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The 8th Annual 100% Accurate, Never Wrong Canis Hoopus Opening Night Predictions

More under-the-radar than last season, the Wolves head into 2023-24 with continuity, and as always, hope. But how does it end up working out? The Canis Hoopus staff weighs in.

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2023 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

As the Minnesota Timberwolves gear up to kick off their 35th season as an NBA franchise, they push on down a path full of expectations and playoff hopes. While that expectation is in the air among fans, a greater one lingers: for the eighth consecutive year, the team of bloggers here at Canis Hoopus will predict the road ahead with unmatched precision... at least we would like to think.

Before we all get on the roller coaster of emotion that will be the 2023-24 season, we took a pass a predicting a few storylines of the season.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

2023-24 Wolves Predictions

Will the Wolves eclipse their 2023-24 win total of 44.5? (Line provided by DraftKings Sportsbook)

Yes — Jack Borman

You can make a very sound argument that the Timberwolves have the deepest roster in the NBA, which is surely a regular season luxury behind a trio of stars capable of taking over a game with their individual talents on any given night. Beyond that, and the projected superstar leap from Edwards, a healthy Towns, and Conley now in the fold to pair with Gobert for a full season, Minnesota has 44 games with equal rest, 23 games with a rest advantage, and only 13 games with a rest disadvantage. The stars have aligned for the Timberwolves to not only enjoy a successful regular season, but also win at least 50 games for the first time since 2003-04 (when they went 58-24) — if they stay healthy.

No — Leo Sun

In the eternal words of Michael Scott, “I’m not superstitious, but I’m a little stitious.” My “No” vote is only to reverse psychology the Basketball Gods. During the 2022 “Wolves Back” season, I mashed the under. They went over. During the 2023 “Gobert Wolves” season, I mashed the over. They went under. So this season, I’m saying “Nay!” You’re welcome.

Yes, but only if luck is on their side — Charlie Walton

Looking back, almost every team that has an NBA Championship under their belt all have one thing in common — the relative health gods are on their sides. I’m not saying the Timberwolves will make a Finals run, but in the loaded Western Conference, they are going to need all hands on deck for the majority of the season to eclipse 44.5 wins. Of course, having the starters play in more than just seven total games is a good place to start — which Jack mentioned above — but there will need to be some sort of cohesion within the first four/five guys off the bench as well. The only way that will happen is if, again, the health gods are on their side. The timing of the Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid injuries last season are great examples of horrible luck. Injuries will occur, as they are right now, with McDaniels’ calf strain. However, when they pop up and how the Wolves overcome them will be crucial.

Yes — Ryan Hines

If nothing else, I think this team is built for regular seasons wins. They’ve got real continuity heading into a season for the first time in what seems like forever, a 12-deep roster of tried and true NBA players, and major talents in Edwards, Towns, McDaniels, and Gobert who are good enough to swing games in the Timberwolves’ favor on any given night. I see 44 wins as a lot closer to the floor of this team than the median and therefore, I’m smashing the over on that line.

No, and it might be for the best — Thilo Latrell Widder

If you, like me, are a bit of a pessimist, you’ve noticed that the Wolves own their own first rounder this year. Like, fully own it, no pick swaps or anything. If you, like me, are a pessimist, you might see the team as presently constructed and not be all-in on the two-big experiment. If you, like me, are a pessimist, you worry about how this team is going to provide minutes to all rotation level players and how Kyle Anderson and Mike Conley in contract years will slowly further their way out of Minnesota.

I’m super optimistic on a lot of parts of this team, but bad things seem to always happen whenever I just start believing. So I’m going into this season prepared for the West to be a bloodbath and for a couple of good teams to be left in disappointing spots. I hope I am proven wrong, but I remain cautious going into 2023-24.

Yes — Benny Hughes

This team has too much talent to not be able to win in the regular season. We have seen that if Jordan McLaughlin is back to his pre-injury self they have 11 legit rotation players that could play relatively meaningful regular season minutes (and I would be tempted to throw Luka Garza in there as well). Because of that depth and their top of the roster talent I think that they will hover around the 50 win mark and have the capacity to host a playoff series come season end. While they may struggle a bit more in the playoffs when a team zeroes in on their shortcomings, they will not have the chance to do that in the regular season which will lead to a high win total.

Yes — Gabe Schneider

Perhaps this is oversimplifying it (it is), but I just have to think Karl-Anthony Towns playing in 40-45 more games last season would’ve generated another three wins. Last year’s squad won 42 games, and that roster simply wasn’t as good as this one. Shake Milton, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Towns for an entire season (in addition to increased continuity) seems like enough of an addition to win 46 games. However, this is Minnesota sports. Nothing is impossible.

Yes — Tyler Metcalf

I am almost always wrong on this one, and I even started typing out why they won’t go over. Then I talked myself into it like an optimistic fool for the umpteenth year running. This team feels significantly improved across the board this year, and they are looking healthy. The West is going to be a gauntlet, so they’ll need some health luck, but this team has improved depth, size, versatility, and chemistry. I don’t think they’ll necessarily blow past this mark, but 45 wins is doable.

Yes — Ryan Eichten

I just think this team has too much talent not to win 45 or more games. Edwards, Towns, and Gobert are all All-Star caliber players. McDaniels should be on the All-Defense team, Conley and Anderson are veterans any playoff team would love to have. Naz Reid is possibly the best backup big in the league. It is on Finch to get all of this talent to coalesce much better than it did last year, and I think he will.

No — Will Tzavaras

The Western Conference is strong and there isn’t too much regression from other teams that slingshot the Wolves to a better win total than last year. The New Orleans Pelicans are looking to see Zion Williamson champion them into contenders, and that change is coming with Zion spending more time around his organization this past offseason compared to prior years where he primarily trained offsite. The Los Angeles Lakers got rid of Russell Westbrook, who was dragging them down, and LeBron James is LeBron James. The Phoenix Suns made a splash trading for Bradley Beal, and the Golden State Warriors are led by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, with Chris Paul potentially coming off the bench. The Denver Nuggets have the best player in the world with Nikola Jokić leading them on the quest for another championship. Throw in games against the Milwaukee Bucks with newly acquired Damian Lillard alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and the casual Julius Randle heater he has against the Wolves yearly, every single victory will need to be earned and it will wear on this team physically. Looking at their injury history from last season alone is enough to raise some eyebrows. This will be one of the most “make the playoffs and see what happens later” seasons for a lot of teams in a long time, especially in the West.

Yes — Brendan Hedtke

This iteration of the Timberwolves should prove to be better than they were last season due to continuity within the core, internal progression from the young players, and the additions of plug-and-play veterans. The team has continued to figure out how to play with each other, which should pay dividends this season. Edwards, McDaniels, Reid, and Alexander-Walker look to be shaping up for their best seasons to date. Milton and Brown Jr. seem to be versatile and steady players to insert in multiple fashions. I think Minnesota surprises many across the league by ending the year with one of the best records in the Western Conference.

Yes — Andrew Carlson

I think improved depth and development in key pieces like Reid and Alexander-Walker are the x-factors here. Last season, the injury bug was just too great to be able to eclipse the win total of 48.5. If health is just slightly more on this team’s side, I think 45 is a very attainable number, especially if they just take care of business against below average/bad teams most of the time.

Yes — Jared Martinson

Many people believe that for the Wolves to hit this line, Edwards must step into an All-NBA outfit. In my eyes, it’s going to take the entire village to survive the Western Conference — and I’m expecting both Towns and Gobert to return to their peak forms on both ends of the floor in support of Edwards. Let’s leave the heliocentrism to the Dallas Mavericks; every single rotation player will be needed at some point to be successful.

On a scale of 1-10, how much faith do you still have in the functionality of the “Twin City Towers” duo?

7 — Jack Borman

Towns and Gobert played 1,095 possessions together in the regular season last year and the duo put together a defensive rating of 106.6 (98th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass). How the offense performed was largely dependent upon who joined them in the lineup, but the defense was consistently excellent, despite puzzlingly below average defensive rebounding. With Conley and more structure guiding the team’s offense this season, it should be easy for the duo to practice better spacing, play more to their strengths, and become more efficient alongside one another. The starting five (Conley, Edwards, McDaniels, Towns and Gobert) recorded a net rating of +5.8 in the regular season (57th percentile) and should only get better, largely because of Towns and Gobert playing more together in 2023-24.

5 — Leo Sun

I’m copping out here and going with a “50-50 chance it works.” Jack highlighted the numbers above and my very serious and very realistic 2K simulations seem to agree. It’s just a matter of staying healthy and staying the course. We started to see things look much smoother this month, despite it only being preseason. My faith is more in Finchy to adjust the coaching dials to make it work, and less to do with the ability of an anti-vax Frenchman the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

2 — Thilo Widder

I guess faith is relative. I have faith that the sun won't implode during my lifetime. I also have faith that I won't get attacked in the subway this morning. There's different levels and different directions faith can go.

However, I am an extremely stubborn person. I hated the pairing when the Gobert trade happened, even ignoring the assets given up as we are here, and I have not seen nearly enough to prove otherwise. Faith is difficult to qualify because I certainly have faith that this pairing results in yet another play-in/playoff appearance, which would've been a biblical proposition a couple of years ago. But, in terms of series wins, long playoff runs, or even championships? Call me a heretic non-believer because I am not convinced.

5 — Ryan Hines

I just cannot go any higher than 5. With a full training camp under their belts, a better-suited point guard for the team, and a sample-size of film (good and bad) to go off of, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about a front court of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. I believe this team will be very good in the regular season and the chemistry and fit between the two bigs will look much improved compared to last season. There are a lot of ways one can picture this pairing working out well and being a net-plus on the court.

That being said, at the end of the day my gut still doesn’t love it. This team will win a lot of regular season games but It feels too volatile come playoff time and I worry about where this is going long-term. I am remaining as optimistic as I can be for now while still believing that Connelly cutting his losses before it’s too late might be the best option in my opinion.

8 — Charlie Walton

I’ve said this for a while — the individual fit between Gobert and Towns is underrated. During the small sample size we saw with both of them on the floor last season, I liked what I saw, especially in the pick-and-roll department. That being said, my concern raised last season had to do with the fit between Gobert and the rest of his teammates. However, during the preseason, the fit and flow with Rudy on the floor looked miles better than it did in the second half of last season. No reason in my mind not to believe that KAT and Gobert, fully healthy, can’t work together.

7 — Benny Hughes

While I do see the vision and this preseason has checked all the boxes that can be checked from a preseason standpoint, I still have my reservations based on the larger sample size of last season. I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt in terms of the fluctuation and Towns injury, but I will have to see it work on the higher level teams before I am ready to put my stamp approval on it.

I think that the defense proved they can be elite and could even be better this season with Gobert adding more variety to his already stellar interior presence, the offensive end is where I will need to see the proof. Gobert cannot always set the ball screen and Towns will have to shoot the ball over more power forwards but if they can flip that switch and do more of that (along with the even greater emergence of Edwards the scorer and facilitator) they have a chance to be really, really, good.

6 — Gabe Schneider

The pairing could be overwhelming for the opposition if the Timberwolves choose to be physically imposing (credit to our friend Dane Moore for promoting this idea). This team failed to commit to their ‘big’ identity last season (hard to do without Towns, however), and it will see a similar result if they don’t make teams uncomfortable with their size. They’ll get outrun by teams like the Warriors if they don’t lean into their identity as a big team. The question mark comes — as does the effectiveness of the pairing — when considering if this team will double down on who it really is.

7 — Tyler Metcalf

My optimism has a lot more to do with the pieces around KAT and Gobert, rather than the two players themselves. The Wolves added a lot of size and defensive versatility to their bench. This should allow Towns more room for error as they can switch a little more effectively. On the offensive end, we barely saw Gobert get pure post up opportunities like he was getting last season. They are running more structured stuff and have more chemistry and versatility on defense. It may not be overwhelming, but it would stunning if it was as bad as last season.

8 — Ryan Eichten

In the regular season, I think the pairing of Towns and Gobert will work very well. It’s far from a perfect pairing, but the general pairing of a great offensive big with a great defensive big makes sense. Last year, the Wolves struggled with scoring, rebounding and fast break defense with the two bigs on the court. I think the offense will be much better with a healthy Towns and more roster-wide experience playing with Gobert. I also think the rebounding will be much better given the roster improvement in that area. Transition defense will probably continue to be an issue, but hopefully better offense and rebounding will help limit the damage. My issues with the pairing come in the playoffs, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.

7 — Will Tzavaras

I am arguably the biggest believer in numbers that there possibly can be. I am not an “eye test” guy because things happen or they don’t happen, and numbers give us a subjective, non biased view of the things that do or do not happen during the course of a season. As Jack pointed out above the defense can be elite when those two play with each other. My rating hinges solely on the people around those two. Conley is a massive upgrade over D’Angelo Russell at the point, purely from a standpoint that Conley won’t openly and begrudgingly verbalize his distaste (I doubt there is any) for playing alongside Gobert. The biggest key to unlocking success with Gobert though is going to come from Anthony Edwards. If Ant can’t take the leap in playmaking and hit Gobert in the dunkers spot or on lobs at a consistent level, it’s going to bite in a bad way when games are lost by one or two possessions and Rudy was simply missed on earlier possessions in games when he was open in those positions.

9 — Brendan Hedtke

I’m going full steam ahead with my belief in this pairing. I think that we saw Towns and Gobert have success early in the 2022-23 season before Towns went down with his injury. Once Towns came back, he didn’t seem 100% and neither did Gobert after a long offseason of EuroBasket. With Towns back healthy, and Gobert playing less high level ball this summer, I think we will see the best from both of them this season. Towns seems ready to let it fly more from deep (evidenced by his play in the FIBA World Cup), which opens the door for more space around the court. Rudy sounds like he will embrace a lesser offensive role than he had last season as well. This, coupled with Finch inserting some more offensive structure (*drink*), should lead to a much more productive offense than we saw last year. Defensively the pairing was really good last season, boasting a 105.6 defensive rating in 529 minutes together.

6 — Andrew Carlson

I have questions on KAT’s ability to defend the four without fouling consistently, and his actual willingness to hunt the three ball more this year than he ever has in his career. That’s the only way this works offensively, and it remains to be seen frankly. There were signs last year that it could work. KAT and Rudy’s net rating was overwhelmingly positive when they played with Mike Conley, and I think both bigs bounce back in a major way physically from where they started last season, which is more than half the battle. I’m essentially 50/50, but continuity has me leaning positively.

7 — Jared Martinson

It’s easy to dismiss the mixed results of Towns and Gobert in bookended regular season periods last year. I won’t say the duo will have an elite net rating together or anything, but the perimeter versatility that Karl — and especially Naz Reid — possess will have doubters thinking again about the on-court fit. Expect better numbers and sample size across the board.

Minnesota Timberwolves v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Which player ends up surprising Wolves fans the most?

Naz Reid — JB

The easy answer is one of the newcomers, but I’ll pivot. At this point, I’m not sure there’s more Naz Reid can do to surprise us, but maybe the only person who adores him more than Timberwolves fans is Head Coach Chris Finch, who will look to play Reid as much as he can. The New Jersey native averaged 22.5 points per 36 minutes, but I believe that number gets closer to 30 this year and Naz averages 17-19 points per game, third on the team. As a result, he’ll find himself in the thick of the Sixth Man of the Year race and gain national recognition for all the reasons why we love him around here.

Jordan McLaughlin — LS

Don’t call it a comeback. Actually, wait... yes! Call it a comeback! As a stout believer that preseason results indicate exactly what’s going to happen in the regular season (82-0, TA), McLaughlin looked like the player we once lauded as one of the best backup point guards in the entire league. He went from fan favorite to fan scapegoat last year after his calf injury, but all indications look like he’s back to form. It won’t take long before he wins Wolves Nation back.

As of Yet Unnamed Deadline Acquisition — TLW

Shake Milton — BH

I have watched some Shake Milton on the 76ers and in preparation for the season and this dude can create some great scoring for himself and for others. I think that he was underutilized by Philadelphia and Finch has a lot of confidence in him as well. Shake Milton is if Jaylen Nowell actually panned out and for that reason I think we see him proved a spark to the bench unit and is able to be the point guard that not only scores for himself, but also facilitates to his teammates.

Troy Brown Jr. — CW

I’ve been a TBJ fan for a while now, especially last season when his role changed drastically with the Los Angeles Lakers. Brown Jr. is a plug-and-play guy and will fill the void Taurean Prince left behind nicely. Minnesota’s newly acquired wing shot 50% on 10-of-20 from deep through all five preseason games, with the majority of his shots coming from the wings/corners.

Brown Jr.’s role is a question mark. If Finch opens the season with a nine-man rotation, TBJ is likely the odd man out. However, he will be able to produce winning basketball whenever and wherever he plays.

Jordan McLaughlin — GS

Boy oh boy, this one could blow up in my face. With Milton in the mix, McLaughlin isn’t even in the rotation to start the year. However, we know Finch loves J-Mac, and that should be enough to give the USC alum another shot. The ‘surprising’ aspect here is that Wolves fans are surprised that McLaughlin doesn’t play like he did last year, as he returns to his previous level of play. Even if he plays great, it further complicates the rotation (a good problem to have?)

Shake Milton — Tyler Metcalf

Milton is a fantastic gadget guard who can do a bit of everything. He should take over the backup PG minutes pretty easily and in a substantial way. The biggest differentiator with him is his size. It allows him to be more versatile on defense and significantly more impactful on the boards.

Karl-Anthony Towns — RE

The last time we saw a healthy Towns, who wasn’t burdened with playing a completely new position was in the 2022-23 season when Towns made Third Team All-NBA and led a young Wolves roster into the playoffs. I think many fans have forgotten just how good Towns is offensively given his injury and the rampant trade speculation the past year. He is a walking top-10 offense that when given a clear injury runway, can keep a team afloat almost by himself. Wolves fans know that Towns is a good player, but I’m not sure many feel he has another level to his game. I think Towns has the best season of his career and almost single-handily fixes the Wolves issues on offense.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker — WT

Alexander-Walker became a fan favorite in short time after being acquired at last year’s trade deadline. A hard nosed player with a knack for defending, he’s going to help the Wolves unlock a lot of defensive versatility this year. His point of attack defensive skills are going to allow McDaniels to play off ball more often which will unlock his shot blocking ability as he can rotate as a help defender, and gets his length in passing lanes more often. It will save McDaniels’ energy so he can pick up star players in the fourth quarter, and will save him from foul trouble. A defense with McDaniels, Edwards, and Gobert, with NAW being the most important crux because it allows McDaniels to off-ball will have Wolves fans in love. If he also shoots the ball like he did during this most recent FIBA run for Canada, look out NBA. He isn’t going to lead the Wolves in any statistical metric, but when he is looked upon in retrospect for the advanced numbers, he will shock a lot of people.

Rudy Gobert — BH

I wouldn’t consider myself a big fan of Gobert’s game, especially before he came to Minnesota. But it seems like many around the fanbase, and the NBA as a whole, have written Gobert off as a All-Defense candidate for the rest of his career. The price to acquire him obviously plays a role there, but I think having a down year last year left a bad taste in many peoples’ mouths. I think Gobert changes that narrative this year. I think he will dominate the interior defensively as he did in Utah and will shoot over 70% from the field for the second time in his career.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker — TLW

As the head of Popsicle aka NAW aka NAWty by Nature aka Cousin N aka Nickeil and Dime fan club, I am going to overestimate this shooting bump and pray that it leads to Nickeil finding his spot as the point guard of the future. I said that he would have a huge role going forward when I wrote a response to the trade. He was instrumental in that first round series against the Denver Nuggets. I think people are still seeing NAW as a fringe starter/quality bench piece, but I think he can be so much more.

Naz Reid — AC

I just can’t help myself. Reid turned a corner last year leading into the playoffs and I stand by that; it makes his injury hurt that much more. He averaged 16 points per game after the all star break to his 10 before it. Naz truly has the capability to be a playoff hero and one of the strongest options off the bench in the entire league. He’s efficient and shown early signs in the preseason that he may be able to play power forward consistently, something he downright hasn’t been able to do in his career so far. The jump I’d look for to be a “surprise” is an evolution from quality bench player to a 6th man of the year level of effectiveness. And he’s well on his way to that role.

Mike Conley — JM

How can a 36-year-old veteran point guard surprise anyone? Minnesota Mike shot a career-best 42% from deep on 5.8 attempts once he arrived in Minneapolis. The surprise is that I don’t think we’ll see much drop-off in that percentage or volume. Conley’s ability to scoot off the ball or rip a transition pull-up three makes him the offensive weapon everyone wants in their floor general point guard. The Wolves felt more whole than they had all season when Conley joined the lineup.

Minnesota Timberwolves v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Excuse Me?

Talk of the Town(s)

Towns will lead the Timberwolves in both rebounding and scoring. The last time we saw KAT this healthy he averaged 25 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists on 55/41/83 shooting splits after the All-Star break in 2022. As he’s shown in the preseason and in the FIBA World Cup, he clearly is on board with getting up more 3s, running pick-and-pop with every guard on the team and is driving more than he’s posting up (a staple of his success in 2021-22). He is a more efficient scorer than Edwards, can score in bunches when defenses load up on his star teammate, and scaling up Towns’ volume won’t take away from the offense because he’s so efficient. If KAT guards more 5s than 4s (a possibility considering the Wolves’ success Gobert as a free safety down the stretch last year), he very well could average more rebounds per game than Gobert, too. — JB

Season of Feels

The overall vibes of last year was mostly mid. There some were high points, but just as many low points. I think Marc Lore & ARod now realize that owning a professional sports team is about more than just the W’s and L’s. I believe it’s no coincidence that the 35th anniversary of the Wolves lines up perfectly with the season that Glen Taylor finally relinquishes majority stake. The throwback Old Shep jerseys and matching court already has *looks around nervously* “more experienced” fans reminiscing on the good ol’ days. I think the murmurs of Kevin Garnett returning to Target Center to get his jersey retired will come to fruition. My hot take? Ricky Rubio, who’s still currently on mental health leave, will be waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers before signing a 10-day contract with the Wolves so he too can retire a Timberwolf. I will cry tears of joy. — LS

Jaden McDaniels Finally Gets the Respect He Deserves

While it will be tough to find usage on offense for Slim, I think that he will continue to thrive on the defensive end of the floor and end up on an all-defense team. As I am writing this, McDaniels has just received his contract extension that should be a joyful time for all Timberwolves fans. We have Ant, Jaden and Naz all locked up on multi-year deals. With that money will come more recognition, and it will get him in the public eye more so than his first three years in the league. On top of that, with a full season of Nickeil Alexander-Walker, an improved defensively Anthony Edwards and Mike Conley I think that McDaniels will be able to play off the ball more - which will lead to more blocked shots and rim defense and he will foul less. All of these things boost his stock and allow him to get some of the spotlight from an already star-studded team. It is his time and he will seize his opportunity. — BH

Oklahoma City Thunder v Minnesota Timberwolves - Play-In Tournament Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Minnesota Mike Turns Back — or Temporarily Stops — the Clock

I often think about how great a fit Mike Conley is with this team (maybe too much), but he’s in the perfect scenario with Minnesota this season. There’s not much pressure to score (Towns and Edwards), he’s not completely relied upon to take on difficult perimeter defensive assignments (McDaniels, Edwards, Alexander-Walker, etc.) and he isn’t the sole initiator on offense (Edwards, Alexander-Walker, Milton, etc.). In a fill-in-the-gaps role, Conley will be ultra efficient, look rejuvenated and play some of his best hoops. I suppose my prediction isn’t that he puts up career numbers, but instead is that his role keeps him healthy and available for more games than everyone is expecting. — GS

Naz Reid Makes 6MOTY Run

Naz Reid’s role has been a talking point this season. He was able to find a consistent niche with the team last season during Karl-Anthony Towns’ absence. However, some were concerned that his role may diminish now that Minnesota’s starting frontcourt is healthy again. Reid complements the Northern Heights incredibly well, and he will be sharing a good chunk of time with either one of them. Big Jelly thrives in chaos and, as we saw last season, in an all-over-the-place role. There is no doubt in my mind that he won’t be in the 6MOTY award voting at the end of the season. — CW

Wolves Finish With a Top 5 Defense

The database goes back to the 1996-97 season, and there is not a single season where the Timberwolves finished with a top-5 defensive rating. This would be a monumental feat, but I’m not sure it’s totally ridiculous. Last season, the Wolves finished with the 10th best defensive rating and only 1.6 points away from the 5th best Bulls. Gobert is entering the season healthy, McDaniels is going to want his respect, Edwards has improved year over year, Alexander-Walker has proven his impact and versatility, and new additions like Brown and Milton should bolster the bench. The Timberwolves have never done it, but the pieces are there for them to have an elite defense. — TM

The Wolves Finish as a Top 3 Seed in the Western Conference

After a down year last year, I believe the Wolves will have the success in the regular season this year, that many projected for them last year. While I don’t think the Wolves are the third best team in the West, or that they have the third best chance to make the NBA Finals, I do think the Wolves are setup very well to stack-up wins in the regular season. They have one of the deepest rosters in the league and, possibly most importantly, need to prove that their roster works together, which will lead to added urgency to win now. — RE

2023 Play-In Tournament - Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

NAW Will Be the Most Valuable Player to the Timberwolves’ Success

The Wolves have vastly improved their guard rotation by bringing in Brown Jr. and Milton via free agency, and Conley and NAW have now gotten a full off season to work with this roster and get acclimated. They also got rid of Jaylen Nowell and Austin Rivers, which was addition by subtraction on top of who they did actually add. What NAW does in the minutes he is on the floor are going to be extremely critical. Having a secondary ball-handler alongside Conley and Milton is going to matter. His defensive skills and 3-point shooting are going to come to light this year and he is going to become recognized as an upper tier 3&D player in the league this season. If he can do what I believe he is going to do, he will be the most valuable player because it will keep this team in games when they are close, and help hold onto leads when the W. A constant flurry of being guarded by McDaniels, Edwards, and Gobert, is only going to get harder for the opposition when NAW comes fresh off the bench to defend and hits a couple backbreaking 3s. — WT

The Timberwolves Will Have Six Players Score 15+ Points Per Game

You can all but guarantee Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards go for north of 20 points per night at this point of their respective careers, but I predict that four of their running mates will average 15 or more as well. Mike Conley is a career 14.7 point per game guy, but with this offense and him coming off one of his best shooting years, I can see him going for 15 a night. Rudy Gobert has been good for about 15 points per game for most of his career as well, and I think having Conley to facilitate will help him reach that mark. Naz Reid continues to blossom into a versatile and explosive scorer and I think he is due for his best scoring season yet. Jaden McDaniels recently inked a contract extension and is likely going to be riding that high into the season. After scoring 12.1 last year, a jump of 3 points per game seems possible, if not likely.

I nearly copped out and said five of the six players would hit that threshold, but then I remembered that the Wolves are Back. — BH

The Wolves Have a Good Problem to Have

Depth is easier said than done. Every team will go into the season believing in certain bench players who become franchise legends we reminisce on years later. But, maybe, possibly, perhaps, the Wolves have a quality bench this season, so much so that they can’t find space for good players. If the Wolves are bad, they’ll sell off bench pieces for whatever they can get, although if they’re bad, the bench will certainly be a part of it. If the Wolves are a contender, they’ll make a consolidation trade, sending out multiple quality players for an even better one. You know those players on your fantasy football bench, that you can never convince yourself to start, but offer a package of three of for Justin Jefferson? Yeah, that kind of thing.

Anyway, the Wolves should have some actual depth this year (good) and might have too much to give quality rotation time to all of them (bad), so my “Excuse Me? Hot Take” is that the bench might be good enough to necessitate a buyout or deadline move. I seem to have misunderstood the assignment. — TLW

Time To Go Into Lockdown

I’ll foreshadow Brendan in the section below. Not only do I think the Wolves have a top five-ish defense, but a product of that will be a return of Gobert to the All-Defense team, and the inaugural appearance from his counterpart in McDaniels. The Memphis Grizzlies and Milwaukee Bucks both saw teammates make the first and second teams last year, and I think the Wolves have a really good chance of doing the same this coming season. — AC

Naz Reid Finished Third or Better on the Team in 3-Point Percentage

My favorite parts of the preseason involved Naz Reid’s power forward minutes and how he thrived as a true perimeter player. He makes people miss with his dribble. His shooting stroke is pure. He’s quick and twitchy. I’d expect us to see more of the two-big combo with Naz and Rudy Gobert than Naz and Karl-Anthony Towns, which gives the newly-extended fan favorite more room to operate outside the redundant skill spaces he shares with KAT. That means a lot of corner threes while his defender tags Gobert rolling to the rim and being the beneficiary of extra passes while playing with Shake Milton and Kyle Anderson on that bench unit. The shots will go up and they will go in. — JM

Atlanta Hawks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

“Shot Clock Winding Down!” (Short form Wolves predictions)

  • The Wolves will go on a win streak of 10+ at some point over the course of the season. — JB
  • Mike Conley leads the NBA in 3-point percentage at 46%. — JB
  • Edwards and Towns each have a game of 50+ points. — JB
  • Shake and Rudy are spotted shouting at each other during a timeout and need to be held back... by Kyle Anderson. — LS
  • Luka and Pat Bev get into it after PB hits a floater over him and celebrates with a “Too small” taunt, cutting the deficit to 26. — LS
  • The refs learn to Respect the Hey™ as Ant doubles his activity at the charity stripe this season, leading the league with 11.2 FTA. — LS
  • The Wolves don't have enough minutes for their roster-able talent and play musical chairs with rotation spots until the deadline - TLW
  • Leonard Miller and Luka Garza dominate the G-League, each averaging double doubles for the Iowa Wolves - TLW
  • Chris Finch finishes top three in COTY — RH
  • Luka Garza has a week that he averages 20 PPG for the NBA team — BH
  • Naz Reid sets a career high in 3-point percentage — BH
  • Troy Brown Jr. plays much more than we think he is going to as of right now — BH
  • Daishen Nix helps the Wolves win at least two games (similar to Wendell Moore Jr.’s performance against the Grizzlies last season) — CW
  • Target Center gets sold out more than 10 times — CW
  • Record-breaking “We Have the Threes” free Beef & Cheddar games — CW
  • Rudy Gobert records two 20-point, 20-rebound games — GS
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker shoots 39% from beyond the arc on four attempts per game - GS
  • Kyle Anderson records two triple-doubles - GS
  • Anthony Edwards averages a career-high 5+ assists — TM
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker gets All-Defense votes — TM
  • KAT and Ant both make the All-Star team — RE
  • Two of Gobert, McDaniels, and Alexander-Walker find themselves on an All-Defensive team. — BH
  • Anthony Edwards records his 1st (& 2nd & 3rd) triple doubles of his career. — BH
  • Kyle Anderson averages six assists this year — WT
  • Jake’s Graphs gets a billboard outside of Target Center (I’m making up for my less than stellar hot take earlier with a banger here). — TLW
  • My annual contribution to this section is who ends up getting in a bench-clearing brawl. With Austin Rivers no longer on the team, I think Slow-Mo and his Jon “Bones” Jones-esque wingspan finds its way into a scuffle this year — AC
  • The Wolves lead the NBA in games scoring 130 points or more — JM

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

General 2023-24 NBA Predictions

Grind City Blues

The Memphis Grizzlies will be a Play-In Tournament team, at best. Ja Morant is suspended for the first 25 games of the season; Steven Adams is out for the entire season due to a knee surgery; Brandon Clarke will be out for a while after tearing his achilles in March; and they traded away backup point guard Tyus Jones as a means of acquiring Marcus Smart, who probably shouldn’t be playing a role any bigger than the one he played in Boston. Jaren Jackson Jr., Xavier Tillman Sr. and Santi Aldama are the team’s top big men, and the guard rotation behind Smart and Desmond Bane is less than ideal. If Bane or Jackson Jr. misses any time, their rotation will struggle to keep pace with an absolutely loaded Western Conference. — JB

Safety Nets — Brooklyn Breaks Out

There are plenty of up-and-comers this season that fans and media outlets alike have tagged as teams to watch out for. Oklahoma City is America North America’s team. Indiana is the bell of the Eastern Conference ball. Even teams like the Spurs, Magic, and Blazers are lauded for their exciting young cores. That said, the Brooklyn Nets are the team that will by far surpass their expectations. Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson are shaping up to be a dynamic two-way tandem. Nic Claxton and the reborn Ben Simmons will anchor a top five defense. They have above average 3&D role players in Royce O’Neale and Dorian Finney-Smith. Rounding out their roster are sparkplugs Spencer Dinwiddie and Cam Thomas. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see much missing from this team that has no pressure on them to succeed, but every indication that they will vastly overachieve. They finish the season with a 50-32 record and a fourth place finish. — LS

2021 Finalists Struggle Early

Two of the biggest trades this offseason were the Bradley Beal trade to Phoenix and of course the Damian Lillard saga ending with him being dealt to the Bucks. Both of these teams are riddled with talent but I think that people are expecting them to be perfect from the jump and be extremely good right away - I don't believe that is necessarily the case. For the Suns, I think the fit is a bit weird. I am all about usage rate and they have a three guys that will take the majority of the usage which works just fine - especially with them obtaining Nurkic which I also believe people underrated. But, with all that, they do not have great depth nor a true point guard. All three of their top guys do not have the best history of health and while I am a massive Devin Booker fan, I think that they will struggle early. Come playoff time they will be tough to beat and I do think they figure it out, but it will not be all sunshines and rainbows.

As for the Bucks I think that they will miss Jrue Holiday more than they are anticipating. While this fit is much better than the Suns and Lillard is a better player than Holiday I do worry a bit about their backcourt defense. Lillard is a massive step down in that area from Holiday and while Lopez and Giannis are superb down low, I think that it will take some time to adjust. This is the one I am definitely more likely to be wrong about but I do think there are a few more hiccups early than people are anticipating. Both of these teams have a good shot to win the whole thing and will be a tough matchup come playoff time but I think that they will both run into some rocky starts before being able to smooth things out. — BH

Warriors Thrive To Start the Year, Chris Paul Comes off Bench

The Warriors’ starting five of Curry-Thompson-Wiggins-Green-Looney is elite, and I expect that to become clear to Chris Paul quickly. Paul will realize his best bet to extend his career and make the most significant impact is to come off the bench and lead Golden State’s second unit. Paul’s leadership will not only improve players like Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, but create a competent offense without Curry on the floor. Due to injury, Paul will find his way into the starting lineup here and there, but his bench role will preserve his energy throughout the year and he’ll become a critical part of a deep postseason run in 2023-24. — GS

Detroit Pistons v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

Thunder Still a Year Away

The Oklahoma City Thunder had a surprisingly strong season last year, winning 40 games and coming just one game short of making the playoffs. Many project their improvement to be linear and that they will finish as a top six seed this year. I am far more pessimistic about the Thunder and feel that they have too many young players and not enough veteran leadership to lead them to the 45 win range. I think they will have another season around 38-40 wins before their breakout season in 2024-25. — RE

Washington Wizards Are an NBA League Pass Must Watch

I am super stoked to watch the Washington Wizards this season. They may not have received a haul in return for Bradley Beal. However, the team was able to bring in some sneaky additions, such as old friend Tyus Jones, Jordan Poole, Minnesota native Mike Muscala, and Danilo Gallinari. The Eastern Conference is loaded, so they might not be close to competing for anything substantial. But if they can play together, I could see them be the 2021-22 Timberwolves of this season. Regardless, I will be keeping a close eye on them this season, and so should you! — CW

LeBron James Makes First Team All-NBA This Season

LeBron James is LeBron James. Although he is entering his 21st year in the league, he is going to have another stellar season in which he will get another coronation. His most recent comments regarding people trash talking him and this commercial that just released have me thinking he’s going to do it.... again. LeBron is going on a revenge tour this year and I am here for it. — WT

The Dallas Mavericks Will Miss the Play-In Tournament

While Luka Dončić is clearly one of the best players in the league, and Kyrie Irving has a very quality second-fiddle, the rest of the roster won’t be good enough to allow the Mavericks to have a chance at the playoffs. They are likely to rely on a lot of very young players, which typically leads to dropping games to inferior teams. We all saw the Mavericks flame out at the end of last season, which led to their star player publicly expressing his frustration. It could get so bad that Dončić asks to be traded and the entire organization implodes. — BH

Ben Simmons is Fun to Watch and I Can Commend Him

So many people hate on Ben Simmons so much, which I can understand from some angles. However, I too have struggled to connect with my coworkers and boss at dead-end jobs in the past. I too have been demonized and turned into a scapegoat by those same coworkers. I too have passed up an important layup in an important (pickup) league game. I know the Ben Simmons experience.

But I don’t have people making fun of me every day or deal with the constant lingering dread of living in Brooklyn (Manhattan, let’s go!!). I have felt bad for Ben Simmons for years, and I think this year we get to see the most impactful version this player can be all while scoring under 15 points per game. The defense will be back, the assists to threes will be back, the pocket passes on fast breaks will be back. Ben Simmons will be back. And after years of feeling terrible for a human being who shares the same city as me, he’ll make the third best basketball team in that city better! — TLW

Memphis Grizzlies v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Freak Time ———> Winning Time

I think whatever the Bucks do in the regular season is less than a formality. They’re not going to finish first in the East. Giannis and Dame won’t play a full season. There’s going to be an adjustment period. But for the first time in the careers of both the Greek Freak and Lillard, they have something neither of them previously had. Dame? An elite, top-of-the-line interior defense behind him that he can force drivers into, and not worry about much inside of the perimeter. Said elite interior defense doubles as a great floor spacing tandem, and an elite, evergreen rim running option. Giannis? A top-tier shotmaker and one of the best clutch players in NBA history that can relieve him of forcing things up from the elbow in clutch time, and instead let the game come to him offensively. The result? In my opinion, a ring. — AC

The Miami Heat Make the Playoffs Without Playing a Home Play-In Game

I did not enjoy the offseason as it pertained to the Miami Heat — the Damian Lillard discourse brought much disdain to the deep, dying Twitter timeline. As Pat Riley struck out on acquiring Lillard from Portland, the team also failed to add any other meaningful personnel while losing two important guards that definitely embodied Heat Culture and would be most valuable in that black and red jersey. I’d hammer the most recent Miami under at 45.5 wins, and wouldn’t be shocked if hungry teams like Brooklyn, Indiana and Orlando finish ahead of them in the first 82. But as we all know, Jimmy Butler turns it on with his back against the wall, and his roster of third-stringers might just be able to work some extra magic to extend the season into late April. — JM