to participate in this festivity.
- The NBA will finally acknowledge Naz Reid as his junior year campaign earns him multiple Most Improved Player of the year votes at year’s end.
- Naz will also finish Top 5 in Sixth Man of the Year voting.
- Patrick Beverley is going to call/lead a players-only meeting after a losing streak at some point in the season.
- D’Angelo Russell has at least five triple-doubles en route to averaging north of 18 points, eight assists, and five rebounds per game.
- Karl-Anthony Towns is the Third Team All-NBA center. Towns is in the best shape of his life and looks quicker off the dribble, which should enable him to impact the game more comprehensively on offense. After Rudy Gobert was played off the floor in the playoffs last year, the masses will cool off on him as one of the league’s elite centers, positioning Towns nicely to get into the Jokic/Embiid conversation.
- Jarred Vanderbilt becomes the clear power forward starter on this team. He plays the best defense out of anyone, controls the glass, and does enough offensively to warrant the gig.
- Extremely random, but as the nickname “Big Mac” takes off even more for Jaden McDaniels, he will mention he actually does not like the McDonalds Big Mac at some point.
- No expert analysis here, I (Mike) just want to predict that Anthony Edwards remains the best. I want to see a winning product, but I may care more about Ant’s joy.
- Patrick Beverley proves way more valuable to this team than many think. He ends up closing almost every game and becomes a talked-about name around the trade deadline with his expiring contract (the Wolves hang on to him and extend him for less than his current deal).
- Malik Beasley doesn’t end the season with the Timberwolves. Jaylen Nowell can do a lot of the same things as Beasley, and a contender will find Beasley’s off-ball shooting and horrible defense both more beneficial and easy to mitigate.
it all starts tonight.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) October 20, 2021
let's work. pic.twitter.com/RvRCR9yaZO
General 2021-22 NBA Predictions
Where Brooklyn At?
Kevin Durant wins his second MVP and third finals MVP. Simply put, Durant is the best basketball player on the planet. His performance in last year’s playoffs was the most impressive individual run I’ve maybe ever seen at any level of basketball, and I have no doubts he’ll come back and do more of the same in the regular season.
He was an inch away from taking down Giannis and the eventual-champion Bucks pretty much by himself after averaging a whopping 34.3 points on 51.4/40.2/87.1 shooting splits, 9.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.6 blocks in 12 playoff games. He’ll be a much tougher assignment this season with more talent flanked beside him in Brooklyn, even without Kyrie Irving, whose absence will inflate Durant’s stats and arguably help his MVP case.
Poole Party, Anyone?
I’ll take a stab at one, here, on something that I’ve already put my money where my mouth is. I’ll say Jordan Poole wins Most Improved Player and is Golden State’s third-best player after Steph Curry and Draymond Green. Poole is an outstanding offensive player in a system that I believe should maximize his talents. He started to break out last year. I think 18ish points per game on high-end efficiency is in play for him this year.
76ers Get 86’d
I really think Philadelphia is going to have a rough go of it this year. Don’t get me wrong, I still see them making the playoffs, and more likely than not getting a top-six seed in the east. But take a couple things into account — if Ben Simmons plays a single game for them, he’s getting booed, and the distractions will weigh heavy. Joel Embiid had choice words when asked about Simmons’ game during media day. Simmons has lost the backing of his coach.
I just don’t see this going well. Cliché incoming — the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Philly is not only doing the same thing, but with an alienated member of the locker room. The East will undoubtedly be more competitive this year. Barring a Simmons move, I don’t see how the 76ers make enough noise to be in the conference’s top five.
Broken Dame: Lillard Officially Asks Out of Portland
Although Damian Lillard’s seemingly unflinching loyalty has somehow kept the Portland Trailblazers from completely falling apart post-Neil Olshey press conference, that can’t last long. Surely, replacing one Junior for another Junior
and extracting Carmelo from the lineup can’t be enough to the needle in an ever competitive Western Conference, right?
Throw in a rookie head coach that Dame may not have officially signed off and that’s a recipe for an underachieving team. It may have taken the undyingly loyal Kevin Garnett 12 years of franchise ineptitude before finally allowing himself to be traded from Minnesota, but in today’s Player Empowerment Era, Dame’s 9 years of service feels just as worthy. Sorry, Portland. A consolation prize of Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, old Goran Dragic, and picks isn’t the worst return!
Brooklyn? More Like Broke-Land
It appears pundits and critics everywhere expect the Brooklyn Nets to waltz out of the East with relative ease, even considering this whole Kyrie Irving fiasco. I do feel that losing Kyrie is a big hit to their chances, but an even bigger hit will be their health. Kevin Durant, who I also agree is a holy spirit being sent down to dominate the courts of Earth, 33-years-old and seems to deal with a somewhat serious injury every other year.
Look, I’m not trying to put negative energy out there. The injury history doesn’t lie. I don’t think James Harden and a new cast of old-guy super friends will be enough to guide the Nets out of the East. The 4 new additions of LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, James Johnson, and Patty Mills combine for a whopping 138 years of age. That’s much older than the combined ages of Minnesota’s entire (anticipated) starting five (113).
Golden State Will Once Again Be Great
The Warriors simply have too much talent and leadership to not make one more run at the championship. Get ready for another fun season of run & gun, coupled with enough defensive force to be this year’s dark horse.
Why Not?! Well Sir, It’s Actually Quite Obvious
The Russell Westbrook experience isn’t going to work in LA. There, I said it.
Seriously though, a lot has been written about Westbrook returning to the place where he grew up, but not enough has been said about the extremely poor fit between him, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis. Factor in a supporting cast of players who don’t necessarily fit around Russ (i.e. Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, etc.) and you have the makings of a team who could find themselves looking for a panic trade come New Year’s Eve.
Therefore, I predict that the Lakers will try to dump Russ sometime after the calendar flips to 2022, which won’t be an easy feat considering they owe a multitude of future first-round picks to other teams. Either way, as LeBron enters his 19th season in the league, his window to compete for titles isn’t growing any bigger, which will result in the Lakers being forced to sell the Westbrook Wagon for spare parts to help salvage their season.
Pistons become the Grizzlies-East
When Ja Morant joined the Grizzlies 2 years ago, he helped pushed the budding Grizzlies to a new level (34-39). Well, Cade Cunningham is that dude. Although the Pistons will still probably be on the outside looking in come the postseason, they will finish strong and make a legit push for the play-in tournament. It’s been documented that Detroit is still committed to Killian Hayes at the point and Cade as a secondary creator, but that tone will likely shift by midseason. I’m a big Saddiq Bey fan and have also converted into a faithful Jerami Grant believer after their performances last year. The steady guidance of Dwane Casey will help grow this exciting young core and I am totally here for it.
Did we miss anything? Leave your predictions below (both for the Timberwolves and the NBA in general) and we’ll revisit this post (and the comments) once the season concludes next spring/summer.