The Timberwolves reach the play-in round: The guess on record here is 39-43, though anywhere in the 37-41 win range seems practical so long as Karl-Anthony Towns doesn’t miss any long stretches of games. His health is the biggest key to this team’s success.
Anything in that win range should be enough to grab, at worst, the 10th seed, good for the final spot in the play-in tournament. Minnesota, on paper, is simply better than Sacramento, Houston, New Orleans, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
A loss in the play-in tournament would leave Minnesota somewhat in limbo heading into the offseason. It certainly would be a major step forward for a team that has reached the postseason only once since 2004, although slightly more should be expected from a team with two max salary players who are nearing the primes of their careers in Towns and D’Angelo Russell.
Still, any semblance of postseason NBA basketball would be a welcome sign in the Twin Cities. And merely fielding a semi-competitive team should bring more fans back to Target Center.
The Timberwolves field at least one all-star: Towns returns to the all-star game this season if he’s healthy. He has played at that type of level for years, and his status as an all-star shouldn’t be in doubt if Minnesota indeed hovers around the .500 mark.
Expect Anthony Edwards to be on the cusp of an appearance, as well. He posted all-star-like numbers down the stretch last season, and did impress with his defense during the exhibition season. One reason he might not get the nod: It’s common for young players to be snubbed at least once before finally earning a spot.
The offense is great, the defense is not: The trio of Russell, Edwards and Towns paired with Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch’s knack for getting the most out of his players with his offensive schemes, it’s a safe bet to expect the Timberwolves to score a lot of points this season.
Armed with added shooting this offseason to space the floor around its stars, Minnesota should field a top-8 offense.
The defense remains the question mark. Yes, Minnesota added Patrick Beverley and Taurean Prince and a new scheme better suited to fit Towns’ abilities. But the key to defensive improvement probably rests with Edwards.
Towns and Russell likely are what they are at this point in their careers — minus defenders. If Edwards doesn’t take a major leap, expecting lineups often featuring that trio to defend at a high level would be foolish. It’s possible Edwards becomes the real deal on that end, but Minnesota is still likely a bottom-10 defensive unit. The Wolves simply lack size, which will make getting stops — and the defensive rebound on the possessions in which they do force misses — difficult on a consistent basis.
Still, if the Timberwolves can finish around 22nd or higher in defensive efficiency, a step forward from a year ago, that should be enough to keep them in games considering their offensive firepower.
Sachin Gupta finds the team a power forward: Gupta is a forward-thinker who is constantly planning for the best long-term route for the organization by which he is employed.
That said, the guess here is that, with the Timberwolves firmly in the hunt for a playoff spot ahead of the trade deadline, Gupta addresses the roster by adding a player who fills its biggest current need: power forward. But he won’t deal an asset that proves devastating for the team’s future to get it.
If Minnesota sniffs the playoff chase, it is important for the Timberwolves to make a push for it. Wins are needed not only for the franchise’s standing in the Twin Cities market, but also the development of the core. Gupta knows that.