Let’s recap the Minnesota Timberwolves’ offseason (so far) and set some reasonable expectations for the 2018-19 campaign.
In case you missed it, the Minnesota Timberwolves went 47-35 in 2017-18 and made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2004 as the No. 8 seed, losing in five games to the Houston Rockets in the first round.
We’re in the midst of taking a few different looks at the Wolves’ offseason and what it means for 2018-19.
So, what should their expectations be for this year? A trip to the conference finals? That’s probably unrealistic, given how good the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets are, among others.
The Wolves do have the talent to get into the second round, however. And while they were the eighth seed last year, they sat in the No. 3 slot for much of the season before Jimmy Butler went down with the knee injury in late February and missed 17 games.
Of course, the Los Angeles Lakers have a great shot at making it to the playoffs with LeBron James. Given the way that L.A. has filled out the rest of its roster, however, the Wolves should still finish ahead of them, but beating LeBron is never easy.
Winning at least 50 games should be an expectation, and with that should come a top-five seed.
That said, it will be interesting to see what kind of a role rookie and first-round pick Josh Okogie gets right out of the gate. He should be a good defender, which could get him minutes, but how much will Tom Thibodeau give him? Thibodeau is, of course, well known for not playing his bench very much and it will likely be even tougher on the rookies.
Crawford’s scoring and shooting will be missed, but not his defense. Similar can be said about Bjelica, although he used his length and basketball IQ to turn into a decent all-around defender. The Timberwolves no doubt decided that Tolliver is a better defender than both, and he had the best shooting year of his career last year, too.
Tolliver shot a career-high 43.6 percent on 3-point attempts last season, good for seventh-best in the league. Bjelica and Crawford shot 41.5 and 33.1 percent, respectively.
Getting Tolliver on a one-year deal for $5.75 million is also a nice bargain. Bjelica signed with the Sacramento Kings for three years and $20.5 million, although he is three years younger than Tolliver.
Given that Butler, Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson are entering their second seasons with the team, they will become more familiar with their teammates as well. Towns should continue to improve. Wiggins, of course, did not improve as much as most expected last year, but is still very young and far from a finished product.
Gibson turned 33 years old in June, but should still be a key piece for them, although it remains to be seen if he’ll be the full-time starter all season long. His defense and hustle gave the team a nice boost last season.
Getting back to the playoffs was nice, and winning a game against the top-seeded Rockets was icing on the cake, but more will be expected from this team in 2018-19.
The Western Conference is only getting tougher, but the Wolves need to keep improving and have a good chance to do so. Last year was an important step forward and a great learning experience for Towns and Wiggins.
Now, it’s time to move at least one more rung up the ladder.