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Putting the Wolves’ Season Into Perspective

Could this be the second-best squad in franchise history?

Minnesota Timberwolves v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves are currently in the midst of one of their most successful seasons in franchise history. They’re 11 games over .500, own one of the league’s most dangerous offenses, and have transformed the Target Center from a place of peace and solitude to one of utter chaos, where owners take off their shoes while players shoot t-shirts into the stands and fans actually cheer. Loudly, even!

Prior to the current campaign, the Wolves had only ever finished with a record above .500 eight times in franchise history—they recently bumped the total up to nine after defeating the Milwaukee Bucks last week.

But how does this current team stack up to the most successful of their past? Here are three stats that help put the 2021-22 Wolves season into perspective.

No. 1: This is the best Wolves team since THAT Wolves team by Net Rating

The Wolves won 58 games en route to reaching the Western Conference Finals during the 2003-2004 season led by Kevin Garnett in his prime, Sam Cassell, and Latrell Sprewell. Although they ultimately succumbed to the Kobe-Shaq Lakers in six games, the 2003-04 team persists as the most successful—and fondly remembered—in franchise history.

Well, according to Net Rating—a stat that reports the number of points a given team outscores their opponents by per 100 possessions on average—the 2021-22 iteration of the Wolves is the franchise’s best in nearly two decades.

The 2003-04 team earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and finished fourth overall according to NBA.com’s version of Net Rating (5.7), trailing only the Indiana Pacers (6.3), Detroit Pistons (6.5), and San Antonio Spurs (7.9). The 2021-22 Wolves currently sit in the seventh spot in the Western Conference table and their Net Rating ranks eighth at 3.5.

The 2001-02 team was the only other in franchise history to post a Net Rating greater than 3.0 (3.4). They won 50 games. The 47-win team of 2017-18—the last Wolves team to make the playoffs—finished 10th overall with a 2.3 Net Rating.

No. 2: Karl-Anthony Towns is the best shooter in the game

This headline feels spicy—especially since Steph Curry still exists—but it shouldn’t be.

In order to qualify for most of the individual statistical titles, an athlete must appear in at least 70% of their team’s games, which equates to a minimum of 58 games over the course of a full season. Towns has already appeared in 66 this year and, thus, has already cemented himself as a qualifier for the scoring title, rebounding title, etc.

Among NBA athletes who have appeared in at least 45 games this season—which is approximately 70% of the season completed thus far—Towns is the only one who is shooting 50% from the field, 40% from beyond the arc, and 80% from the free-throw line. Unless he goes into a shooting slump of epic proportions over the final nine games, Towns will become the first 7-footer to accomplish this feat since…himself (and technically Meyers Leonard) in 2018-19.

No. 3: Chris Finch joined Flip Saunders as the only two head coaches in franchise history with a winning record

Saunders coached the Wolves for parts of 11 seasons and accumulated an overall record of 427-392 (.521) in Minnesota. He was at the helm for eight of the Wolves' nine playoff appearances, including the majestic Western Conference Finals run. After multiple years with the Pistons and Washington Wizards, Saunders returned to the Target Center sidelines in 2014 and was slated to coach the 2015 team as well before tragically passing away due to cancer.

Since Finch took over for Ryan Saunders partway through the 2020-21 season, he has led the Wolves to a 58-56 (.508) record and is among those considered to be the favorites for winning the NBA’s Coach of the Year honors. If he ultimately does bring home the honor, he would be the first to do so in franchise history.