The Timberwolves Ceiling: How Good Can Minnesota Be?


The Minnesota Timberwolves don’t have high expectations heading into 2015-16 based on last season’s results, but coming off of an abysmal year, Flip Saunders (or Sam Mitchell, for the time being) and his young team have nowhere to go but up.

Saunders’ team was the most injured team last season, which definitely contributed to their lack of success. Minnesota had nearly 440 games missed due to injuries (as seen in the image below), which, most likely, will not happen again next season. I’m betting that Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, and Shabazz Muhammad stay just a tad healthier this year.

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Considering all of the factors, however, how good could the Timberwolves be this season? What’s their ceiling?

Being completely objective it’s possible that Minnesota finds themselves in the playoffs this year — if everything goes right. This means that the T-Wolves will have to avoid the countless injuries that have befallen them (and to important players, too) in years prior and will have to have every player on the roster take a step forward, from Andrew Wiggins to Adreian Payne on down.

The Wolves do have a good squad — arguably eighth-seed caliber — when completely healthy, and here’s why: the starting unit should have much improved spacing this year, with the acquisition of Karl-Anthony Towns being huge in that area (check out this shooting workout). Martin, assuming he’s the starter, can definitely space the floor with his shooting, and Wiggins should be much improved in that area as well.

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Another thing the starters should excel in is defense. Last year, the Timberwolves gave up the most points per game in the entire league (106.5!!). However, next season should be a different story; the injuries should clear up which will result in better defenders — who missed time or weren’t with the team last season (Rubio, Towns, etc.) — playing more minutes, and, of course, improving on those dreadful defensive statistics.

The one thing that Minnesota may miss the most of this season is star-power. And, before you think to yourselves, ‘Well, don’t they have Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns?’ realize that neither Wiggins or Anthony-Towns are quite ready to be a “star”.

Plus, Martin isn’t what he used to be, and though Rubio is one of if not the most underrated point guard in the league, he won’t be able to make up what Nikola Pekovic might lose in his one-on-one match-up (which, depending on the match-up, could be a lot of lost ground or nothing lost whatsoever).

The bench isn’t Spurs or Warriors level, but it should be decent enough to get by. The Wolves’ reserves are at the point where they won’t hurt production, but they’re not going to add much, either.

Decent depth is a phrase that will be commonly used for Minnesota this year. Saunders has a good backup back court rotation (Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Lorenzo Brown, etc.) and forward rotation (Anthony Bennett, Kevin Garnett, etc.), although altogether, it doesn’t feel like the reserves will be a top unit in the NBA. The bench has the ceiling to be top-ten in the league, but instead, it looks more likely that they won’t hold back the Wolves but won’t propel the team forward much, if at all, either.

Minnesota obviously won’t be competing for a championship this year, and they probably won’t make the playoffs. Nonetheless, the Wolves do have the talent, and, if everything or nearly everything goes right next season, it is realistic to see the Timberwolves hit their ceiling and find themselves in the postseason, too.

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