The Minnesota Timberwolves hit a major milestone last season when they made the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons. The accomplishment is significant for a franchise and fanbase that certainly reminisce upon the glory days of Kevin Garnett. Garnett, of course, led the Wolves to eight consecutive playoff appearances after being drafted in 1995. Now, it’s a new era in Minnesota, and the team is as loaded as ever.
The Timberwolves, who had been one of the weakest Western Conference teams in recent years, are suddenly loaded with talent. The combination of Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins, is a load for any team to handle. And these guys haven’t even hit their primes yet.
Butler is the most experienced of Minnesota’s big three, and he hasn’t turned 29 yet. But another year with his (relatively) new teammates should only help to get him more comfortable. And that could mean big things, since he still played at a high level last year. Butler averaged 22.2 points per game, along with 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 2017-18. He also added a boost defensively, evident by his 2.0 steals each time out. If Butler relishes the opportunity to take over as the undisputed leader of this team, he could have a breakout year that could elevate him into a higher tier.
Butler’s teammate Karl-Anthony Towns is no slouch in his own right. In fact, he has arguably a higher ceiling at such a young age. The 22-year-old center stands 7’0 tall, and has the ability to become one of the most dominant players in the league. He has already established himself as one of the best and most promising centers over the past couple of years. Butler’s presence seems to have actually hindered the output from KAT, leading him to have a down year. But even with the drop in production, he still put up an average of 21.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game.
The Timberwolves have done well to bring in a lot of young talent. Andrew Wiggins is another one of these guys, who has huge potential in the coming years. But his production also declined last season. After scoring 23.6 points per game in 2016-17, that number dropped to just 17.7 last year. The good news is that he is really talented, and he has remained very healthy in his short career, having only missed one game in four years. At just 23 years of age, he has a lot of room to develop.
The Wolves have other very solid players on the roster as well. Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford each made their presence felt, with the former leading the team on the year with 7.0 assists per game. He also added 14.2 points per outing.
There is no doubt that the Western Conference is stacked, but aside from the top two seeds (Houston and Golden State), just two games separated the Wolves at the eighth seed from the third seed Portland Trail Blazers. And while the addition of LeBron to the Lakers could make some impact on the final standings, some other teams that made the playoffs appear to be in a much tougher position. The Spurs, for example, will no longer have Tony Parker on the team, while his long-time teammate Manu Ginobili has yet to decide whether he will retire or come back for one more season. Plus, how will the team look with DeMar DeRozan? And how will the New Orleans Pelicans fare without the services of DeMarcus Cousins?
There are many unknowns this season across the NBA. And that’s what makes this all so great. We really don’t know what to expect, following what has been one of the most eventful offseasons in recent memory. Several top players changed teams, multiple major storylines surfaced, and some high impact players have entered the league through the draft. In the middle of it all, the Timberwolves have a big opportunity to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the conference. They certainly have the talent to get it done.