What does perfect realistic season look like in 2019-20 for the Minnesota Timberwolves?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 1: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the hi-fives Robert Covington #33 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 1: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the hi-fives Robert Covington #33 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves enter the 2019-20 season without any real expectations. So what would a perfect realistic season look like for the Wolves?

The Minnesota Timberwolves won 46 games and made the playoffs in 2018-19 as a hard-luck No. 8 seed that was really a much better team than their seeding suggested.

Last season, the Wolves suffered through a Jimmy Butler-induced saga from September through mid-November and were behind the 8-ball at 4-9 before he was shipped off to Philadelphia. Then, Tom Thibodeau was fired in early January and the Wolves sputtered to the finish line with a rash of injuries and an interim head coach.

But now, that interim head coach has been hired full-time and the team’s depth was shored up in the offseason. A new front office, led by longtime Houston Rockets executive Gersson Rosas, has decided to embolden Karl-Anthony Towns and unabashedly build around their young superstar.

Now, the organization has sponsored a team trip to the Bahamas, and everyone seems to be having a fantastic bonding experience. (Visit each individual player’s personal social media channels for pictures and video evidence…)

Optimism is once again in charge for the first time in two full seasons. Yet even heading into the first season of Jimmy Butler, there was still a weird feeling surrounding the team. Jimmy Butler is undoubtedly a superstar but is a unique sort of alpha-dog, and it was clear that Towns and Andrew Wiggins weren’t entirely on board from the get-go.

But both players seem to adore new head coach (and longtime assistant) Ryan Saunders, however, and the team appears to be loose and ready to go as training camp nears.

So, what’s the best-case scenario for this team?

Karl-Anthony Towns is already a two-time All-Star coming off of a second consecutive impressive season. He needs to continue to improve on defense and get off to a better start this season than he did in each of the past two campaigns.

But if he bumps his shooting percentages back up just a bit and keeps making progress on defense, the sky truly is the limit. Another All-Star season and his first appearance on the All-NBA list should be on tap.

Assuming that happens, the Wolves will need Robert Covington and Jeff Teague to stay healthy and stabilize the starting lineup. While the team is much deeper than last season, depth becomes depleted quickly if the first guys off the bench are forced to step into the starting lineup for any extended period of time.

Likewise, if the promising young players at the end of the bench are forced into more prominent bench roles, the team will be hard-pressed to hang around the playoff picture.

Covington is likely the team’s second-best player, and Teague is coming off the worst year of his career and is making $19 million in a contract year. The health and performance of those two players is paramount to the team’s success.

Next up is Andrew Wiggins. The worst two seasons of his career came over the past two years, although he showed signs of life on the glass and on defense after Saunders took over mid-season. Those improvements must stick and Wiggins must improve his shot selection if the Wolves are to make the playoffs this year.

Two seasons ago, Minnesota managed to earn the No. 8 seed in spite of Wiggins. That can’t happen this year, with only one All-Star on the roster. The Wolves will need Wiggins to make substantial improvements and be a truly valuable role player if this team is to make any noise this year.

Lastly, the Wolves will need some level of contribution from No. 6 pick Jarrett Culver. He should get plenty of opportunity to have a big season and could even challenge for the Rookie of the Year award, and that’s exactly what Rosas and Saunders are counting on from Culver.

If everyone else on the roster performs in line with their individual career performances up to this point — a significant ask, of course, but far from impossible — this team could absolutely make a run at a playoff spot.

The best-case, realistic scenario for this team is something like 46 wins and a No. 6 or 7 seed in the Western Conference. It would be surprising if they got there, but far from impossible.

Next. Grading the Timberwolves' offseason. dark

Now, here’s hoping for health and progress across the board…