It’s finally here!
Yesterday, the Minnesota Timberwolves announced their 2022-23 season schedule, which you can view here:
Let’s run through the highlights.
The Ant Effect
First and foremost, the Timberwolves will be playing on 16 (!) nationally televised games, up from four last season. 10 of those 16 games will be broadcast on either ESPN or TNT, which is significant.
While only five of the 16 will be at Target Center, it’s safe to say the Wolves will be on national television plenty come playoff time.
Minnesota has Anthony Edwards to thank for the jump. Edwards’ electrifying entrance into high-leverage NBA hoops captivated the nation this past spring. Ant Man dropped 30 and 36 points, respectively, in each of his first two postseason games while winning over fans league wide.
The NBA undoubtedly took note of the love for one of, if not its most marketable rising star and made sure that Edwards won’t just be showing out for Wolves fans and those catching Head Coach Chris Finch’s squad on NBA League Pass.
Having two other All-NBA caliber stars certainly helps Minnesota’s case for more regular season games on national networks as well as its strong position as a surefire playoff team come 2023, which obviously will land more nationally televised games.
10 at a Time
The Wolves have not one, but two stretches of 10 games with the easiest schedule in the NBA, and have a third with the second-easiest schedule.
To make this schedule even more favorable, the Wolves are top 10 in rest days in the games 31-40 stretch despite facing their toughest string of opponents.
Minnesota will need to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 22-8 — at worst — through their first 30 games if they want to make a legitimate push for the No. 1 seed in the West, because the Wolves won’t get much help in the rest department down the stretch of the season.
But, that’s where elite depth should come into play and help Minnesota enter the playoffs relatively fresh.
Get Hot and Stay Hot
Timberwolves fans couldn’t ask for much more to start the season. The Wolves start with five games against arguably the worst three teams in the conference before playing another team they should beat, the Los Angeles Lakers, in Minneapolis. Five of those first seven are at home, too.
That’s one hell of an on ramp for a team that underwent significant change.
They should start 6-0 before their first nationally televised game (NBA TV) in San Antonio against the rebuilding Spurs, already their third matchup of the season against the once dynastic squad.
That’s a good “dip your toe in the water game” before a pair of showdowns against the 2021 NBA Conference Champions: at the Phoenix Suns on November 1 (TNT) and at home vs the Milwaukee Bucks on November 4 (ESPN).
Conservatively, the Wolves are looking at an 8-3 start, but could very well be 9-2 or 10-1 if they acclimate to one another more quickly than anticipated. It feels amazing just to type that and it not being immediately dismissible as “looking through rose colored glasses.”
Thankfully for the Wolves, the schedule gets tougher later in the season, (hopefully) after the team overcomes its growing pains.
We’ll find out just how good of a team they can be once they enter a two-month gauntlet in February and March. Not only are those games their toughest by opponent projected winning percentage (average of all opponents’ win percentage based on their current season win total prop at DraftKings Sportsbook), but Minnesota plays 15 of their 25 games in those months on the road.
They only have to deal with five rest disadvantage games, which is nice, while they get nine rest advantage games that should help offset the home/road split.
If the Wolves win 80% of the games they should and maybe 50% of the games they shouldn’t during that stretch, we’ll likely be looking at a 50-win team with home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Back-to-Back Luck? Back-to-Back Luck!
While I haven’t run this analysis for every team in the league, I would be surprised if there was more than a couple of teams who got a more favorable draw in terms of their back-to-back games.
25 of Minnesota’s 82 games will be played against opponents either on the front end or the back end of a back-to-back.
Opponents’ B2Bs - Back End
Minnesota will play 15 games against opponents who on their second night of a back-to-back, and Denver has to play the Wolves three times after playing the night before. That’s pretty brutal for the Nuggets and a gift for the Timberwolves.
Eight of those 15 will be at home.
The average projected winning percentage of the opponents is 51.7%, so nothing crazy there.
Here’s a complete look at the opponents Minnesota will catch on night No. 2 of a back-to-back.
Opponents’ B2Bs - Front End
Conversely, the Wolves will play just 10 games against teams on night No. 1 of a back-to-back, and only three of those will be played at Target Center.
The average projected winning percentage of the front end opponents is 49.7%.
Here are the 10 games:
This is where the luck really gets out of hand. While the Wolves will be playing 14 back-to-backs, tied for second-most in the league, Minnesota will play the tougher opponent among the two-game set on the front end in 11 of 14 back-to-backs.
That’s incredible luck.
Their average opponent strength on:
— Front ends: 54.1%
— Back ends: 44.0%
Back-to-backs by location:
— Four home/home
— Five away/away
— Four away/home
— One home/away
Getting to play the second leg at home for eight of 14 second legs is pretty huge, too.
Here is the Wolves’ B2B slate for 2022-23:
Overall, Wolves fans should be extremely excited about the schedule. All else held constant, a good team that underwent change at the magnitude Minnesota did should prefer to have a back-loaded schedule. This, of course, is so they can beat up on small teams while building chemistry so that they understand how to play with one another come high leverage games in the final 30 or so games of the season.
If the Wolves can get hot early — and stay hot — home-court advantage in the 2023 NBA Playoffs is certainly on the table.