There seems to be some real momentum for the Minnesota Timberwolves to hit the over this year. Let’s break down the schedule and see just how likely that might be.
If you’ve read the early predictions, the Timberwolves are expected to win around 35 games. Last season, the Wolves hit only 36 wins.
Being new to the Twin Cities area and absolutely ready to jump on board the Big KAT train, those early predictions are not exciting at all. Couple those expectations with a lackluster showing in free agency and Timberwolves fans can quickly see the struggle bus pulling into the station.
Based on 50,000 simulations, FiveThirtyEight.com has the Timberwolves finishing the season at 43-39. According to those algorithms, that’s good enough for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. And No. 8 means one thing: playoffs, baby!
By these very same way-too-early accounts in places like FiveThirtyEight, there is one playoff spot up for grabs in the Western Conference with the top seven slots all but settled. One!
If nothing else changes and the roster stays healthy, can the Timberwolves grab that spot? Possibly. Let’s break it down.
Can’t Lose Games
Can’t Lose games are the games that the Timberwolves will be clearly favored to win.
The Timberwolves have five opponents that they cannot lose against: Phoenix, Memphis, Atlanta, Cleveland, Charlotte and New York. Each of these teams has NBA talent, of course, but Timberwolves have the superior star in Karl-Anthony Towns in every case, and a better supporting cast for that star.
Out of a total of fifteen games played against these opponents, the Timberwolves must go at least 12-3 on the season against these teams.
Must Win Games
Different from Can’t Lose, these games are critical to the Timberwolves’ 2019-20 success. These games make up the majority of the schedule and feature teams that have similar talent levels to the Timberwolves. Furthermore, these teams land in similar final standings simulations with FiveThirtyEight’s model.
The Eastern Conference teams (Detroit, Miami, Brooklyn, Orlando, Chicago, Toronto, Indiana, and Washington) offer better opportunities to secure wins. These matchups represent 16 scheduled games. Against these Eastern Conference teams, the Timberwolves should go 10-5.
The Western Conference teams (Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Sacramento, Dallas and San Antonio) present a more difficult challenge. These teams represent 19 games on the schedule, and we can predict the Timberwolves to grab nine wins from these games.
So far, this gives the Timberwolves 31 wins for the season. That leaves 12 more wins left to grab to snag that potential No. 8 seed. The Wolves must split each season series with Portland, Denver and Utah. These three teams represent a total of 12 scheduled games.
Going 6-6 here would get the Wolves to 37 wins.
Some Nights You Win…
The remaining teams scattered throughout the schedule represent the heavyweights of the NBA for 2019-20.
From the Eastern Conference, Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Indiana represent the early line finishes for the top four playoff spots. Houston, Golden State, and the two Los Angeles teams round out the Western Conference schedule for the Wolves.
In total, these teams represent 22 total games. Minnesota needs at least six wins here to get to that 43-win total that is projected to secure the eighth and final playoff spot.
There is real possibility for the Timberwovles to grab those six wins.
Can They Get There?
Based strictly on my interpretation of the schedule, I see the season playing out like this for the Wolves:
Those totals combine for a Win-Loss record of 39-43. That leaves the Timberwolves finishing No. 10 in the Western Conference and out of the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight’s other projections.
Of course, when everyone is 0-0, anything is possible. When April rolls around and the playoffs begin, I believe the Timberwolves will have a better record than last year, but will be watching the playoffs from home.
Then again, I’m just one guy looking forward, and 50,000 simulations land the Timberwolves in a much better place. Let’s hope for better.
Where do you think the Timberwovles will finish the 2019-20 season?