The website FiveThirtyEight is projecting the Minnesota Timberwolves to reach the Western Conference play-in as the No. 10 seed this season.
There are two players projected by FiveThirtyEight to have a positive player rating on both ends of the floor. One is Karl-Anthony Towns, but the other may not be the most obvious choice.
FiveThirtyEight projects Minnesota Timberwolves as play-in team
FiveThirtyEight issues projections each year based on a pair of models.
One method is by using RAPTOR, their proprietary player metric that, in a nutshell, takes into account box score plus-minus and player tracking data in an attempt to portray something closer to a full, snap-shot evaluation of individual players.
This year, FiveThirtyEight took RAPTOR ratings for each individual player on each team and then factored in injuries and expected playing time to come up with projected win totals.
The Wolves landed No. 10 in the Western Conference using this exercise, achieving a 40-42 record. The site gives the Wolves a 41 percent chance of making the playoffs — and a 0.7 percent chance of reaching the Finals.
The other method that FiveThirtyEight deploys to project team performance is their Elo ratings, which is a team-based formula that relies on head-to-head matchups, margin of victory, etc., is far less kind to the Wolves. Using Elo, the Wolves would finish at just 34-48 with only a 20 percent chance of making the playoffs in the West.
Which players will lead the way for the Minnesota Timberwolves?
Clearly, Towns is projected to be the Wolves’ best player, clocking in as a +3.2 on offense and a +0.8 defensively via FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR player metric.
D’Angelo Russell should be an offensive monster, with his +2.8 mark easily the second-best on the team. Anthony Edwards’ +1.3 is a distant third.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, four of the five players projected to play the most minutes for the Wolves this year all have negative defensive ratings. In fact, outside of Towns, only one player is projected to put up a positive number on both ends of the floor: Patrick Beverley.
Beverley has a projected offensive rating of +0.1 and a defensive rating of +1.5. Interestingly, both Josh Okogie (+1.6) and Jarred Vanderbilt (+2.6) have better defensive ratings than Beverley, according to RAPTOR.
Other notable marks include Naz Reid, who has an offensive rating of -1.7 and a defensive rating of +1.4 — not exactly how Wolves fans would expect those individual projections to shake out after watching the first two seasons of Naz’s career. Interestingly, the only Wolves who would have a positive overall RAPTOR rating when combining both ends of the floor are Towns, Russell, Beverley, Vanderbilt, and Josh Okogie.
The Timberwolves team page at FiveThirtyEight will be a fun page to keep an eye on this year as it is continually updated with projections and factors in changes to playing time throughout the season.
At this stage, it’s just nice to see a projection system that acknowledges that the Wolves have the talent to lock down a play-in spot in the Western Conference.