Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NBA. Each week, we send out questions to the most plugged in Minnesota Timberwolves fans, and fans across the country. Sign up here to join Reacts.
The Minnesota Timberwolves officially put a bow on their 2020-21 season last weekend, riding off into the summer sunset with a 136-121 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. According to the latest SB Nation Reacts survey, 75 percent of Timberwolves fans are confident the team is headed in the right direction, which is slightly down from 78 percent last week and 80 percent two weeks ago.
Despite the slight drop in confidence over the last two weeks, the chart above does vibe with the overall mood and feelings that most (not all) fans have about this franchise going forward. While it felt like the 2020-21 Timberwolves season took years to complete, the reality is that it’s been less than six months since the Wolves played their first regular season against the Detroit Pistons, and since then we’ve seen a coaching change, ownership change, and significant development from some of the team’s best players, most notably Anthony Edwards.
So while I am well aware of this franchise’s track record when it comes to “offseason confidence,” I think it’s fair to say the tide is slowly beginning to actually turn, led by Glen Taylor finally unloading his two franchises (Timberwolves and Lynx) and a charismatic rookie (Anthony Edwards) announcing himself as the next potential superstar.
Around The League
Enough Timberwolves for a day — let’s get back to what really matters this week: the NBA play-in tournament. Every team still playing for the NBA championship has their season on the line in some capacity each game. However, some teams are backed into a corner more than others. Just 24 hours after the Eastern Conference tipped things off, the Western Conference played their first two play-in games, with the Memphis Grizzlies defeating the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers holding off the Golden State Warriors.
Prior to these latest results being published, fans around the NBA thought the Golden State Warriors had the best chance of advancing beyond the play-in tournament, with 81 percent believing the team will win one of their games. The Warriors were followed by the Los Angeles Lakers, who had 80 percent of fans believing they would win one of two possible games to stave off elimination.
As you probably know by now, those 80 percent of fans who thought the Lakers would win one of the two potential play-in games to advance to the playoffs were... well they were certainly not wrong. The Warriors and Lakers battled it out late Wednesday night for the right to play the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2021 playoffs, and the evening was capped off with this fantastic highlight from LeBron James:
Despite being poked in the eye earlier in the night by Draymond Green and telling Rachel Nichols postgame that he was seeing “three different baskets,” LeBron capped off a pretty impressive comeback for the Lakers and sent his team into the real playoff tournament as the Western Conference’s 7th seed.
With their ticket now punched, the Lakers will have a few days to rest before kicking off their series against Phoenix on Sunday. While last night wasn’t your typical “win-or-go-home” type affair, the losers (in this case Golden State) will indeed go home, back to San Francisco as they prepare to host the Memphis Grizzlies tomorrow night in a one-game showdown for the Western Conference’s 8th seed.
Last night’s result wasn’t exactly what Warrior fans had hoped for, but they can still rest easy knowing that they have Steph Curry and the Grizzlies do not, which should give them a much-needed advantage heading into Friday evening.
Again, these latest survey results came out just hours prior to the tip of Lakers/Warriors, and had they come out this morning instead of on Wednesday, it’s likely that these numbers would have flipped in favor of LeBron.
As for the Eastern Conference — the first play-in tournament games were played Tuesday night with the Boston Celtics earning the first bid into the playoffs after beating the Washington Wizards. 61 percent of NBA fans believed the Celtics would advance, falling only behind the Wizards team they beat, which took 78 percent. The Indiana Pacers received the least amount of votes, with only 24 percent, but lived to fight another day after beating the Charlotte Hornets.
Charlotte’s loss ended their season, but it’s not all bad news for Michael Jordan’s Hornets. According to the latest poll, 52 percent of NBA fans picked LaMelo Ball as the player who should win the Rookie of the Year award. Ball beat out our beloved number one pick Anthony Edwards, who took home 36 percent of the vote and Sacramento Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton, who earned 12 percent.
At this point, it feels like a forgone conclusion that LaMelo Ball is going to walk away with the ROY trophy this season, so spending more time arguing about this seems like a waste of time (despite the fact that I vehemently disagree with these survey results). Again, all three of these young guys listed above were fascinating to watch this season and their play definitely silenced a lot of their doubters (well, except John Hollinger and Nate Duncan), but I remain fascinated at how the ROY was essentially handed out back in early March, despite the different levels of production by all three rookies over the second half of the season.
Regardless, all three fan bases — Charlotte, Minnesota, and Sacramento — should feel very good about themselves when it comes to the 2020 NBA Draft, as it looks like all three franchises struck gold with their latest selection.