After trading for Rudy Gobert, the Minnesota Timberwolves are now arguably in the conversation to have the top five starters in the Western Conference.
Gobert is expected to slip past Karl-Anthony Towns to form one of the most dominant frontcourts in the NBA. If Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels can step forward and D’Angelo Russell can play like he did last year, the Timberwolves should have no problem becoming one of the top five starters in the league. franchise history.
This task is more difficult than you think. Using Bill James’ win share metric, the Timberwolves have had talented rosters in their existence and there will need to be some improvements for next year’s squad to achieve that goal.
The success of the Timberwolves was no accident last season. They finished with a 46-36 record and made their second playoff appearance in the past 18 seasons. Instead of focusing on their first-round loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, it’s interesting to see how Gobert improves on this unit.
After years of error in the middle, Towns will slide to the front to make room for Gobert, whose win shares of 0.264 per 48 minutes ranked third behind only Nikola Jokic (0.296) and Giannis Antetoukounmpo ( 0.281) last season.
If Russell, Edwards and McDaniels maintain their win-sharing rate from last year, this year’s roster would have 0.713 win-sharing per 48 minutes — the third-highest rate in franchise history. And with Edwards looking like a megastar and McDaniels improving as the game goes on, there’s every chance they’ll both improve their win-sharing ratio from 21-22. next season.
Tom Thibodeau’s quest to land Jimmy Butler ultimately set the franchise back, but for one season it paid off as one of the greatest rosters in franchise history.
Towns had one of his best seasons, averaging 21.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game to make his All-NBA first team. Butler also enjoyed his coming out night as a legitimate superstar, averaging a career-high 22.3 points per game.
The Timberwolves could have used more Andrew Wiggins, but that didn’t stop them from leading the Northwest Division for most of the season. Even with the off-court issues, Minnesota earned its highest win total (47) and its first playoff appearance since 2003-04.
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It’s surprising to see this team so low on the list. The 2003-04 team is the most beloved in franchise history and the only team to advance past the first round of the playoffs. If anything, there’s a valid argument that they could have won the NBA Championship if it hadn’t been for Sam Cassell’s “Big Balls” dance in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Alas, here we are. Kevin Garnett had the highest win-sharing ratio in franchise history and won the MVP award, while Cassell had one of the best seasons of his career.
It’s interesting to think what Wally Szczerbiak might have done if he hadn’t been dealing with a nagging foot injury, but Michael Olowokandi, Trenton Hassell and Latrell Sprewell were a terrific supporting cast. The Timberwolves went 58-24, captured the Midwest Division title and advanced to the Western Conference Finals before being defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers.
It would be excusable to forget this team, but according to the shares, it is one of the most effective groups in the history of the franchise.
Much like the current Timberwolves try to do, this group had a commanding presence in the front yard. Kevin Love was a sharp forward and Nikola Pekovic was an attacking presence in the paint. Gobert is a superior defender, but this duo could be the template for what the Timberwolves could look like next season.
For this team, that meant being in the hunt for the Western Conference playoffs until Ricky Rubio tore his ACL in a March game against the Lakers. Without Rubio on the ground, the Timberwolves finished 40-42 and lost in the hunt for the Western Conference playoffs, where the 49-33 Dallas Mavericks were the eighth seed.
The heyday of the Kevin Garnett era was filled with a lackluster supporting cast, but this was a year where they got it right.
Garnett did his part, averaging 21.2 points and 12.1 rebounds, but Wally Szczerbiak was successful shooting just under 45% on 3-point attempts. Terrell Brandon was a constant influence at point guard and Chauncey Billups was beginning to transform into a Hall of Fame player to help the Timberwolves post a 50-32 record.
Although it was the third most wins in franchise history, their reward was the fifth seed in a loaded Western Conference. Dirk Nowitzki topped a three-game sweep by the Dallas Mavericks, averaging 33.3 points and 15.7 rebounds as the Timberwolves were in the midst of seven straight first-round outings.