The Minnesota Timberwolves are different from what we are used to seeing. They are leaping as a competitive team and building their identity of basketball. Sitting slightly below the .500 mark, they are one of the best young teams in the NBA, with an age average of only 24.1. But the Wolves’ foundation is not only built for future success. It is fair to say that the Minnesota Timberwolves playoff hopes are finally concrete.
The Minnesota Timberwolves Playoff Foundation Could Be Solid
The first thing that catches the eye is their defensive improvement. Not only do they have the 8th best defense in the NBA, but they are also 2nd in blocks, offensive rebounds, and 6th in steals. The Wolves might not have the best defenders to figure at this position, but they have athletic, quick, lengthy bodies who are putting an extra effort on this side of the floor. Players like Jaden McDaniels, Josh Okogie, and especially Jarred Vanderbilt, are spirited, high-working team defenders. Patrick Beverley might be past his prime, but he is still an influential leader and culture-setter for this young team. Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell had an evident improvement as stoppers, helping the team maintain consistency. The result is a squad that leads the league in opponent turnovers and is the second overall in opponent’s three-point percentage. They are not an easy matchup by any means
Cohesive Big Three
After streaky ten games to start the season, the Wolves found their groove offensively, and much of that is the merit of their big three. They beat opponents by 10 points per 100 possessions when Russell, Towns, and Anthony Edwards share the floor. The trio also concedes only 99.3 points per 100 possessions while playing together, which might show how much they improved as defenders. Still a very young triad, but they complement each other very well. After all, they have the star talent of two former #1 picks and one former #2 pick. Besides, they have a solid cast of glue guys: decent floor-spacers in Malik Beasley and Taurean Prince, while Beverley, Vanderbilt, and Naz Reid do the dirty work, posting career-high Offensive Ratings. The coach Chris Finch is building a singular brand of basketball.
Towns is an offensive powerhouse, able to score from inside and outside in historic clips (50-44-81 season shooting splits). Russell is a capable playmaker (6.2 assists a game) and a scoring menace. He is improving his reads and IQ on both ends of the floor, making the game easier for everyone. Edwards, however, is stealing the spotlight. He is a star in the making.
Anthony Edwards’ Leap
Any Minnesota Timberwolves playoff ambitions must have Anthony Edwards as a focal point. The 20-year-old scorer is showcasing his bag of tricks, underlining his star upside. His 22 points a game is already top 20 in the NBA, which is wild for a player his age. In fact, he already has an NBA grown-man body. His 6-foot-4 and 226lbs frame, along with an explosive and intimidating vertical takeoff are evidence of how much his production can be even better. After all, he still makes some young man mistakes in his decisions, which is natural. Once he polishes his shot selection and positioning defensive-wise, I cannot see a future in which he is not an NBA All-Star.
There is not an easy bail-out in the West, but this seems like a good window of opportunity. The difference between the 4th and the 10th seed is only one game and a half. The Timberwolves sit in the mix of struggling teams: the Lakers are having a frustrating season. The erratic Clippers do not seem to find a good run without Kawhi. The Grizzlies will have to figure it out without their star player Ja Morant. The Trail-Blazers are amid an organizational imbroglio. The Nuggets and the Mavericks are constantly dealing with major and minor injuries. Maybe it is time to take the Timberwolves as a serious candidate for a play-in gig, at least.
If they continue to go in this direction, Minnesota might be witnessing competitive NBA basketball postseason soon. It has been a while since the last time. Maybe things will be different now.
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