The Minnesota Timberwolves have put some of their fans in an awkward place with their recent three-game winning streak. After defeating the Rockets on Tuesday, the Timberwolves have now won four of their last six games. Since March 31, they have an 8-8 record.
At 19-44, Minnesota has found the success that eluded them early in the season. The fact that two of those wins were back-to-back wins versus Utah is a bonus. Their other wins in this stretch include Miami and Sacramento. This is a solid stretch of basketball.
On the other hand, each win puts the Timberwolves’ chances of keeping their first-round pick in jeopardy.
The concern isn’t unfounded — a Jalen Suggs or Evan Mobley would certainly help this team’s future prospects. Adding another top prospect could set the Timberwolves up for sustainable success, something else that has eluded the franchise for much of its history.
It seems silly at this point to consider whether the wins are worth it, thus cheapening or diminishing this latest batch of victories. No, Donovan Mitchell didn’t play in either game for the Jazz. Sure, the Rockets and Kings are bad teams. Late season hot streaks are also no guarantee of future success.
While all of these things can be true, the Timberwolves finishing the season strong is a good thing, and here’s why:
The Pieces Seem To Be Coming Together
It seems that Chris Finch has started figuring out combinations that work well together. Not only playing D’Angelo Russell off the bench but getting him to buy into the role has made Russell a more efficient player. Given the team’s investment in Russell, they need to maximize him and he has come up big for this team over the last few weeks.
Russell off the bench has also allowed him to close games instead of Ricky Rubio. Rubio is great for getting the team settled earlier in the game, but Russell is the offensive threat opponents must account for in crunch time. Most of all, Russell hasn’t impeded Anthony Edwards’ development.
Watch a recent Timberwolves game and you see players with actual roles. Jaden McDaniels and Jarred Vanderbilt play consistently. Juancho Hernangomez is back in the rotation and thriving. Rubio and Russell qualify here too. There seems to be a method here and it’s worked.
A Win Is A Win
For a team like the Timberwolves that lacks experience, the fact they stole back-to-back games against the Mitchell-less Jazz is still impressive. Even without Mitchell, the Jazz have a talent and experience advantage. A team still has to go out and take advantage of favorable circumstances.
After all, we remember when the Wolves beat the Rockets at Target Center on March 26 and lost to them the next night in a blowout. Houston even sat Christian Wood and others on the second night of the back-to-back in which they didn’t have to travel. The Timberwolves seemed incapable of winning consecutive games at this point.
Whether they have faced a contender or lottery dweller, wins have been hard to come by this season. The Jazz may have been without Mitchell but played hard in their loss at Target Center on Monday. It was like Utah knew they lost a game they shouldn’t have and brought it during game two of the mini series, and yet Minnesota still came out on top. Sometimes you simply have to steal them and other times you have to take advantage of a favorable matchup.
The Wins Are Worth It
Whether this latest run means anything, in the long run, remains to be seen. Teams could very well be exhausted, banged up, and ready to go home or get to the playoffs. This team needed to show something. When this team fired Ryan Saunders after a 7-24 start, everything felt bleak. Now, they have shown fans, the players (especially Karl-Anthony Towns), and the league that they are capable of competing at a high(er) level.
With the Timberwolves’ current record, they have a 60 percent chance of losing their pick. The difference between the third-best and fifth-best odds at a top-3 pick is negligible anyway.
There’s no doubt another top prospect could help this team. However, if they are likely to lose their pick in any scenario, wouldn’t you prefer to lose it while building some legit momentum rather than losing the pick while entering the summer yet again lacking any real hope?