Predictions override the NBA’s off-season. The community becomes increasingly more excited and impatient for the upcoming season as the summer months continue. By the time we reach the later stages of August and into September, NBA fans are running on fumes. Sure, we’ve had the 2023 FIBA World Cup to pass the time, but nothing can replicate the excitement and hope that comes with Opening Night in the NBA.
We have just under three months until the first 2023-24 regular season game will be played. With training camp opening in just over two months, it’s time to start getting excited for the new season. With that, Bleacher Report released their predictions for the top 100 NBA players heading into this season — a ranking that always causes chaos in every corner of every team's fanbase.
Four members of the Timberwolves made the cut, so let’s dive into where they rank.
Jaden McDaniels — No. 97
Last year’s rank (N/A)
Following a terrific breakout 2022-23 season, the hope around Jaden McDaniels is that he will be turning into one of the best two-way talents in the NBA. That isn’t too lofty of a goal. After all, the still-only 22-year-old forward is reported to now stand at 6-foot-11 after coming into the league being listed at 6-foot-9. Couple that with his offensive strides and ever-apparent defensive skills, and there should be no doubt in anyone's mind of what his capability is.
Up front, being penciled in as the 97th-best player seems a bit low. As I said, it’s impossible to please everyone with these rankings. However, McDaniels cracking the top 75 seems more appropriate. Especially when players like Keegan Murray, RJ Barrett, Devin Vassell, Walker Kessler, Malcolm Brogdon, and Jabari Smith Jr. are all ranked above him.
Jaden McDaniels was the best on-ball defender this season, period. pic.twitter.com/kNdImmJv7z— BBall Index (@The_BBall_Index) August 30, 2023
This low level of national media spotlight is nothing new for Jaden. Last season, he was one of the most efficient on-ball defenders in the NBA, as the graph from bball-index.com above shows. Despite his incredible ability to defend positions 1-through-4, he wasn’t named to an All-Defensive team last season. The only logical reason why? He was playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves — a small market team that receives little-to-no respect.
Rudy Gobert — No. 62
Last year’s rank: 20th
It was a quick slide down for Rudy Gobert and his reputation after his first handful of games with the Timberwolves. Both his offensive and defensive productions were down from what we usually saw from the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. However, after that predictable slow start with a new team made more difficult by lingering ailments from playing in EuroBasket last summer, Gobert eventually saw an uptick in production and numbers, especially after the All-Star Break. Most of that is credited to Mike Conley and Kyle Anderson, with the rest being because of the growing familiarity between him and the rest of the roster.
Despite finishing the 2022-23 season much better than he began, it feels as if those outside of Minnesota have somewhat lost hope on Gobert. He’s not getting any younger, of course, but when healthy, the Tower of Power is still one of, if not the best pick-and-roll/defensive centers in the league. And after many years of being touted as such, it seems his skill set is now being slept on nationally.
Most of the players that are listed above Gobert in Bleacher Report’s list are accurately put. Again, some outliers will always be present. The NBA continues to become deeper and deeper, which makes it much harder to accurately rank players. I don’t have that big of an issue with Rudy’s spot on the list. Rather it’s the 42 places he dropped that resonates with me. I get he’s 31 years old and, perhaps, on the decline of his career, but losing as much national steam as he did in this ranking is premature.
Karl-Anthony Towns — No. 23
Last Year’s rank: 16th
I’m not mad at Karl-Anthony Towns’ placement. Being viewed as the 23rd-best player in the league after everything Towns went through last season is almost generous, considering the low rankings of Gobert and McDaniels. However, I do not agree with Bleacher Report’s Joesph Akeley’s reasoning for bumping him down seven spots.
Towns’ effective field-goal percentage, points, and rebounds per game significantly dropped as he was forced to adjust his game while playing next to Rudy Gobert. The 2015 No. 1 pick also had the worst net-rating swing of his career, and he missed more than 50 games with a calf strain. As a center, Towns’ offense exploits only fall short of those of Nikola Jokić and Joel Embiid. But as a power forward, Towns’ effectiveness is limited, with Gobert clogging the paint.
Towns is still an elite talent capable of dominating any game, but he simply has one of the worst offensive setups among star players.
I found it interesting that Akeley decided to pin KAT’s drop in field-goal percentage, points, and rebounds solely on his fit next to Gobert. I thought the KAT-Rudy experiment was a success. Especially when looking at just their fit together.
Personally, I loved what I saw between Towns and Gobert last season. Their chemistry together on offense was pretty damn fluid — KAT made great reads to Gobert in the dunker’s spot often.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) July 28, 2023
The fit/flow issues with Gobert on the floor lies beneath the rest of the team. https://t.co/jkKqHX5rkj pic.twitter.com/GC31EKORFG
We all knew that Gobert and Towns weren't going to fit together like PB & J right away. Massive roster changes like that take time. Furthermore, the two star big men only played in 27 total games together due to KAT’s calf injury that kept him out of 52 games. That right there — Towns’ injury — was the main reason he saw a downtick in production.
Akeley was right about KAT’s offensive fouls, though. He needs to become better at drawing contact that the referees will award, leading to a higher production at the free throw line. That is exactly what we’ve seen from Towns during his time with the Dominican Republic in the World Cup this summer.
What impressed me the most from KAT today wasn't his 15-for-16 showing from the free throw line or 26 points.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) August 26, 2023
It was his incredible body control and how composed he looked.
No leg kickouts or flying elbows, just clean, pure basketball that led to a favorable whistle. pic.twitter.com/T559YCJhnP
The bottom line is this; if Towns can stay healthy next season and continue to work on drawing legal contact, there should be no reason why he can’t climb back up in the rankings by the end of this season.
Anthony Edwards — No. 15
Last Year’s ranking: 26th
Leading up to the final moments before former President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas and his staff were going to be on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick back in 2020, I was on the fence about who I wanted to see the Timberwolves select. On one hand, you had LaMelo Ball, who would bring some much-needed hype around the team instantly. On the other, there was a very raw prospect in Anthony Edwards, who showed flashes of being great, but many didn’t think he had the mental makeup to reach that goal.
When NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the pick was in and that the Timberwolves had drafted Edwards, I didn’t know how to feel. However, looking back on that moment, I would not have believed you if you told me that Ant would become one of the best players in the league and the cornerstone of the Minnesota franchise just over three years later.
As I’ve made a prominent part of this article, players on the Timberwolves have been, and will always be, slept on by the national media. However, the same can’t be said for Ant. He’s getting the recognition he deserves, and people around the game are genuinely excited to see how his career in Minnesota pans out.
Here’s what Greg Swartz had to say about Edwards in the article:
While Anthony Edwards’ jump in our final Top 100 rankings is notable, it’s fair to wonder if we’ve actually placed Edwards too low. That includes being outside the top five of guards.
Currently the best player on Team USA despite having just turned 22 years old, Edwards is the next great NBA shooting guard and should push Devin Booker for the title of league’s best already this season.
At ages 20 and 21, Edwards gained playoff experience with series of 25.2 points and 31.6 points, respectively, showing his ability to only get better when the lights get brighter. He turned in his best defensive season in 2022-23 as well and could become an All-Defensive team member in a few years.
Being slotted as the 15th-best player in all of the NBA is a solid starting point for Ant. At the end of the season, we might be talking about a whole other beast. One that is capable of leading a winning team deep into the postseason. This is his team. He’s only 22, but he has the keys to the kingdom. Everything is right at his fingertips. All that’s left is to go out and achieve greatness.