The Minnesota Timberwolves have come a long way recently, finally pulling themselves out of the ping-pong ball bonanza and into real, competitive basketball. Last season was a huge step forward in that respect, but now it’s on the current roster to build on that success. There are numerous ways this season could go, and we’ll hit on all of that today. To put the journey in perspective, it’s important to remember where the team has come from, and how that may impact the team this season.
The 2021-22 Minnesota Timberwolves
Following a disappointing season in 2020-21, the 2021-22 Wolves turned in their most exciting season since Kevin Garnett was traded, going 46-36. That was good for 7th in the Western Conference, which earned them a memorable bout with the Los Angeles Clippers in the Play-In Tournament. To get to that 46-36 record, Minnesota combined a potent offense (115.15 points per 100 possessions, 8th in NBA) with an average but frenzied defense (112.60 points allowed per 100 possessions, 14th in the NBA.
Roster losses from the 2021-22 Wolves squad
As fun as the return to relevance was last year, the front office was not content to sit on their hands. They made one of the biggest moves of the offseason in the entire league when they moved Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Leandro Bolmaro to Utah from the 2021 team (along with Walker Kessler, too). The team also did not re-sign free agent Jake Layman.
Timberwolves roster additions for 2022-23
The biggest addition was the aforementioned Gobert, but Minnesota also added Kyle Anderson, Austin Rivers, and Bryn Forbes on NBA deals. On draft night, Tim Connelly moved all over the draft board, but finally settled on Wendell Moore, Jr out of Duke and Josh Minott out of Memphis. The team has also added A.J. Lawson (two-way), along with training camp invites like C.J. Elleby and Eric Paschall.
What are you most excited for going into this season?
I’m most excited to see how this double-big experiment works. I think it can, and should, work, but to what degree, and how sustainable is it in a playoff setting? Those are the big questions, and you can be sure that teams around the league will be watching to see if this type of alignment is one that can come back into style, or if it was too big of a bet on size over flexibility.
What’s the ‘Best Case’ scenario for the Wolves this season?
In my mind, the best case scenario would require an All-Star leap from Anthony Edwards, as well as the synergies between Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns being as evident as we think they can be. If that happens, the Wolves will have three legitimate All-Star level players, which in general leads to a homecourt playoff series in the first round.
I think that’s absolutely in play, but where the team goes in the playoffs will really answer this question. It’ll be matchup dependent, but I think this team can make the Western Conference Finals if things break there way. I wouldn’t bet on it, but I do think this is a damn good team that could make some real noise if they play together, and use their complimentary talents to cover for each others deficiencies.
What’s Minnesota’s ‘Worst Case’ scenario?
In the worst case scenario, Ant doesn’t take another leap, KAT and Rudy don’t mesh, and D’Angelo Russell’s contract situation all work to form a combustible situation in the Twin Cities. If all that occurs, this team will likely find itself in a do-or-die environment in the Play-In once again, albeit this time as a disappointment rather than a surprise.
What does the Timberwolves ‘Most Likely’ scenario look like?
As always, the most likely outcome is somewhere in the middle. I think Ant improves, but becoming a true star is still really hard at 21 years old. I expect there to be growing pains from the Towns-Gobert front court, although it will likely look better in March than it does in November, in large part because the two have not been on the court together at all to this point.
Unless everything goes wrong, Towns and Gobert’s individual talents give this team a high floor in the regular season, probably somewhere around the sixth seed or so. I think the larger range of outcomes for this team will be seen come playoff time, where they could be anything from a Play-In flameout to a WCF contender. If I had to make a guess on most-likely scenario, I’d say this team wins one playoff series before being eliminated, although it’s just so hard to tell without knowing the matchups. The draw in the first round will be more important to the Wolves than it will be to many other teams because of their roster construction.
Official Timberwolves prediction for this season
So, Vegas projects this team to win 48-49 games, and I’ll take the over on that. I think there are going to be a lot of wins to sleep walk through in 2023 as teams prepare themselves for Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, the Thompson Twins, and more. Aside from that, the Wolves should be able to overwhelm many teams in the regular season with the size and talent of their Bigs. Getting 48 minutes of All-NBA play from the center position is a game changer.
I think this is a 52-win regular season team, good enough to host a playoff series. Let’s say they nab the 3rd seed, just for fun. From there, it will be all about matchups for them. How seriously do the Clippers take the regular season? If they prioritize rest and end up 6th, that’s a nightmare for the Wolves. If it’s a team less equipped to take advantage of the Wolves Northern Heights, I would expect them to advance.
Is that a good enough hedge of my bets? I hope so. Anyways, the point is that to me, this is a team with a relatively narrow range of outcomes in the regular season. The sheer level of talent for the regular season will serve them well, and should put them in good position to avoid the Play-In tournament. It’s cliche, but it really will be all about matchups for this team after that, unless they get a monster leap from their young wing duo of Ant and Jaden McDaniels.
Those are the two guys who can make them more matchup proof, since Towns and Gobert are a more established for who they are. Most of that is good with the big guys, but they have their deficiencies too. Funny enough, for all of the talk about the pairing between Gobert and Towns, all things for the Wolves always make their way back to Ant, one way or another. How far he progresses will ultimately determine where this team goes.