MINNEAPOLIS — Expectations for the Timberwolves are higher than they’ve been in a long time.
That’s what happens when you add a three-time Defensive Player of the Year to a starting lineup that already includes the NBA’s best shooting big man and one of its most ascendant young players. Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards form one of the league’s best big threes, and the Wolves have some depth behind them.
The Wolves finished with their second-best record since the Kevin Garnett era last year. They made the playoffs for just the second time since KG, too, but were bounced in six games in the first round by an upstart Memphis Grizzlies team.
As strange as it sounds, another early exit would be a disappointment for this Wolves team. To get Gobert, they gave the Utah Jazz four first-round picks (and swapped another) and multiple players, including Patrick Beverley, who was the heart of last season’s playoff run. This is a team looking to make noise now, and they may finally have the right matchup of players and coach to do so. Chris Finch led last year’s Wolves to the No. 1 scoring offense. They shot more threes than any other team, averaged almost 116 points a game and Towns and Edwards both averaged 20+ points a game.
The other side of the ball was much weaker. Only six teams allowed more points per game than the Wolves (113.3), and they ranked in the bottom third of the league in both defensive and offensive rebounds. Adding Gobert, who led the league in rebounds per game, should go a long way toward fixing their woes, but the rest of the Wolves will need to step up their defensive efforts, too.
The good news is the Wolves are perfectly positioned for a hot start. In their first seven games, they play the Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers. Five of those games are at home. Aside from the Jazz, none of those teams won 35 games last year. And the Jazz traded their two best players this offseason — Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. They won’t face a real test until Nov. 1, when they head to Phoenix to take on the Suns, who won more games than any other team last season. If they don’t come out of that stretch with five wins, it’ll be a disappointing start to what’s set up to be the most exciting Wolves season in years.
This highly anticipated Wolves season tips off at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Source: CBS Minnesota