Star guard Anthony Edwards was voted as the fifth-most likely player (7%) who GM’s would sign if they were starting a franchise falling in line behind Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (43%), San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (23%), Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (13%), Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić (10%), respectively.
He was also took home the most votes (21%) for the player most likely to enjoy a breakout season, coming off a year in which he made his first All-Star appearance. Edwards also came in a three-way tie (7% of the vote) with Oklahoma City Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dončić as a top five shooting guard in the league, placing behind Devin Booker (63%) and Stephen Curry (10%). Also, are we really calling Curry a shooting guard? Be better. Finally, Ant was recognized as the third-most athletic player in the NBA, gathering 24% of the vote behind Ja Morant and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
No. 33 overall pick Leonard Miller and Rudy Gobert received votes for steal of the draft and best defensive player, respectively. Gobert, alongside Milwaukee Bucks anchor Brook Lopez, came in a tie for second with 17% of the vote for best interior defender, behind Memphis Grizzlies star and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr. Head Coach Chris Finch earned 13% of the vote for coach that runs the best offense, coming in fourth.
Rounding it out, beloved Uncle (or Minnesota, whichever you prefer) Mike Conley was tied for the second-most popular response (13% of the vote with Toronto Raptors guard Garrett Temple) to the question, ‘Which active player will make the best head coach someday?’ Chris Paul unsurprisingly took home first there with 20% of the vote.
At an individual level, the Wolves got some national recognition amongst the inner basketball circles of the NBA landscape, but they were also disrespected. Jaden McDaniels was the both the best on ball defender in isolation and the best non big rim protector according to, Basketball-Index.
Jaden did not receive a single vote as the top defender in the NBA even though he has the numbers and highlights back it up. It’s a criminal offense for McDaniels to be disrespected as much as he has been. It’s a challenging part of being in a league that is considered at times to be a soap opera when all you do is walk around with a stone cold face and lock people down.
The most eye-opening vote in the survey was in response to the Western Conference predictions portion of the survey. 10 teams received at least one vote to finish first, second, third or fourth in the West and the Timberwolves were not among the 10. Notably, the Mavericks and Thunder made the cut above them.
I can see why teams got the votes they did, but it’s abhorrently wrong to not have the Wolves on here. Assuming, and I hate assuming, the Wolves have a cleaner bill of health for the 2023-2024 campaign, All-NBA talent Karl-Anthony Towns is likely to be next in line behind Edwards, which is a great second option once you consider his shooting stroke and the efficiency at his size. Edwards took another massive leap into stardom after this most recent FIBA run for Team USA, and you’re going to have Jaden McDaniels smothering players such as Trae Young, Dončić, Kyrie Irving, De’Aaron Fox, etc. The list goes on and on, only to be followed by Rudy Gobert at the rim if they can escape the suffocating area McDaniels, Edwards and Nickeil Alexander-Walker will occupy at the point of attack.
Are we really counting on 2023-24 Kawhi Leonard to bring the Los Angeles Clippers to the promised land after he traded in his soul for that Raptors championship in 2019? Don’t get me wrong, I love Kawhi as much as the next basketball fan, but he’s not what he was, and this current version requires a lot of rest and load management. The injuries he has suffered are certainly not his fault, but it’s a punishing reality that needs to be accepted. They are also relying on Russell Westbrook to help them, and he’s a shell of his former self. He shoots 31% from the arc, was abysmal at the line last year shooting 65%, and he averaged 3.5 turnovers per game last year. Counting on an aging Kawhi and asking Westbrook to be your savior is a recipe for disaster and leaves Paul George out to dry — when he’s healthy.
The pairing of Dončić and Irving looks great in NBA 2K until you realize their third-best player may be Grant Williams and Dwight Powell is your rim protection. The NBA is a team game, and I don’t see the Mavericks having the depth to win a Western Conference Finals, let alone make one again. Memphis also has some big questions regarding their point guard spot. Morant is going to miss the first 25 games of the season and they traded incumbent backup point guard Tyus Jones for a marginal upgrade in Marcus Smart, who probably shouldn’t be playing point guard for a team with high expectations. Now without Steven Adams for the whole season, Brandon Clarke until at least Christmas with an achilles tear, and Morant on the shelf for 25 games, how can the Grizzlies expect to stay afloat? How long does it take him to get incorporated back into the flow of things?
The Pelicans have also had to deal with Zion Williamson and not playing games. Zion has the impact to make this a championship team with his ability to bounce and fly around the court next to great scorers in Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum and sharpshooter Trey Murphy III, but it all revolves around Williamson’s health; and if the past informs the future, I can’t in good faith see this a championship team.
The last meaningful game the Thunder played was a 25-point loss to the Wolves in the Play-In Tournament, a game in which both Naz Reid and McDaniels were not playing due to injuries. I don’t think the addition of Chet Holmgren moves the needle enough to warrant Western Conference Finals hype, let alone making it out of the first round.
As Wolves fans, people should be pissed, and rightfully so. Given that the Timberwolves boast a lineup of Conley, Edwards, McDaniels, KAT, and Gobert, with Alexander-Walker, Kyle Anderson, Shake Milton, Reid, and Troy Brown Jr. as the most likely backups, it’s a crime for Minnesota to not get a single vote. Time will tell if that lineup proves people wrong, but the opportunity is there for the taking.